Sophomore Sam Butler is an attacker on the No. 16 men’s water polo team. After scoring only four goals in the 2011 season, Butler already has 17 this year, as well as 25 assists entering the team’s games against Navy, Johns Hopkins and Bucknell this weekend. The ‘Prince’ sat down with Butler to discuss the Presidential Fitness Award, Forbes chicks and sustainable energy.
Q: Where are you from, and what’s it like there?
A: I’m from Falls Church, Va., which is a suburb right outside of DC. It’s slow. Small, slow, everybody knows each other, but it was a nice environment to grow up in.
Q: Is it a big water polo town?
A: No. No, not at all. I think I may have been the only water polo player in that town.
Q: How did you get into water polo?
A: I was a swimmer growing up all my life. Eventually I got sick of chasing the black line, as they say, so I started playing with a club water polo team nearby, and I really enjoyed it and kept going with that.
Q: If you could be really good at any other sport, what would it be?
A: We talk about this a lot, actually. I think a long snapper in football, because that would be a really great job. Or like a premiere backup quarterback. Low stress positions, a lot of rewards from it.
Q: What would you say your role on the water polo team is?
A: I’d say I do whatever I need to do. I like to fill in and contribute wherever I can, do what’s best to help the team.
Q: Like a backup quarterback?
A: Like a backup quarterback, if you want to say that.
Q: What do you think is your greatest athletic achievement?
A: I got the Presidential Fitness Award in fifth grade. Do you remember that at all? Fifth grade was the only year I got it. Other than that, I mean, there have been water polo things over the years. Maybe I’d say winning Easterns last year — that was big.
Q: I’ve heard your coach is quite a character. Do you have any good stories about him?
A: It’s from before my time, but they used to have a lot of games with the pool manager. There was a new pool manager, so the coaches used to tease him a little bit. The story goes that the pool manager walked onto the pool deck in the morning to go to work and his office was full of couches, which our coaches had put there. Also, a couple years back, we had the Ivy League Championship game at home, and the game was on Halloween, and [head coach] Luis [Nicolao] showed up to the game and coached the game in a Batman suit. I think he just wanted to celebrate.
Q: How did they do?
A: I believe they won that game in overtime against Brown.
Q: Who’s the quirkiest member of the team? Besides the coach.
A: I think one of our freshmen, [utility] Jamie Kuprenas. He has a very colorful personality, likes to contribute in the conversation a lot, talks about the Forbes chicks all the time. He loves the Forbes chicks — he’s down there in Forbes. So I think he’s definitely the quirkiest.
Q: Yeah, that’s pretty quirky. On that note, I have to ask because of your last name — are you in Butler College?
A: I’m not. I’m in Rocky.
Q: Is that kind of awkward?
A: No, I think it might be more if I was in Butler. A lot of weird associations.
Q: Do you and/or your team have any superstitions or pregame rituals?
A: Guys have certain things. [Sophomore attack] Drew Hoffenberg, who’s another guy in our class, he does yoga before games. Yoga, and meditates.
Q: Has that caught on with anybody else?
A: No, not quite. We kinda dance around a little bit, you know, to get ourselves warmed up.
Q: During the Olympics, people were talking a lot about how rough a game water polo is. How do you feel about that?
A: I think it really comes down to if you give it out, you have to be prepared to get it back. I don’t consider myself a really dirty player, so I don’t get hit too often, but every so often you get a shiner.
Q: What was your “welcome-to-college” moment?
A: I’d say walking down to the pool on the way to the Santa Clara game my freshman year. We were playing them on ESPNU that night, it was the season opener. I walked by the football stadium, saw “Princeton” in the big stone, it kind of set in that I was really there. It was a really nice day in the fall, I felt really at home.
Q: How’d you like playing on national television?
A: That’s always a crazy atmosphere. The football guys came out and made it a lot of fun. There were a lot of people there. We loved it.
Q: You’re a sophomore now. Is there anything you know now that you wish you could tell your freshman self?
A: A lot of things – that I’m not sure I can say and have published in the ‘Prince.’ Yeah, I’m gonna leave it at that.
Q: What are the best and worst things about being an athlete at Princeton?
A: I’d say the worst thing is going down to the pool at 5:45 in the morning. That’s not fun. Best thing? I think a lot of athletes would say this: There’s a really close bond with the teammates ... I talk to them all the time. I went to Rio de Janeiro this past summer, and I say now the only reason I came back was because of this team. I’d still be in Rio if not for the team.
Q: What would you be doing in Rio?
A: I’d be having a lot of fun.
Q: What’s been your favorite class so far?
A: I loved the freshman seminar I took last spring with Craig Arnold and Roman Bardell. I think it was number 180 [FRS 180: Science and Technology for a Sustainable Energy Future]. I remember that it was an alternative energy engineering-type class. But it was introductory, so basically we would build solar powered-type cars or windmills, these types of things, out of legos. Really really cool.
Q: Finally, what’s the most embarrassing song on your iPod?
A: Um, most embarrassing ... jeez ... What do you think would be embarrassing?
Q: Well, I’m not proud of having Lady Gaga on mine. Or are you just not ashamed of any of your music?
A: I’m generally not too ashamed. There’s probably something on there that I wouldn’t want the world to know about, but I’m drawing a blank, sorry.
Q: Do you have a favorite artist?
A: I’m a big ’80s fan, so Guns N’ Roses, Journey, REO Speedwagon, the whole crew.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/12/31493/