Spotlight – Deerfield Student-Athletes

Deerfield Academy has a proud sports tradition and each year the school has many members of the graduating class going on to play on teams at the collegiate Division I through III levels. This year’s class, the Great Class of 2021, is no exception! In fact, an average of approximately 7% of high school seniors play on an intercollegiate team the following year. This year we can expect over 50 members of the class of 2021 to be on a college roster in 2021-2022. That’s roughly 25% of this year’s this graduating class. Four graduates from the Deerfield class of 2021, tell a story of their Deerfield life and the expectations they have moving forward at the collegiate level.

Cortland Dicks ’21 – Brown University (Football)

Back in the 2018-2019 school year, Cortland’s sophomore year at Deerfield, I recall advising Cortland’s hall mates on Scaife I to watch and learn from him. Already, in only his second year at Deerfield, Cortland was separating himself from others with his disciplined approach, maximizing his four-year journey at Deerfield. Everything mattered to Cortland; from gaining a deep understanding in his classes, being a role-model for others, and excelling as an athlete. Cortland arrived here in the fall of 2017 determined to make the next four years of his life meaningful, and indeed he did just that. As a varsity football two-year captain, he guided the program to a NEPSAC championship, winning the 2019 Mike Silipo Bowl. That same year he received recognition as a 1st Team All NEPSAC Class A member, he was the Golden Gun competition M.V.P., he was invited to the Elite 11 Atlanta Regional Competition for Quarterbacks, and won the Deerfield Academy James Smith Award for Academic and Athletic Excellence.

One of the many parts of Cortland’s character we have witnessed is his desire to improve with every opportunity. As he heads off to attend Brown University in the fall he’s excited about the challenges that lay ahead. “What excites me most about competing at the next level is just having the opportunity to play faster, smarter, and be a part of a much more physical game. I am looking forward to competing with and against other people who have the same goals and aspirations as myself. I am looking forward to being mentally and physically challenged day in and day out because it is in those instances when I feel myself grow and learn the most. Playing at the next level was at the top of my goal list so I have one more big goal to check off, but the work starts now and it is far from over.”

Cortland shared with me the important role Coach Brian Barbato has played in his experience at Deerfield. “Coach Barbato’s influence on my athletic career is something my family and I will be forever grateful for.” He also will miss the smiles and waves from the dozens of faculty children that attended home games or would shout out to Cortland on routine trips across campus with their parents. “The special people of Deerfield make this place a home and such a great place.”

A final thought Cortland wanted to share as he got ready for one of his final workouts in the Deerfield athletic complex; “My advice for younger students is to learn to thrive in a space of unknowingness and discomfort. Nothing worth having comes without struggle. Sometimes things do not happen the way you may have envisioned them to, but believe that everything happens for a reason. Always stay on the grind and stay hungry. It is important to embrace all that comes your way.”

Thanks for this message and for four tremendous years as a student-athlete at Deerfield Cortland! Good luck next fall at Brown and know we’ll all be rooting for you!

Isabella Rolfe ’21 – Dartmouth College (Women’s Squash)

If you were to look up the definition of student-athlete you might find Isabella Rolfe’s name embedded somewhere in the written definition. As a four-year member of the girls’ varsity squash program while at Deerfield she was also very involved in many other areas throughout the campus. She’ll be quick to tell you squash has always been her number one passion, and as a two-year co-captain playing in the Number 1 position for two seasons you can see her commitment to the sport. However, Isabella also takes great pride having been on the Academic Honor Committee, being a peer tutor, a leader with the Feminism Club and a Student Board Member with the Center for Service and Global Citizenship. During her Deerfield days, Isabella has found multiple ways to contribute to the Deerfield community.

We also want to highlight some of the many recognitions Isabella has received both here and away from campus during her time as a Deerfield student. She has been a top 20 U.S. nationally ranked player in every age category with U.S. Squash. Since coming to Deerfield Isabella has received a U.S. Squash Scholar Athlete Award every year. In addition to her athletic recognition she has also received National Honorable Mention Awards in 2020 and 2021 with the National Center for Women and Information Technology along with multiple Scholastic Art and writing awards.

Isabella offers this advice to the current Deerfield students; “There will be times in your Deerfield career when it may not be easy to balance both your academic work and your sports commitments in and out of school. Those moments are few, but if you can just plow through them, the rewards in the end are so worth it.” It’s the hard work and knowing things will work out in the end that has bolstered Isabella’s confidence and given her the ability to cover many areas. “My advice is to cherish every moment when you represent Deerfield and the Big Green. It is truly a special feeling to step out onto the court representing Deerfield with your team and thinking about the generations of hard working and exceptional athletes that have come before you.”

Next fall, Isabella will begin a new chapter training and competing with a new team at Dartmouth College. “I’m very excited to compete and train at the next level and I can’t wait to play the other schools and compete against some of the top players from all over the world!” Coach Heise has been a major factor in Isabella’s experience with squash while at Deerfield. “I was lucky enough to have Ms. Heise as my coach the first couple of years at Deerfield. She was so inspiring and a great role model. The person who has been the most influential on my squash overall has been my coach Kumail Mehnood. And finally, I’m most grateful to my parents for supporting my dream to play squash competitively.”

On to Dartmouth Isabella! Keep working hard and stay in touch with Deerfield!

Daisy Dundas ’21 – Dartmouth College (Women’s Rowing)

In the fall, when Daisy Dundas arrives on the Dartmouth College campus, she will no doubt already be looking for her next set of challenges at her new school. With an excellent four – year academic record while at Deerfield Daisy can hardly wait to make a new mark in Hanover, New Hampshire. In her senior year at Deerfield Daisy received the Boyden Award from the English Department while also receiving Cum Laude recognition. She was a regular contributor with Deerfield publications as well as external ones.

When asked what she will miss most about Deerfield Daisy had several answers, but at the top of that list will be the people that have come into her life here. More specifically, “The girls on the crew team are incredibly brave and dedicated. This year I saw strength in so many ways come with the unique challenges of the year.” In addition to having strong feelings and thankfulness toward the teachers, coaches and classmates Daisy emphasized her appreciation for Deerfield’s sense of tradition. “Things like the Horse’s head, the D in the lower level of the athletic center, singing the fight song on the way back from regattas – those moments have been so incredibly special over the past four years.”

Daisy has been a leader with the girls’ rowing program throughout her time spent here as a student. Her experiences with her teammates and coaches have been some of her fondest Deerfield moments. Her time on the water and learning how to become a more disciplined athlete have inspired her to set her sights on a Division I opportunity at Dartmouth College. “In addition to the incredible coaching and facilities at Dartmouth, I’m excited to row DI because of the level of commitment and camaraderie I’ve seen with their team. The women of Dartmouth Women’s Rowing are so passionate about their sport, and that comes through so clearly in everything they do. It will be so fulfilling to train alongside people who are extremely dedicated, and I’m excited to form those long-lasting connections with my teammates.”

There are many people on the Deerfield campus Daisy has enjoyed working with and forming long-lasting relationships with. The two faculty members that have had the greatest impact on her life have been Ms. Onufrieff and Mr. Washburn. “These coaches have been the most incredible mentors since my freshman year. They taught me how to row and allowed me to realize my potential as an athlete, and were instrumental in my college process.” They are both amazing people who always took time to support me during these challenging times.”

As Daisy prepares to enter onto a new campus in the fall she reflects back on her experiences at Deerfield and offers returning students two pieces of advice: “If you want to get the most out of your time on a team at DA, you need to come to practice every single day with the mindset of improvement. Don’t just coast. Secondly, talk with your coaches! They help you find new purpose and direction when you need it the most.” Daisy has made a big impact at Deerfield both on the water as a member of the 1st boat, and in her classes. Her advice to her fellow students is appreciated and are good words to aspire to.

Good luck Daisy! Go Green!

Bennett Pitcher ’21 – Harvard University (Men’s Basketball)

At graduation the Deerfield community said farewell to a member of the great Class of 2021 who has been around much longer than the “normal” length of four-years. Bennett has been on campus for nearly his entire life and we’ve all had the opportunity to watch him since very early on. Prior to coming to Deerfield Bennett was a student at Eaglebrook and we got to know him on the playing fields and basketball court watching him dominate the much older Deerfield teams that he and his Eaglebrook teammates were competing against. Personally, I could not wait until Bennett’s arrival here for his freshman year! He’s been a friend, neighbor, classmate, and team member to so many Deerfield community members since entering the school as a student in the fall of 2017.

Bennett’s list of athletic achievements as a student here at Deerfield is impressive! He was elected the basketball team’s MVP in his sophomore season! Later that same year in August he held a top 100 ranking as a college-bound basketball prospect nation-wide by 24/7 Sports. (his official ranking was #84). He was recognized for NEPSAC All-League Honorable Mention in his freshman season, and then went on to be awarded All-NEPSAC 1st team honors in both his sophomore and junior seasons. On the gridiron as a tight end, Bennett received an All-American nomination from Sports Illustrated. This is quite a list of honors especially when one considers that Bennett sustained serious injuries in his junior fall and summer seasons, and add to that the COVID-19 pandemic suspending football and basketball competitions in his senior year.

Bennett will matriculate at Harvard in the fall and will begin preparing this summer to begin his career as a member of the Crimson basketball program. “I am excited to represent my family and school at the next level. Competing against some of the best teams in the country is something I’ve dreamed of. I hope to be ready for the challenges that will come with being a collegiate athlete and pushing myself to become the best player I can be.” Knowing Bennett this summer presents the perfect opportunity for him to get a great start for being prepared to make that step into a Division I program.

Not too many high school age student athletes get to have their parent as their coach and mentor as Bennett has. “My favorite, most influential, and supportive coach I have had during my four years at Deerfield has been my dad. I was extremely lucky to have this opportunity to play for him. It was a dream come true for me.” Bennett also has received some great advice from head football coach Brian Barbato. In reflecting back over his time spent at Deerfield as a student Bennett offers some advice to younger students looking to have the same opportunity he now has; “I would implore younger student athletes to not specialize athletically. Don’t pigeon hole yourself by only playing one sport while you are in high school. I believe the best way to train and prepare for your “main” sport is by competing in others during the off-seasons. Being a diverse athlete is a valuable trait to possess.” Well said Bennett!

Congratulations to all of our student-athletes and best of luck with your future pursuits! Go Big Green!

– Mr. Howe

Go Big Green!