Academic – Athletic Fellows Spotlight – Jess Deutsch ’91

Jess Deutsch ’91 is the Assistant Director for Health Professions Advising at Princeton. Jess has been a long time supporter of athletics and has embraced her role as an Academic-Athletic Fellow. Jess currently serves as the Academic-Athletic Fellow for women’s basketball and football. Jess took some time out to share with us her reflections on her time as an Academic-Athletic Fellow.

1. How would you describe your experience as an AAF?

It’s a great gig!  Last year I was the fellow for women’s basketball, and I’m honored to continue with that team again this year. In addition, this year I’ll be an AAF for the football team. With both groups I feel short.  But also, for both groups, I have great admiration, most of all for their work ethic, their high standards of excellence on and off the court/field, and their genuine commitments to each other, to Princeton, and to this community.

2. Why did you become involved with the AAF program?

Because I was asked by coaches for whom I have so much respect, because I love being around young people who have the talent and energy that Princeton’s student-athletes have, and because it allows me to enact my own version of a role that was created by one of my most important mentors, Professor Marvin Bressler.

3. What is the greatest benefit you have derived from serving as an AAF?

By far the greatest gift is knowing that in some small way, I’ve helped student athletes who work so hard and give so much of themselves to realize that they are valued, that they are worth supporting, and that they can in fact succeed in what they are trying to accomplish at Princeton.
4. How has your perspective on student-athletes changed as a result of your service as an AAF?
When I was a student at Princeton (and a JV tennis player), many of my friends who were varsity athletes were among the most disciplined, most accomplished people I knew (and still, have ever known.)  My respect for what it takes has only deepened.

5. What advice would you give student-athletes to help them maximize their time at Princeton?

I think the best advice is to try really hard to appreciate the very special nature of this place, and this time in their lives.  It all goes by so quickly.  I hope that they never underestimate themselves, their potential, or their contributions in the classroom or in athletics.   And I make sure they know that there is no shame in asking for help – there are so many resources to draw upon here – and that part of developing competence is knowing when and how to call in some reinforcement.

6. How has your service as an AAF helped you as an educator at Princeton?

Serving as an AAF has helped me to think more about the metaphor of coaching in education. The ways that our coaches care for, teach, challenge, and respect the young people they are leading  — they  inspire me and make me want to be a better “coach” to all of the Princeton students with whom I work.

7. What interaction or situation as an AAF gives you the most pride?

Last year, after  a hard-fought women’s basketball game that ended with a heart-breaking loss, the Princeton players came out and smiled through their tears, finding it within themselves to say positive, encouraging words to the kids (including my own) who cheer for and look up to them.  That made me proud to be a part of their world.

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