The following keynote address was given by Devona Allgood ’12 at the 15th Annual PVC Awards Banquet, on May 31st, 2012
Good evening. Thank you to the Princeton Varsity Club for the opportunity to speak on behalf of this great community of Princeton Varsity athletes. Such immense excitement surrounds this event, and it is an honor to be able to share this experience with all of you.
Although our collegiate careers can be uniquely called our own, I am sure that there are at least a few things that we can relate to. For instance, we’ve all been given motivational speeches from our coaches, or maybe our teammates. The women’s basketball team certainly has; but there is one speech in particular that will stick with me forever. While I cannot remember the exact game, I distinctly remember the reactions of me and my teammates and what was written on the whiteboard. Cutting our eyes back and forth to one another, we silently laughed as Coach read the words “We Are Who We Are.”
We equated these words to a song that should be pretty familiar to most of the athletes; if your coach didn’t say them, you’ve at least heard these words from Ke-$-ha, otherwise known as Kesha, who is a well-known pop artist. So what would our coach know about Kesha? Typically, Kesha is given a hard time about her music, but I’ve found, as my coach apparently did, that she makes a great point with this song title.
We are who we are. These words stood out to me because they required me to actually think about who we were. What made our team a team? What separated us from the rest of the Ivy League? Though some of the greatest takeaways from being a Princeton athlete include competing against the best competition, going to one of the best academic institutions, and entering into a network of unyieldingly supportive people, I’ve found that one of the most important opportunities we are given is to find out who we are. But not just as a sports team, as individuals of this greater University and this greater world.
Due to my stature, I’ve grown quite accustomed to the conversation starter: “Wow, you’re tall! Do you play basketball?” I’m usually defined first as a basketball player. And prior to my freshman year, I would have readily harmonized that statement with, “basketball is my life.” With the preseason beginning on the first day of classes, and the postseason ending on the last day of classes (and hardly any breaks in between), it is very easy to believe that basketball is, in fact, our life. But four years here can teach any of us that we are more than the athlete who competes on the court, on the field or in the pool.
Alumnus Reddy Finney ’51 is an exact example of an athlete whose influences reach far beyond the boundaries of his sports. The tradition of success set by him and his fellow alums will be continued through every Princeton varsity athlete here. Upon graduation however, our success will no longer be determined by how many games we win, how many years we can add to our championship banners or how many tournament appearances we make. Our success will be determined by who we are.
Being a student-athlete at Princeton has given us a head start on being successful, and though the reputation behind such a status may play a part in how, I am instead referring to the customs that are a standard part of being a student-athlete at Princeton. For example, attending classes fatigued from an early morning lift has taught us to be daydreamers; but not the daydreamers we all think of. The daydreamer as defined by writer Thomas Edward Lawrence, who dreams with their eyes open so that they may make their dreams possible. Successfully completing an assignment the night before its due date thanks to our athletic schedules has taught us to be procrastinators; but not the lazy procrastinators we all think of. The procrastinator who understands that success will not happen immediately, yet may only be reached at the very last tolerable minute. Walking through campus in our comfortable Princeton athletic gear has taught us be conformists; but not the mindless conformists we all think of. The conformist who strives to carry on the tradition of pride, success and community that Princeton embodies. We are what we do; we are what we practice; we are who we are. Thank you.