"Thunderground Sports" podcast unifies athletes and non-athletes on Spotify

“‘Thunderground Sports,’ the only podcast that covers Wheaton College sports and Wheaton College life, all while being 100 percent not affiliated with Wheaton College.” These are the first words that senior swimmer Stephen Larson and junior swimmer Tice Wilkerson spoke as they launched the “Thunderground Sports” podcast on Sept. 3. Using Spotify to air their program, Larson and Wilkerson, inspired by the popular podcast “Barstool Sports,” were determined to provide an inside look at Wheaton’s sports teams through interviews and recaps.

“Bringing athletic teams together was my motivation behind it,” Wilkerson said, “and then President Ryken in our last episode made me aware of the gap between athletes and non-athletes. So now we see that we can help bring the whole campus together.”

So with these intentions, Larson purchased a microphone and set up a recording studio in the attic of his house. Wilkerson, who has connections to athletes and non-athletes through his participation in Young Life, quickly recruited friends and acquaintances to be featured on the show.

“It has been fun to do because of how many people we’ve been able to meet,” remarked Wilkerson. “Hearing people’s stories is something that you aren’t really able to do, but this is a medium that lets you hear people’s stories and learn about what their team does and what the culture of their team is.”

The Wheaton Football kickers were the first athletes interviewed and were eager to use the platform to promote their team and share their culture. Traditions were explained — such as having long flowing hair — while the players expressed their desire to be known beyond their intimidating exterior. “We talk a lot about leadership, we talk a lot about being men of God and leaders in the community and that translates directly into the student body,” junior kicker Griffin Bowes said. “We want to keep bridging the gap the ‘big burly football dudes’ and the rest of campus. Because there’s definitely a divide there.”

The Men’s Soccer team, featured in the third podcast, agreed with the football players. “They talk mainly about the team culture and traditions that go on in the team,” junior midfielder Will Woodfin said.

Later, junior Peter Whallan, also a midfielder, expressed his gratitude to the podcast’s interest in individual team cultures. The podcast helps highlight the differences between teams and the uniqueness of each style of play and community. “We didn’t realize we needed it, but now that we have it, we can’t live without it,” Whallan commented, laughing about how fun the interview was.

The fifth episode of the podcast highlights the intention that Larson and Wilkerson set out with: to understand the athletics at Wheaton and to bridge the gap between athletes and non-athletes. Behind the microphone, President Philip Ryken talked about how faith and community relate to sports at Wheaton. He also shared his favorite sporting events and weekend activities. Ryken began by stating that “ educating a whole person and … athletics is a tremendous venue for educating aspects of our character — who we are in Christ — beyond things that we might learn in a classroom context.” He used varsity sports, club sports and intramural sports as an example of this, explaining how closely our physical health is tied to our personal growth. He went on to encourage Larson and Wilkerson to use the podcast to reach the entire campus. He said his favorite thing is seeing “our non-athletes supportive of the experience of our athletes and seeing our non-artists going to the senior art show in Adams Gallery.”

So with the support of Ryken and their fellow athletes, Larson and Wilkerson are excited to continue producing podcasts. “If people are interested in getting to know other fellow Wheaties and building relationships, they should listen to us,” Wilkerson said. What started with Larson’s purchase of a microphone has become a platform with the potential to unify Wheaton College and bring encouragement and support to students from various circles.

The podcasts can be found on Spotify by searching “Thunderground Sport.”

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