Student-athletes balance life on and off the field

Athletes index

Princeton's student-athletes, such as senior soccer player Manny Sardinha (above), comprise about 20 percent of the undergraduate body, and they develop personal traits such as leadership and perseverance while balancing academics and other activities.

Photo by Beverly Schaefer

For the nearly 1,000 students, or about 20 percent of the University's undergraduates, who suit up for Princeton's 38 varsity sports teams, life as a student-athlete poses both opportunities and challenges.

Varsity athletes have the chance to travel around the United States and even in other countries for competition, while creating deep bonds with their teammates, honing their talents and learning values such as leadership and fair play. Student-athletes, such as the eight featured below, also balance their rigorous athletic commitment with coursework and other extracurricular activities during their college years.

In addition to achieving off-field distinctions, such as presidencies of campus clubs and Academic All-Ivy League selections, Princeton's student-athletes excel in their chosen sports. Tigers teams have won the Ivy League athletic conference's unofficial all-sports points championship each of the past 25 years. Since the formation of the Ivy League more than 50 years ago, Princeton teams have the highest number of league championships, including a record 15 championships in 2010-11.

The following students, from sophomore Olivia Mucha to senior Manny Sardinha, illustrate variations of the Princeton experience from the student-athlete perspective.

Athletes Olivia

Left: Women's ice hockey player Olivia Mucha. Right: Olivia Mucha (left) and junior swimmer Kathy Qu (right) during a break from working on plant beds for a sustainable redevelopment project with Trenton-based Isles, Inc. (Photo at left by Beverly Schaefer; video still at right courtesy of the Princeton Varsity Club)

Olivia Mucha, class of 2014
Hometown: West Chester, Pa.
Position and sport: Forward, women's ice hockey
Academic focus: Undecided
Other activities: Aquinas Institute Catholic chaplaincy; Catholic student discussion group; Princeton Varsity Club Tigers in the Community
Favorite Princeton sports moment: "Our game at Harvard in the beginning of February this past season. We had played Harvard earlier in the year at Princeton; the result was a disappointing tie since we gave up a lead at the end of the game. With many of my teammates having family roots in the Boston area, we had a great crowd in addition to the desire we each had to come out of this game with a win. The energy I felt from my teammates the moment we entered the rink was contagious. The intensity until the last buzzer was indescribable. Until becoming a part of this Princeton athletics team, I had not experienced something as motivating and incredibly satisfying from a team victory."
On how being an athlete has affected her Princeton experience: "Our team, our coaches, our trainer and the others connected to our team are at the core of a support system. As a freshman coming into a completely new environment, I was lucky to be a part of a family from the start. My teammates hold each other to high standards, meaning that we are not only expected to put in necessary work for our sport, but to work even harder in our role as a student at Princeton. Personally, I needed my team's expectations and support to get through my first semester and to realize that in the spring semester, I could do it all on my own."

Athletes Matt

Left: Matt Bowman (kneeling at bottom right) with his 2010-11 championship intramural flag football team. Right: Baseball player Matt Bowman. (Photo at left courtesy of Matt Bowman; photo at right by Beverly Schaefer)

Matt Bowman, class of 2013
Hometown: Chevy Chase, Md.
Position and sport: Pitcher and shortstop, baseball
Academic focus: Economics major; Academic All-Ivy League selection for spring 2011
Other activities: Cottage Club; intramural basketball, flag football, indoor soccer, kickball and wallyball
Favorite Princeton sports moment: "Winning the Ivy league championship (this past spring) at home in front of all our rowdy fans and especially everyone storming the field after the game."
On balancing school and sports: "Balancing athletics and academics can be one of the trickiest parts of coming to a school like Princeton to play a sport. It takes a few all-nighters a year to make sure that your academics don't take a hit from practices, but Coach (Scott) Bradley is also understanding if a player needs to take a practice off to try and get caught up. It is mostly just a disciplined routine that helps make it manageable. We have a few hours of practice every day, and that has to be accompanied by a few hours of work before or afterward. For our opening weekend this past year versus LSU we left on Thursday and got back on campus at 1 in the morning on Monday for midterms week. Preparing for a double dose of athletics and academics like that one is a little more difficult than staying in a routine. Otherwise, we try and study on the road together and make sure that we look a couple weeks ahead in our schedules."

Athletes Charlotte

Left: One of Charlotte Krause's many artistic pieces, a minotaur costume she made last year for a theater course. Right: Field hockey player Charlotte Krause. (Photo at left courtesy of Charlotte Krause; photo at right by Beverly Schaefer)

Charlotte Krause, class of 2013
Hometown: Braunschweig, Germany
Position and sport: Midfielder, field hockey
Academic focus: Architecture major; pursuing a certificate in visual arts
Favorite Princeton sports moment: "My favorite moment by far was when we won against (top-ranked) Maryland during last season (2010). Even though I was injured at the time it felt just like I had played the entire game. It was the victory we had always wanted, and we all felt the same thing at the same time. This feeling of being 'one' all together was a captivating experience."
Favorite nonsports moment at Princeton: "My roommates organized a surprise party for me for my birthday one year. I didn't expect anything -- we were all pretty exhausted from the last few weeks of studying. I called my mom in Germany and told her that I thought that they had forgotten my birthday, but that it didn't matter, because we all have had so much work to do that I couldn't blame them. Well, one roommate then got me out of our room and went on a walk with me (I swear I don't know how she managed to distract me without me noticing). When I came back, the room was decorated in German colors, my favorite foods and presents were ready, and on the table were pretzels saying 'Happy Birthday' in German. It was so special that my roommates had put so much effort and time into making my birthday a great day even though I know that they all had a ton of work to do. This is just one moment of my many favorite moments at Princeton."

Athletes Niveen

Left: Women's basketball player Niveen Rasheed. Right: Niveen Rasheed (left) and teammate Megan Bowen (right) at a Princeton football game. (Photos by Beverly Schaefer)

Niveen Rasheed, class of 2013
Danville, Calif.
Position and sport: Forward, women's basketball
Academic focus: Politics major; pursuing a certificate in Near Eastern studies
Other activities: Muslim Students Association; Cottage Club
Favorite Princeton sports moment: "At the Vanderbilt tournament (in November 2010) when we beat USC. Addie Micir hit the two free throws to put us up by one with five seconds left!"
On how being an athlete has affected her Princeton experience: "Basketball serves as an outlet from the real world. All the stress that comes along with being a Princeton student seems to disappear the moment you walk onto the court. The only thing that matters at that point of time is that day's practice or game. It keeps me sane during even the craziest times at school. My amazing Princeton experience is credited mainly to having such an incredible team, which I consider a family away from home. My older teammates really served as huge role models for me. Being a Princeton student-athlete is a unique experience, where finding the balance between your athletic commitment and academics is essential in order to succeed. This has tested my limits at times, but in the end I would not trade my experience for anything, for it has made me not only physically but mentally tougher."

Athletes Eliza

Left: Eliza Stone at the pyramids at Giza during a summer study abroad trip to Egypt. Right: Fencer Eliza Stone. (Photo at left courtesy of Eliza Stone; photo at right by Beverly Schaefer)

Eliza Stone, class of 2013
Position and sport: Sabre, women's fencing
Academic focus: Politics major; pursuing a certificate in Arab language and culture; Academic All-Ivy League selection for winter 2010-11
Other activities: Summer study abroad in Egypt
Favorite Princeton sports moment: "So far, it would definitely be when both the men's and women's teams won the first Ivy League championship in my freshman year. I remember us going step by step through each of the schools; Harvard was our final rival of the day. Both of us were undefeated, so we knew that the title belonged to whoever could focus the hardest then, when it counted. With a couple of bouts to spare, we pulled out our winning 14th bout victory. We all screamed and mobbed our teammate who won that bout for us, threw her up in the air, and then all of a sudden the men's team ran into the room with the news that they had just done the same thing!"
On how being an athlete has affected her Princeton experience: "As a previous homeschooler, it wasn't until Princeton that I found out what it was like to be on a real team. Before Princeton I had fenced at a local club with my sibling and some friends, but that did not compare to being on a serious varsity team. We study together, we practice together, and we support each other inside and outside of our competitions."
Favorite nonsports moment: "Every Dean's Date at 4:01" a.m., when students traditionally gather for the Holder Howl, a minute of cathartic noise-making as a break from working on finals papers.

Athletes Adlai

Left: Swimmer Adlai Pappy. Right: Adlai Pappy reading to first graders in a "Reading with the Tigers" event at Johnson Park School in Princeton. (Photo at left by Beverly Schaefer; photo at right courtesy of the Princeton Varsity Club)

Adlai Pappy, class of 2012
Position and sport: Butterfly and freestyle, men's swimming
Academic focus: Molecular biology major; pursuing a neuroscience certificate
Other activities: Special Olympics swimming program with the Student Volunteers Council; Princeton Varsity Club Tigers in the Community; Cloister Inn; president of Hallelujah worship service
Favorite Princeton sports moment: "Beating Harvard 1400-1394.5 in 2011 (at the Ivy League Men's Swimming and Diving Championships). This was the closest conference championship in Ivy League history."
On how being an athlete has affected his Princeton experience: "I have felt very lucky to be an athlete here and have a family here from the first day I stepped on campus. The Princeton atmosphere cultivates and strengthens bonds not only among my teammates, but between my teammates and alumni of the team as well. Through my teammates, I've learned about other activities and opportunities on campus I may not have learned about otherwise."
On balancing swimming with other responsibilities: "Managing my time well is the only way I can balance swimming, academic requirements and other roles I have chosen in the Princeton community. Nothing is perfect, but after having completed three years at Princeton University, I am confident that I can survive anything 'the real world' throws at me."

Athletes David

Left: David Peña (right) during an internship at the Mexican embassy in Madrid, alongside Ernesto Sosa Gallegos (left), a counselor in the political affairs division. Right: Squash player David Peña. (Photo at left courtesy of David Peña; photo at right by Beverly Schaefer)

David Peña, class of 2012
Mexico City
Sport: Men's squash
Academic focus: Politics major; pursuing a certificate in Latin American studies
Other activities: Princeton Junior Squash program; dormitory assistant; working in the Princeton University Library
Favorite Princeton sports moment: "Easy. Feb. 22, 2009, a 5-4 heartbreaking loss against Trinity College during the National Team Championship Finals held at Princeton. The atmosphere of playing for the championship, the support displayed by the school and the intensity of the six-hour-long game was indescribable; hard to believe unless you were present. Despite the loss, I am confident the best is yet to come."
On balancing squash and other activities: "Like most athletes at the college level, I have practiced a sport since I was a child. I think one gets used to the rush and pressure of combining athletics with academics, family, social life and personal projects. Although it is challenging, having an organized schedule is key to balance all the activities. In addition, professors, coaches and peers have been willing to provide advice and help me along the way."
Biggest achievement at Princeton outside of squash: "Last year, with support of the Office of International Programs, I had the opportunity to work at the Mexican embassy to Spain, in the political affairs division. I very much enjoyed the experience, and it made me consider perhaps a career path in diplomacy working for the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs."

Athletes Manny

Left: Manny Sardinha riding a bike near the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Right: Soccer player Manny Sardinha. (Photo at left courtesy of Manny Sardinha; photo at right by Beverly Schaefer)

Manny Sardinha, class of 2012
San Diego
Position and sport: Midfielder and forward, men's soccer; libero, men's volleyball (2009-10)
Academic focus: Ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB) major
Other activities: Semester study abroad in Panama; Princeton Varsity Club (PVC) Service Circle fundraising; Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times
Favorite Princeton sports moment: "There are so many, but if I had to name a few: 1) winning the 2010 Ivy League soccer championship undefeated for the first time in our school's history; 2) making it into the NCAA soccer tournament twice in a row (2009, 2010); 3) making it to the 2010 EIVA (Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) finals for volleyball; 4) the fact that Princeton won 15 Ivy League Championships in the 2010-11 year; and 5) the first goal I scored against Rutgers my freshman year -- I was completely shocked it went in."
Biggest achievement at Princeton outside of sports: "Probably receiving the PVC Service Circle grant because I really believe in the A-T Children's Project (a nonprofit that raises money for researching a cure for the degenerative disease ataxia-telangiectasia) and look forward to fundraising for them in the fall."
Favorite nonsports moment at Princeton: "I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to study abroad in Panama for the spring semester of my junior year through the EEB department. Needless to say, it was an incredible semester. We got to see and do so many things I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise, which made for an experience I will never forget. I am truly thankful for that."