A game of friendships, not goals

Jul 9, 2021
For veterinary students, soccer offers a much-needed release from clinical rotations, studies.

Every Saturday, rain or shine, a group of Washington State University veterinarians and veterinarians-to-be, put their minds and hands to rest and start using their feet.

It’s a six-year-old Cougar tradition packed with two hours of headers, cross-field passes, and corner kicks from residents, interns, students, faculty, and staff from WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

For the veterinary students embarking on what’s been classified as one of the most emotionally demanding careers, the seasonal soccer games offer a much-needed release from clinical rotation and studies.

“Veterinary medicine isn’t always calm,” said Amalia Acorda-Fey, a fourth-year veterinary student. “This helps get the jitters out and allows me to de-stress.”

In addition to letting go, Olivia Erskine, another fourth-year veterinary student embarking on her clinical rotation, said the games allow her to build relationships with interns, residents, and faculty she will eventually encounter in the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“You see these people in passing but you don’t get them out of the veterinary medicine circle, so it is nice to see them outside of that; it helps to approach them in a clinical setting,” Erskine said. “They’re kind of intimidating in the hospital.”

Dr. Martin Suarez, a veterinarian on WSU’s anesthesia service, has organized the games since coming to WSU in 2015.

“I love playing soccer. It’s in my blood,” said Suarez, a native to Argentina. 

He said he realizes how much the Saturday matches mean to him and those who partake when they couldn’t play last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the group is especially grateful the college supported their playing at Grimes Field, near the College of Veterinary Medicine. In the past, the games have been held across campus at the Valley Playfields.

“We really appreciate that WSU has allowed us to rent this field because we can go just right across the street to play,” Erskine said. 

“It’s not competitive. We call it a family,” Suarez said. “And it’s much more than just a relationship between a professor and a student; it’s a friendship.”