Evergreen Athletes

Reading Time: 10 minutes

In the midst of Stuyvesant students’ busy schedules, being on one sports team is enough of a workload. Talia Kirshenbaum, Ally Archer, Palak Srivastava, and Isabel Leka, however, have managed to play on a different sports team every season. Their passion for sports started at a young age and has continued into their high school lives, shaping them as dedicated members of each team they are part of. They are able to balance their athletic and academic lives all year. Here they share their experiences playing a different sport every season and advice for those who are looking to follow in their footsteps.

What three sports do you play? How long have you played them for?

TK: Volleyball, basketball, and softball. I played softball since I was 10 or 11 years old, and I’ve been playing basketball about as long. Volleyball I didn’t start until later. I started volleyball in eighth grade.

AA: Volleyball, basketball, and softball. Volleyball is for the fall, basketball is for the winter, and spring is for softball. I started playing basketball at around fourth grade. Basketball is the one that I played the longest. I played softball starting from when I was 10 or 11. The most recent one was volleyball, and I started that basically at the end of eighth grade, so I haven’t been playing volleyball for a long time compared to the other sports.

PS: Last year, I did tennis, ping pong, and fencing (fall, winter, spring). This year, I’m doing tennis and fencing. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four, so 10 years. I’ve been fencing since I was eight, and for ping pong, I just started last year. My dad just tried me out at every sport.

IL: I play volleyball, softball, and basketball. I’ve been playing volleyball since the sixth grade. I wasn’t very good in middle school, but I played, so it has been five years. For basketball, I just started playing league basketball last year, but I used to play basketball in my school yard around my neighborhood. For softball, I just started last year.

What is your favorite and least favorite aspect of each of them?

TK: Volleyball is definitely the most challenging in terms of learning the technique and the strategy. I think volleyball is the hardest for me to improve. Basketball is a really long season so that’s always kind of an endurance thing in terms of staying in shape and keeping your mind in it even though it’s such a long season. And softball is always a struggle for me not to get injured. When I get injured, it’s always during softball season cause you’re sliding, and there are bats, and people are throwing things at you.

I think volleyball—just the structure of the game—is the coolest. Basketball is a really, really incredible team and a really fun time. I think basketball is probably the most fun. And for softball, I love being able to be outside.

AA: [My favorite thing is] probably getting time to spend with other people and having a social life. I think it’s hard at Stuy to find time to have a social life; it’s really easy to get wrapped up in the academics and trying to stay on schedule with getting stuff done. But having sports works in time to spend time with these amazing people. I think just meeting people, getting time to spend with them, and getting to know people that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise.

[My least favorite thing is that] sometimes it’s hard to manage when you get home at 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. and have to do work. And sometimes there are little issues that happen within the team that are annoying, but there’s not that much to dislike.

PS: [My favorite aspect is] the team itself, not the actual sport. You get close with people during the going-away games and home games. It’s more fun traveling than actually playing, most of the times. For tennis, we always go to the Bronx or Beacon. Fencing always goes to Queens. It’s always fun to get home at 9:00 p.m.

[My least favorite aspect is] also the traveling. For fencing and tennis, I hate carrying around everything. Fencing bags are huge, and to carry them on the train […] I wish we had a bus, but you need money for that.

IL: For volleyball I like the sport itself, and it is my favorite sport to play because I know it well. For basketball I like the team unity. We might not be as good as we are at volleyball, but for basketball, it is about the teamwork and getting to know the other players. For softball I am not a big fan of the sport itself but it is more about the team than the actual sport sometimes.

Volleyball is a mistakes sport so the mistakes that you make are how the other team gains points. So it’s a very mental sport, which can sometimes be very stressful. Basketball, on the other hand, you can fix it. For basketball, because it is a contact sport, it can be a bit aggressive. Softball is a very slow-paced sport. You have to really enjoy the sport itself to have fun. So it can be kind of boring.

How are the team dynamics for each of them?

TK: Well, Mr. [Vincent] Miller is the coach for both basketball and softball, and there’s a lot of overlap between the players for basketball and softball, so both of those teams are all really close, and there are a lot of my best friends on one or both of those teams. And it’s really supportive with people I know I can depend on and friends that I think I will have for a long time. For volleyball, I think the captain determines the atmosphere a lot, and we have really great captains this year.

AA: For most of my teams, we become really close and [we kind of form] very weird relationships because we know a lot about each other, and we may cross lines that you probably don’t do with most people that you’re friends with. It’s just something about sports that creates a strong bond with teammates.

PS: All the sports I play are individual. Even though tennis is individual, I play doubles for Stuyvesant. My partner and I are very close, so there’s better communication. The team, as a whole, got really close this year. The captains’ goals were to make [the team] closer. You have people cheering you on, especially when you’re the last game playing. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also nice to have everyone with you.

IL: Volleyball used to have a very bad team dynamic; we used to have a very divided team. This year it is a lot less cliquey. Basketball and softball are both very united. Because basketball is so small, you get a chance to connect with other people more.

How does playing sports affect your academics?

TK: I’ve been playing three sports since the first semester of my freshman year, so I’ve never known anything else, really; it’s just kind of the way things have been for me as a Stuy student. I definitely think it forces you to be more organized. Also, you always have that added incentive to be doing well in your classes so you have to stay eligible to be on the sports teams. There are always people on the team who have taken classes with the teachers you have who can send you study guides and help you out with things.

AA: I came into Stuy playing three sports because I made the volleyball team as a freshman, so having sports all year round is kind of everything I know about Stuy. I kind of adjusted to it from the beginning. I know that compared to other people who may be getting home earlier than I would be, I would have less time to do my work. So in that sense, I think that playing sports all year round has helped me academically because I don’t procrastinate as much when I have sports. I get home and I know that I don’t have as much time to finish stuff, so I’ll try to get it done fast.

PS: It hurts my academics in the end. Personally, I don’t manage as well as I used to. Last year, I managed really well because I used to spend all my frees in the library and spend any time I had doing homework, even at games when done playing. Toward the end of last year, I didn’t manage well, which is why I quit ping pong. The main thing is to utilize your time. Everyone does this on the team; when [they’re] not playing, everyone’s doing their homework, not on their phone or chilling.

Tennis is only three days a week, and fencing’s every day. Tennis was a little easier because if I know I’m coming home late on Wednesday, I can do [my homework] Tuesday. But for fencing, you get home at 8:00 p.m. every day. For my social life, I hang out with the team all the time. I made a lot of new friends through sports. There’s sleep, social life, and grades. During sports, grades is always left out a little. We’ll see if my grades go up this season.

IL: I am a procrastinator so playing sports is something for me to do when I would be procrastinating anyway. There are many cases when I need to do a project and we have a game that starts at five p.m. and I get home at eight p.m. The times are different every day. This makes it so that I have to plan out my time, which is good for me in the future so that I am good with time management.

What are your goals? Have you met them, and what are the ones you’re working on?

TK: It’s kind of hard thinking about playing sports in college. I definitely want to, but it depends a lot [on] what school I go to, and I’m trying really hard not to let that be a factor in determining where I want to go to school. I think [I got] to a point where [I had] to recognize that I’m not going to be a professional athlete and I have to start thinking about and prioritizing other things.

I really don’t know how I ended up here. I don’t remember thinking my goal to be [playing] three sports for four years, and that’s going to be my whole thing at Stuy. I never planned that. My goal in doing it at first was that I knew already that playing sports is a really important part of my mental health, and I think the goal was mostly to use it as a tool to make me a stronger, healthier person, and I definitely think that has worked. Going forward, I want to make my last three seasons hopefully my best seasons, maybe be on some all-star teams; that would be cool. And [I want to] just make sure that everything that I love and appreciate about Stuy sports gets passed down after I leave.

AA: When I came into Stuy, I just wanted to make the varsity sports; I don’t know why I had that aspiration, but it was just something I really wanted to do.

Depending on where I go to college, I’ll definitely try to pursue something probably in volleyball, whether that be a club or trying to walk onto a team. But I’ll definitely try and get involved with sports so I have something to do that's not just academic-related during college because I don’t think I know how to handle that much free time in college. I wouldn’t be able to handle free time if that makes any sense. I would be so bored.

PS: For tennis, I want to aim to play singles next year. In fencing, I’m second right now but I’m okay at where I am. I also do [fencing] outside of school. One of my goals there is to do better in tournaments. I don’t have any goals within the team right now because it’s kind of far away.

I definitely got more athletic. In the beginning of fencing, it’s so hard. Practices aren’t as bad as tryouts, but they’re still draining. By the end of the season, I was fine with the running and the pushups. One of my goals then was to do that without getting tired.

IL: Academically I want to be able to have an average that I am comfortable with. For sports, I want to be able to give back to my teammates. For volleyball, if we win the championship, I would love to do that for the rest of the team to see what we can accomplish. For basketball and softball, my goal is to become a better player. Based on my stature and experience, there is probably not a chance that I will be recruited. It is more about having fun and learning how to communicate with others, and being able to make impromptu decisions to benefit your team is a very important skill to have.

What is your advice to future Stuyvesant athletes?

TK: What has been the most helpful for me is that most of my friends are athletes and play Stuy sports. And I think when you surround yourself with people who have those same issues and have the same structure to their day that you have, it makes it a lot easier to manage it. But also, just [go] easy on yourself and recognize that you do a lot in a day, and if you want to go to sleep early, you should just do it. You shouldn’t put so much pressure on yourself.

AA: If you have a sport that you want or are interested in playing, don't be scared to try out because the memories and the people that you meet through sports are the greatest things that you can have in a high school experience. That was my experience; that was the greatest thing that I ever experienced here: meeting people in sports teams.

PS: It’s going to be hard to adjust, but you can do it if you just manage your time. I heard that [myself], and I would just procrastinate. Start [homework] days ahead and plan accordingly to your games. As for getting on the team, you can’t just finesse it. You have to actually work to get on the team. And if you really like it, then it’s going to be a great experience.

IL: I feel like you have to prioritize your academics; sports are secondary to me. But at the same time you have to make sure that you are committed no matter what. To maintain a good balance, you have to be good at time management. This will allow you to enjoy your sports more. Sports can be frustrating, but they can also be stress relievers.