Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Joining the Tigers: Brodie Zuk

Princeton has 38 different varsity sports, but how Princetonians make it onto those teams varies person to person, whether through recruitment or walk on. The Prox will host a four part series with individual reflections on the process of joining sports teams at Princeton. Brodie Zuk '12, a forward on the men's hockey team, leads off with his experience with the recruitment process.

Princeton, New Jersey, is a long way from my hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. But here I am today, sitting in my dorm room at Princeton University, reminiscing about the journey that got me here and realizing that my decision to come may just end up being the most valuable one of my life.

Looking back on things now, I guess I can give a lot of the credit for the reason I am at Princeton today to Ross Lambert ’82. Ross grew up in Saskatoon and was a friend of my father. The day I met Ross, my father had invited him over to our house to talk to me about the possibility of playing college hockey in the United States. I was a young and careless 15-year-old and college was the last thing on my mind, but my outlook changed after speaking with Ross. A decision seemed easy after hearing about the education, experiences and opportunities which Princeton had given to him. Why should I risk everything on the possibility of a professional hockey career when I could play at just as competitive a level and back up my future with one of the best educations in the world? I realized that one day there would be a life after hockey, and that Princeton would give me the best options in whatever it was I wanted to then pursue. My mind was made up to start working harder every day in the classroom, and on the ice, in hope of one day being noticed.

Four years later, other schools had shown interest in me, but I knew that if I was patient and kept working hard on the ice a better opportunity would arise. Every day I kept telling myself that Princeton was what I wanted, and I didn’t want to settle for anything but the best, since I had worked hard both in the classroom and on the ice since I met Ross. Two years after finishing high school, and in my third year of Canadian Junior Hockey, the moment I had been waiting for finally came: I first spoke with Keith Fisher, the assistant coach of the men’s hockey team, who told me that he had just seen me play and was interested.

Another year passed, and I had the opportunity of a lifetime to come visit Princeton University. Everything at the school, from the guys on the team and the coaches to the classes I sat in on during my visit, seemed to be a perfect fit. The players I met approached everything in a fun yet professional manner, which was definitely the atmosphere I was looking for. This visit, combined with the winning tradition of Princeton athletics, made the decision to don the Orange, White and Black an easy one.

I’m now in my sophomore season, and I strongly believe that any athlete who commits to Princeton isn’t just coming here for the academics. The University is world-renowned for its innovations, inventions and professors, but a year on the Tiger Army and the work ethic and devotion of our student athletes have taught me why it produces such great athletes . Yes, it’s wise to look to a future beyond sports, but Princeton will give me the best opportunity to succeed on or off the ice. I wouldn’t say it’s the great facilities or traditions, because many schools have these, but rather it’s the opportunity to surround myself with such a carefully selected group of genuine people that’s so invaluable. Princeton is the best choice for anyone looking to be the best that they can be.

Though the road to Princeton may have taken longer for me than for most student athletes, I share these experiences with many of my teammates. The years after high school spent playing junior hockey and experiencing the real world truly prepared me for what was around the bend, and readied me to compete and interact with the highest level of student athletes on the planet. Now, my hard work is paying off in an environment where I learn as much, or more, from the intelligence within our dressing room than I do on the (comparatively) average Princeton day in the classroom.

So, why did I choose Princeton? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out — though we do have a few of those on the team.