One of the coolest parts of my Princeton experience has been interfacing with the dynamic, unique sports culture here on campus. When I give a campus tour, that statement is one of the things my visitors find most surprising, but it’s true nonetheless: I’ve become a fan of new sports since coming here, and have reaffirmed my lifelong love for others as a student-cheerleader (from the stands, of course).
It is no secret that the first word people associate with Princeton isn’t “sports.” Our Ivy League rivalry games don’t often make ESPN, and in revenue sports (an important distinction!) we don’t generally compete for national titles. Nevertheless, our athletic program has provided me with new opportunities to engage with disciplines I had hardly heard of before stepping on to campus.
On my dad’s most recent visit to campus, we went to watch a women’s water polo game. I wanted to show off our gorgeous aquatic center, and after reviewing the list of competitions that day my dad and I hiked down to DeNunzio Pool to watch our team take on Villanova University.
Neither of us had watched water polo before, save for perhaps a few minutes as we flipped through Summer Olympics coverage a number of years ago. However, I was quickly enthralled; as my dad and I tried to figure out the rules of the game through context, I was humbled both by the athleticism displayed by the women in the water and the opportunity to watch a competition so cool happen right in front of my eyes (for free, too!).
Since that afternoon, I’ve started scouring the Internet for water polo highlights, and I have planned other trips down to the pool with curious friends to view future games. When I woke up the morning my dad came to visit, I never would’ve guessed I’d go to bed that night a fan of a new sport.
It’s awe-inspiring to know that the same individuals I share a campus and classroom with every day can compete in such a challenging sport at such a high level. What impressed me the most about that experience, though, was the notion that there are probably hundreds of other little niches of campus I have left to explore. There’s so much going on here, all the time, and it’s probably difficult even over the span of four years to truly experience everything this campus has to offer.