Teach Hard Play Hard
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Coach and Physical Education teacher Vincent Miller began his path to college baseball at Saint Edmund High School in Brooklyn. He played in a top-notch Catholic league that attracted colleges and even major league scouts to his games. He started playing high school baseball in the fall and spring of his freshman year, but by senior year, he played baseball throughout the entire year. In senior year, there were four colleges that were either scouting him or he was interested in, and he ultimately chose to attend Queens College for baseball.
Miller started his first game in the fall of his freshman year at center-field because the senior starter was injured. He started seventh in the lineup, and he remembers his first at bat vividly: “My first college at-bat I hit a homerun […] It was a 2-0 count, and the pitcher threw a high fastball, and I hit it to right center-field.”
Regarding advice he would give to a high school athlete, Miller said, “If you think high school is tough balancing school work and your sport, college is probably 10 times harder. You need to be ready and have discipline, [and] in order to be successful in athletics, you need to be successful in the classroom.”
Math teacher Carrie Chu took an unconventional path in her sport: swimming. Chu began swimming at age three. She recalls, “I had bad asthma, and [swimming] came as a recommendation from my doctor.” What started as an activity for health purposes developed into a love for the sport.
When asked about her childhood swimming experience, Chu said, “From ages five to nine, I swam on my local town team […] At age 10, I joined a club team.” At this point, she was swimming 20 hours a week for 11 months of the year.
The summer before sophomore year in high school, Chu’s parents made her leave club swimming. However, she continued to swim with her high school team. Chu was inevitably disappointed by her parent’s decision to pull her out of club swimming, but in retrospect, she said, “My parents' decision for me to leave the world of training 20 hours per week gave me other opportunities that I would not have been able to experience, and for that I am grateful.”
Reflecting on her experience after high school, Chu said, “I was recruited to swim at a few colleges but was not sure that I wanted to continue swimming in college, so I chose to attend a school with a very strong swim team where I was not recruited but could choose to walk on.” She elected to attend Williams College and started on the swim team as a freshman. She did not return to the team in her sophomore year as she gained an interest for teaching math. She spent a half year of adventure in Kenya, where she was a coxswain for a men’s crew team. During the remainder of college, Chu dabbled in other sports including water polo and squash and even competed in triathlons.
Today, Chu enjoys ocean swims and plays in a water polo league in Brooklyn.
In fourth grade, Chemistry teacher Pluchino started playing basketball despite her parents’ suggestion that an indoor sport would be better suited to the cold upstate New York environment. She quickly fell in love with the sport and continued playing through high school and college. In high school, she played point guard and shooting guard before committing to shooting guard in college. Her experience as a point guard helped her improve her court awareness because of the “responsibility of distributing and getting a team into an offense,” she said. This understanding of her role on the court helped her become the first girl in school history to break the 1000-point mark. After previously watching a senior on her team narrowly miss out on the accomplishment, Pluchino worked toward that 1000-point mark throughout high school before reaching it in her final high school game.
Sadly, Pluchino’s basketball career was derailed by a knee injury during high school that required surgery during her freshman year in college. The school, SUNY Binghamton, honored her scholarship but Pluchino found it hard to compete at the NCAA Division 1 level after her injury. In hindsight, Pluchino believes she might have fared better at a Division 2 or 3 school. “The women who play Division 1—they’re strong, and they’re fast,” Pluchino said, and her injury didn’t make the challenge of competing with them any easier. Pluchino was forced to bide her time on the bench, but it taught her to be a better teammate than she was in high school. However, Pluchino still sees the value of playing sports in college as long as you are “ready for the time commitment.” No matter the division, college sports take their toll on athletes’ time. “A large portion of your day is either spent at practice or preparing for practice, or getting treatment. But keep playing if that’s what you want to do. Don’t focus on how big the school is. Focus on how you will be able to contribute,” she said. Now, Pluchino rarely plays unless it’s with her nieces and nephews who she can (mostly) “dominate,” but she still enjoys the sport and appreciates the lessons it has taught her.
Stuyvesant’s beloved History teacher David Hanna is known for his unique teaching style, which includes activities like the Congress of Vienna, a well-known feature of his European history class. However, his experience in sports deserves some recognition, too. After college, Hanna played semi-pro rugby for Portland Rugby Football Club in Portland, Maine before moving to Old Black Rugby Football Club in New Haven, Connecticut. He had played organized team sports since a young age, so when a rugby club was recruiting players, he decided to try out. His favorite memory is “playing for the first side at flanker (wing-forward) in a match Old Black played versus a club in Springfield, Massachusetts,” he said. Unfortunately, Hanna was forced to stop because playing with inexperienced players posed too much of an injury risk, especially in the scrum, a method of restarting play that involves players packing together closely as they attempt to regain possession of the ball. Today, Hanna still uses things he learned from rugby. He still performs the drills and stretches that he used to do in rugby training. Hanna’s rugby experience has even found its way into his teaching, as he features a film in his European history class about South Africa’s national rugby team. He is evidence that rugby doesn’t deserve its reputation as a violent sport. Rather, it is a physical game that requires harmony of the body as well as the mind. Most importantly, it requires greatly concentrated effort, which is why Hanna gives all student-athletes this advice: “Leave it all on the field. You don’t want to look back with any regrets.”