The 2010 PVC Fall Coaches Luncheon brought together a cross-section of the Princeton Athletics community. The Field Hockey, Cross Country, Water Polo and Football teams were each represented. Each group brought something different to the table.
Katherine Cape '11and Alexandra Douwes '11accompanied Field Hockey Head Coach Kristen Holmes-Winn. Each student-athlete has faced unique challenges throughout her career at Princeton. Cape has had to cope with a number of injuries, and Douwes has made the difficult adjustment from life and sport in the Netherlands to the incredible demands of Princeton academics and athletics. Douwes hasn't let either keep her from continuing to expand her experience. "I think the great thing, and the unique thing, about Princeton is that there are so many opportunities outside of athletics," she described.
Women's Cross Country Head Coach Peter Farrell followed with two of his "three aces," Sarah Cummings '11 and Ashley Higginson '11; two of his three current All-American runners (the third is Alex Banfich '12). He discussed the difficulty of their regional competition (women's cross country is divided into regions; Princeton competes in the Mid-Atlantic region), which currently features #1 Villanova, #5 Georgetown, #15 Princeton, and #30 Penn State (as of 10/12; full rankings can be found here). He encouraged all in attendance to join his team at HEPS on October 29th in New York City, then turned it over to his student-athletes, who discussed the unique leadership role required on a cross country team. Higginson described it as more of a mentor relationship with the rest of the team: "we play a practical role... we only have each other out there in the middle of the woods." They act as coaches periodically, providing advice and counseling at times as well; "Princeton offers a very unique schedule for student-athletes. Rather than push [teammates], we balance," Higginson said.
Head Water Polo Coach Luis Nicolaobrought Matt Hale '11 to the podium next, introducing him by providing attendees with some insight into Hale's skill set: "you cannot teach size and speed. Matt has both." Hale discussed some of the reasons why he chose Princeton, echoing Douwe's comments from earlier. "We have a season that's four months [as opposed to other team's 10- to 12-month schedules], and we have a life, and we get to do things outside of water polo... [it] should be a part of life, not a way of life." He described a trip to England, as well as an upcoming job interview on the eve of a tournament. "At ninety percent of schools, you wouldnt be able to do [the interview]. Luis is going to make it work, and that's what it means to be at Princeton," he finished. Coach Nicolao then returned to the podium to field questions, giving attendees a full view of what his sport is all about.
Bob Surace '90, the Charles W. Caldwell Jr. '25 Head Coach of Football, followed Nicolao. He discussed his excitement about the future, for a unique reason. He told the story of Grant Sieron '11, who was not in attendance, but who had given him some insight into the quality of student-athletes on his team. Sieron has suffered multiple knee injuries over the course of his career, including another in this year's double-overtime win in their home-opener over Lafayette that brought an end to his senior season. Surace described seeing Sieron working with two of his freshman teammates to prepare them to play after his career-ending injury, citing it as one of the reasons "you know that it's going to turn around.... young guys keep coming up and taking advantage of the opportunity, and the veterans are helping coach them."
Matt Zimmerman '11 and Jordan Culbreath '11 represented the football student-athletes. Zimmerman described his experience at Princeton as "the most rewarding experience of my life... the secondary education that I've gained through athletics has helped me immensely." He transitioned to his teammate by describing him as "a paragon of bravery and overcoming the odds." Culbreath discussed his struggle with aplastic anemia, including the transition from All-Ivy League running back to someone who needed a great deal of help from others: "I saw the support of the whole community... looking for help really changed my perspective on the game and life... it's been one of the greatest experiences of my life to come back and play with these guys."
Gary Walters '67, Princeton's Director of Athletics, closed by discussing the department's philosophy of "Education Through Athletics;" the idea that the intercollegiate athletic experience at Princeton provides an incredible learning opportunity for every Tiger student-athlete. He summed up the event simply: "what you've seen demonstrated here is that philosophy in action."
View a selection of photos from the event by clicking here!
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