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Athletes at Hopkins Refect on Experiences

Sophie Sonnenfeld '21
In The Hopkins Handbook, the Athletic Policy states: “By the time our students graduate, we want them to have gained an appreciation for the value of physical activity, which would enable them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.” 
But the importance and impact of being a student-athlete lies not only in this appreciation for athleticism, but also in the values of spirit, teamwork, sportsmanship, resilience, and confdence for which Hilltoppers are known and admired.

A list of notable alumni on the Hopkins School Wikipedia page includes the father of American football, a well-known sports commentator, and a professional poker player. Hopkins students involved in the athletic program throughout generations demonstrate an incredible level of devotion, perseverance, and love for competition.

Hopkins athletes develop a passion for their sport at different life stages, yet their levels of admiration for each of the athletic programs are equally astounding. With 63 Hopkins sports teams, students are able to compete and feel the athletic morale throughout the athletic program. Boys Soccer Captain Dylan Sloan ’18 said, “The team-oriented aspect of the sport is incredibly gratifying. I’ve tried my hand at individual sports, including a short-lived swim career and a two-week stint as a member of the JV Squash Team, but I fnd that I enjoy team sports more because of the unity and collective goals being part of a team brings. Seeing how we as a team improve over the season and bonding over shared experiences is what keeps me coming back. Joining the team sophomore year was great for making new friendships and fnding a home at a new school, and I really value the team spirit and camaraderie within the program.”

Even in a sport as seemingly individualistic as tennis, the value of team aspect, as noted by Girls Varsity Tennis Captain Marion Conklin ’18, is immense. “While playing tennis at Hopkins has not changed the fact that it is an individual sport, I have never felt alone in my matches. Feeling support from my teammates on the sidelines makes a huge difference especially against tougher opponents. Every year, I have built strong friendships with the girls on the team and I am so grateful for those friendships because they have affected me positively both on and off the court.”

The Hopkins athlete sense of family extends to the 84% of Hopkins students, according to the school’s website, that participate in the athletic program. For Ava Pfannenbecker ’21, “[The] social life on a team is everything. The relationships I make on my teams really determine whether or not I like what I’m doing.”

With strong bonds between teammates, individuals are also able to apply what they learn from training to daily life. Concerning her friendships and practices on Varsity Fencing, Sophia Nuterangelo ’20 refected, “Personally, I have made very many close friends through fencing and having them there for practice and meets makes some of the tough parts easier. Fencing has really taught me about facing my problems, head on and being more assertive in general. Before I started fencing I had a tendency to ‘retreat’ from things, but as I became more familiar with the sport I was able to apply that vigor and aggressiveness to daily activities and school.”

Hopkins athletes also demonstrate resilience as Girls Varsity Squash captain, Emily Ruan ’18, got her start “in jeans and a t-shirt with my friends in 7th grade and it seems I can’t stop coming back!” Ruan explained she “worked to adapt more sustainable and strategic techniques after an unfortunate hip fexor injury.” Ruan worked rigorously with teammates and coaches to develop new movements to persevere past her setback. Ruan believes that perhaps, “The injury allowed my passion for Squash at Hopkins to grow stronger through my understanding of the meaning and purpose in each shot.

By immense team enthusiasm displayed throughout generations of Hopkins athletes, each team can leave an identity through a legacy of passion for a sport even after Hopkins. This athletic drive of fortitude inspires Hilltoppers to continue participating in competition, both mental and physical, throughout their lives. After her accomplished career on Hopkins Varsity Soccer and Softball, Jessica D’Errico ’18 said, “Although I do not plan on continuing on the varsity level, I do want to continue playing soccer and softball on the club or intramural teams at whatever college I end up attending.” Many other Hopkins students continue competing in their sports--211 graduates are listed on the Hopkins School website as pursuing their sports through college.

Dedication to specifc sports but also a commitment to the athletic program have inspired students to explore other sports as well. If D’Errico could do it over again she said, “I would have defnitely selected the same sports again. However, if I started again, I would probably also try playing volleyball. I really enjoy playing the sport in the summer on the beach. If volleyball wasn’t during the same season as soccer, I would have played.”

Hopkins strives to teach its students that teamwork is the key to success both on and off the feld. Pfannenbecker said, “No one can win a game by themselves. One basket doesn’t win a basketball game. Someone has to pass the feld hockey ball to the girl who makes the shot. Without each other, we are nothing. The dynamic of the team is really what makes it strong.”
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