Belmont University’s love of sports runs far deeper than its 15 Division I athletics teams.
Just ask Kingston Gardner, a creative and entertainment industries sophomore and Nashville native who’s been playing sports since he could walk. Though he’s not a student-athlete, sports are a big part of Gardner’s life.
And whether it’s watching games or playing in them, sports-loving Bruins like Gardner find ways to get involved in Belmont’s passionate athletic community.
“There’s nothing easier than going and throwing a ball around or shooting, working at the FitRec or going to a game,” said Gardner.
“There’s a very cool sports community here, it’s definitely something that drew me in,” he said. “There’s a bunch of people here that are looking to get involved with other people.
Gardner is a sports junkie at heart, an avid supporter of the Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans. The Nashville Soccer Club is growing on him too, he said.
While attending nearby Franklin Road Academy, he lettered in five sports — football, basketball, baseball, soccer and tennis — and there’s no question that his love for sports carried over into college.
Expect to find him at the FitRec multiple times a week, not only working out but picking up a quick basketball game, his favorite pastime in the FitRec, he said.
“If people are already here, I’ll come and hoop,” said Gardner. Meeting up with friends, old and new, who share his love for the game means a sense of community.
“I would say the amount of people I’ve met is probably in the 50s or 60s,” he said. “I’m very grateful for that. I’ve made some unique friendships here.”
An athlete at heart, Gardner and his newfound teammates participate in intramural sports offered at the FitRec. Gardner himself has played his way to championships in men’s volleyball, men’s basketball and co-ed basketball.
If that wasn’t enough grinding, Gardner spends his free time practicing with the Belmont women’s basketball team in the Crockett Center for Athletic Excellence.
He’s one of 10 members of an all-male practice team known as the “Red Squad,” made up of non-student-athletes.
The squad members gather whenever they can during the week, helping the women prepare for games throughout the season.
When comparing his time playing casual ball in the FitRec to scrimmaging with a DI team, Gardner gives the women the edge.
“It’s definitely more intimidating. I might be more apt to shoot in the FitRec than with the women,” he said. “It’s more fast-paced. It’s definitely different, but they’re both fun.”
Unable to get enough of the team at practice, Gardner loves attending the men’s and women’s basketball games in the Curb Event Center to root for the Bruins.
“The games are probably the most fun thing to do for a normal student here,” he said. “Because it’s a small school, you may know some players on the court, and you can cheer them on.”
Accessible athletics bring people together at Belmont, whether as cheering fans or as passionate players sharing the FitRec court.
And for students like Gardner, who are in it for nothing but the love of the game, there’s always some action to look forward to on campus.
PHOTO: Kingston Gardner readies a shot on the FitRec court. Belmont Vision / Landen Secrest.
This article was written by Landen Secrest.