Athletes Splash

Athletics, Upper School

Standout Athletes Look Back at the Lessons They Learned

By Carlos Pedraza

Owen G

UPON REFLECTION Two of the Class of ’22’s standout athletes, Owen G. and Shoshana R., offer insights on the unique lessons The Northwest School taught them about teamwork, community and never giving up.

ABOVE The multi-talented Shoshana R. runs a relay at a track and field event this spring. Photo: Matt Chadsey

RIGHT The eclectic Owen G. makes the most of a timeout during one of this past season's basketball games.


Name: Owen G.
Sports: Basketball, soccer
Plans: Studying business

Name: Shoshana R.
Sports: Basketball, soccer, track and field
Plans: Majoring in architecture at Washington University, St. Louis

Shoshana and Owen answer our burning questions; their answers are edited for length.

Questions & Answers

Both Soccer1

LEFT Owen and Shoshana both played on Northwest's soccer teams.

Q.: What is one of your most memorable or best athletic experiences at NWS?

Shoshana: One of my most memorable athletic experiences was a nail-biter basketball game this season against Forest Ridge. We had lost to them earlier in the season by a fairly large margin, and at this face-off at home we were determined to win. It was a tense fourth quarter and I remember miraculously scoring a 3-pointer in the last few seconds of the game, and we ultimately won by 1 point. This was one of our best wins of the season that demonstrated a true game of grit and fight.

Owen: My most memorable experience at NWS was, without a doubt, this year’s basketball Senior Night. It was a Friday night home playoff game, and a large portion of the student body came out to support. It was a very surreal experience.

Q.: Which NWS faculty member or coach has had the greatest impact on you, and why?

Owen: It’s impossible to single out one person to credit as being the most impactful. The varsity basketball head coach, Matt Leslie, brought on a lot of solid, stand-up guys when he came to NWS that have been a huge part in my development on and off the court. From Tyree Harris to  Mike Abel to Ronnie Pride to Justin Peters to Henry Pye to Drew Ronson, I mean it when I say that every last guy on that coaching staff has had an extremely positive impact on my life. Then there’s Hamza Haddadi, who has coached me on the varsity soccer team since I was 14 years old. There are very few people in my life who expect more out of me than Hamza, which can be infuriating at times. He gets the best out of me though, and I’m very appreciative of him for that.

ShoshanaMike Moss, the head coach for the varsity girls basketball team, has had a huge impact on me. Mike has taught me countless valuable lessons, from mechanics on the court to leadership skills on the team. One of the greatest things I’ve learned through Mike’s coaching is to treat sports, specifically basketball, like a family. The team culture of basketball is especially strong and tight-knit from this philosophy.

Basketball Court

RIGHT From their time on the court, Shoshana and Owen agree they benefited from sticking to basketball even when they didn't start out so well.

Q.: Do you have any pre-game rituals? 

Shoshana: My favorite number is five and before every game, I do a ritual I’ve coined “the fives.” I tap my legs five times and take five deep breaths. I’m a bit superstitious.

Owen: I pray right before each game starts. Aside from that, listening to music and cracking jokes with my teammates helps calm nerves before warm-ups.

Q.: Did you have any goals that you wanted to accomplish during the season? As a team? Did you get to achieve those goals?

Shoshana: One big goal we had for the basketball team was to make it to state. We didn’t achieve that goal this season, but we did lay a foundation for the program that hopefully will make the run for state feasible for next year or in the future.

Owen: For basketball we were pretty determined to reach the state tournament this year. Some key injuries and Covid outbreaks unfortunately derailed that. For soccer, we were focused on winning our division and making a run in the playoffs.

Owen Celebrate

LEFT Owen takes to the air to celebrate with his teammates on the soccer field.

Q.: How do you all keep up your energy and morale from game to game? Can you share a little about your teams’ dynamic?

Owen: It’s usually easy to keep up energy and morale. Everyone is very loving and appreciative of each other within both the soccer and basketball programs. Even after tough losses, people are generally positive. If anything, people bring more energy to the practices and games following losses.

Shoshana: Team spirit and morale definitely stem from the players. All it takes is one player to bring the energy, hype and some comedic relief, and suddenly the energy spreads to everyone. From inspiring half-time pep talks to the whole team cheering during the final stretch of a 4x400 relay, NWS places a huge emphasis on uplifting teammates.

Q.: Do you think that there’s anything that you all could have done better this season?

Owen: Yes and no. To quote [soccer player] Cale Spence: “There’s always another level.” When everyone is giving it 100 percent, though, there are no regrets. That’s why I try to do everything in life with a head-down, gritty attitude. I try to play every game like it’s my last. I don’t plan on ending my high school athletic career with any regrets. I believe that that same type of attitude also applies to most of my basketball and soccer teammates. I don’t see the point in approaching high school sports in any other way.

Shoshana Leap

RIGHT Shoshana clears a hurdle at one of her last track meets. Photo: Matt Chadsey

Q.: Are there any tips you would like to give to any prospective players interested in athletic teams at NWS?

Shoshana: At Northwest, athletics are truly inclusive and accommodating at all skill levels. I would encourage prospective players who are on the fence about joining a team to just go for it. My freshman year I didn’t play basketball because I felt too inexperienced and doubted my abilities, although sophomore year I joined the team and loved it, playing all the way through my senior year. While I wasn’t an outstanding player my first couple years, my skills and knowledge of the game developed so much with practice, and basketball grew to be one of my favorite sports.

Owen: I implore people to stick with at least one sport for all four years. You don’t reap the rewards of your hard work by only playing a sport for one season and then quitting. When I was a freshman, I was an aggressively mediocre JVC basketball player. If I had quit then, which had certainly crossed my mind, I would have gotten virtually nothing out of that experience. Instead, I put my head down and was able to slowly climb the program ranks. My experience was certainly frustrating at times, but was ultimately extremely rewarding.

Q.:  What is one of your most memorable or best academic experiences at NWS?

Shoshana: The catapult competition, a staple tradition at NWS, was one of my most memorable academic experiences. This project tested my teamwork and problem solving skills as a ninth grader, and I remember all the excitement and nerves while showcasing my catapult in front of the entire school before the finals at Community Meeting.

Owen: I’ve really enjoyed my time in Husayn Carnegie’s Spoken Word class. He’s an extremely engaging and solid teacher, and an even better person. I highly recommend taking a class of his. He has given me a deep appreciation for poetry that I didn’t even remotely have before taking Spoken Word.

Owen Shoshana

LEFT Owen interacts on the basketball court. Shoshana gets serious on the soccer field.

Q.: Other than the sports you play for NWS, what other sports do you enjoy?

Shoshana: The sports I play at NWS are the main sports I take seriously, but for fun I enjoy playing racket sports like pickleball, tennis and badminton. While I’m not exceedingly talented or competent in any of these activities, I have a lot of fun with them and a bit of a competitive edge. I’m essentially the only non-tennis player in my entire extended family, and it’s always humbling to play against my younger brother who is a tennis menace.

Owen: I’m always watching football. College football, the NFL, whatever. Also, my little brother was an All-American football player this past year, so it’s been really fun to watch him play over the years. Look out for the name Julius G. You’re going to be drafting him in fantasy football someday soon.

Q.: What kinds of hobbies or interests do you have outside of sports?

Owen: I play a lot of chess. I co-lead Northwest’s chess interest group. I also love graphic design and video editing. Those have been useful creative outlets for me, especially during the beginning of the pandemic. I listen to a ton of music as well. Mostly hip-hop, alternative, and older pop music.

Shoshana: I love music and play the piano — both for fun and in the Jazz Band at NWS. I’m a music teacher at my Sunday School (Temple de Hirsch, just right up on Union Street!) and a leader of the Jewish Student Union. I’m very interested in architecture and take a class outside of school during the year that focuses on the design process and modelling. In my free time you can expect to find me painting, drawing, baking lava cakes, or watching the Hunger Games.

Fan Night

RIGHT Owen and Shoshana are honored on their respective basketball Senior Nights, and cheered on by Northwest fans.

Q.: What’s your favorite part about being a member of the Northwest community?

Shoshana: I love how connected all the students and faculty are at this school. NWS provides so many opportunities for students of all grades to interact, whether that's in the environment program, athletics or arts classes. I always find myself waving or talking to friends and faculty in the hallways, and there’s an authentic aura of community and connection present at NWS.

Owen: The student body is small enough that it feels like everyone knows everyone at Northwest. It’s nice to constantly see familiar faces in the hallways and to be able to greet people every which way.

Q.: Favorite school lunch?

Owen: The tofu curry is crazy.

Shoshana: I’m torn between two choices, although I’d have to go with pesto pasta. Yakisoba takes a close second.

Q.: What is your favorite NWS activity or tradition?

Shoshana: Fan Night is my favorite NWS activity. This is a night where the entire school community is invited to watch and cheer on games. Every Fan Night I’ve watched and played in buzzes with energy and team spirit, and it’s a night I think best captures the genuine peer support in the NWS student body.

Owen: Basketball Fan Night. Easily.

Shoshana Jazz

LEFT Shoshana plays piano at the Jazz Band's recent gig at the Nectar Lounge.

Q.: What do you value most about your Northwest experience?

Owen: The variety of relationships I’ve built with students spanning many different grade levels. Being able to have a positive impact on the underclassmen on my teams and in the greater school community has been particularly meaningful for me. These connections with the other students and athletes at NWS have added a ton of value to my high school experience.

Shoshana: I especially value the connection I build with my teachers during the school year. Something I think is unique to NWS is that teachers make the effort to get to know their students beyond the classroom; they are interested in your athletics, arts performances, hobbies, and other activities.When I go to office hours to check in about homework or various assignments, I often find myself just conversing with my teachers and this is a connection I value a lot.

Q.: What qualities do you most value in others?

Shoshana: I value honesty, kindness, commitment, collaboration and a hardworking ethic.

Owen: Dependability is extremely important to me. Aside from that, I value humor. Being able to make people laugh in any given situation is a special gift.

Three People

RIGHT Owen answers our bonus question.

Q.: This year’s school theme was “belonging.” What does belonging look like for you, and how do you help cultivate a sense of belonging?

Owen: Belonging is an individual's feeling of acceptance within a place or community. You can try to create a sense of belonging by just being a welcoming presence. Personally, I like to use humor to help cultivate a sense of belonging.

Shoshana: For me, belonging looks like a place where I feel comfortable to be my authentic self and voice my opinions. I try to always be very welcoming, warm, and positive around others. In sports, it’s important as upperclassmen to reach out to the underclassmen and create a space where they feel comfortable. I know as a freshman it can feel especially intimidating. As a senior I worked to really make my various teams a fun and inviting environment for them.

Q.: What talent or skill would you most like to have?

Shoshana: I want to learn how to play more instruments, and definitely hope to someday master guitar.

Owen: I want to be crazy good at pool. It would be so cool to be able to nonchalantly hustle people, but I’m actually horrible.

Q.: If you had to listen to one song on repeat forever, what would it be and why?

Shoshana: “Hotel California” by the Eagles. This song is a staple in my household, and by far holds the top spot in my most frequently listened to songs on Spotify. It’s a classic, and the guitar duet at the end is certainly the best two minutes you’ll experience.

Owen: On repeat for eternity? Give me Northwest’s very own Wesley K.’s cover of “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees.