Student-Athlete Spotlight

Sabrina Stanich - Heavyweight Rowing

1. Name: Sabrina G. Stanich

2. Class Year: 2018

3. Sport: Men’s Heavyweight Rowing

4. Position: Coxswain

5. Why did you choose Penn?
I chose to transfer to Penn after a year attending a small liberal arts college in California. Months of extensive self-reflection at my previous institution allowed me to understand so much about myself, and what I truly wanted out of my college experience. I craved an environment where I would be immersed in a pool of distinct and varied minds, but all of whom have similar levels of motivation, diligence and ambition as myself. I hoped that the momentum and altitude of my peers’ future goals matched my own, and that they would be willing, capable, and excited to work towards the attainment of such goals. Since arriving at Penn last fall, I can say with absolute certainty that I discovered such a place.

6. What does the experience of being a Penn Rowing student-athlete mean to you?
As a Penn Rowing student-athlete, I am offered the amazing opportunity to explore different parts of myself, and to broaden my educational experience while at college. I started to realize that every time that I catch up with my parents, so much of our conversation centers itself on rowing stories. I recap practices — both the competitive and the technical, and share highlights from our coach’s daily lectures, discussions that I have with teammates, and objectives for that week. One particular time, my mother interrupted me and said: “I want to hear about your classes, but honestly it seems that you are learning just as much, if not more, from this whole rowing thing.” This experience has taught me that education is not confined to classrooms and books. Balancing being a student at a rigorous academic institution, with being an athlete on a Division I varsity team, has challenged me in ways that I’ve never before experienced. This sport has added another dimension to my development: psychically, and even spiritually. It has given me strength, driven my ambition to new levels, and built my confidence inside and outside of the boathouse.

7. What has been your favorite moment/memory with Penn Rowing?
One of my favorite memories from Penn Rowing is definitely the moment that my boat lined up for our final race during IRAs. We had 2,000 meters ahead of us, and then we would be finished. Every minute spent in that erg room, every meter that we traveled over the last nine months, every word that I jotted into my notebook, and each 6 a.m. sunrise and team dinner and boat meditation collectively brought us to this very moment. As we sat there, adrenaline pumping as we waited for the start call, I called for the boat to take three deep breaths, together. To open up our lungs, to find our center, and to develop connection. When they called our start, I felt an unforgettable surge of excitement and determination. It was the ultimate culmination of a truly amazing year.  

8. What has been your favorite class to date and why?
My favorite class to date is International Political Economy. The interdisciplinary curriculum allowed us to explore a range of subject areas, including: globalization, economic philosophy, financial integration, game theory, political institutions, and so much more. I love classes that integrate different academic fields, because they allow you to unearth the inherent connections across varying disciplines. As a Political Science and History student, this was the perfect course for me.     

9. What does life after Penn look like (where you live, what you will be doing)?
For years I wanted to be a defense lawyer working in Manhattan or Washington D.C., but several classes that I’ve taken at Penn, and people that I’ve met here, have stimulated interests in other professions as well. Currently, I am considering graduate school for either law or business, and ultimately a career path that integrates the two, as well as public service.

10. What are some lessons that you have learned through athletics at Penn that will stay with you after graduation?
There are two critical lessons that I’ve learned on this team that truly resonate with me, and that have continued to serve me well outside of athletics. First, something that our assistant coach often reminds us: Control what you can control. Every person in the boat has the power to make it go faster, and we must each find that unique secret to more speed. Wind, current, rain, and other teams’ boat speeds—it is all external. But we know that poise and steady hands, aggressive catches and explosive drives, rhythmic counting and deliberate calls, can help to make our boat faster. No matter the context, it is true that we are all limited to the power of controlling our own actions, reactions, and individual perspectives. So, the question is: how can we do, and be, better? The second lesson comes from my head coach and seems very simple and straightforward, but has been a very powerful motivator for me: Don’t finish before the finish line. No off-strokes, no excuses, no distractions, no quitting. We go hard, all the way, all the time, clearly focused on our objective, together as a team. Together, these two lessons have provided personal insights and benefits well beyond the boathouse.  Whether it is to lead a healthy lifestyle, to build important relationships, to learn the most I can learn in class, to prepare for interviews and presentations, to see life’s general challenges as opportunities, etc. I utilize these pieces of advice to guide myself on a regular basis.

11. Last year, over 714 Penn Rowing alumni, family and friends made a financial contribution to your program to help provide you with things like equipment, training tools, uniforms, travel to away meets, meals on the road, sports medicine and sports performance.  What would you say to those who invest in your experience as a Rowing student-athlete? 
Every single investment that is made on behalf of this program, whether it is time or money, has undoubtedly improved both the tools we have and the performance we have achieved as a team. Furthermore, this support has allowed me personally to experience something that I could never have imagined only two years ago. Our progress and the future of our program simply would not be possible without the generosity and support of every single contributor. So 714 huge thank you’s!