Student-Athlete’s Strategic Approach to Sports and College Life

April 16, 2015
Sharon Ng

Congratulations to Sharon Ng ’16, who won the women’s singles title at the 2015 USA Badminton Yonex Collegiate National Badminton Championships in March. She also finished second, with her partner, Pinky Li, of De Anza College, in the women’s doubles competition. Those victories are a testament to Ng's skill and determination, and to the life lessons she has learned as an athlete at Wellesley.

“Being an outstanding badminton player is a lot like being a good student,” says Ng, who finished second at the 2013 championship. “You have to be able to react quickly, keep a rally going for a long time, use specific forms and technical nuances, and apply a strategy to win.”

For Ng, an economics major and computer science minor, a winning strategy means balancing activities and making adjustments as needed. She began playing badminton at age 11 in her native California, where badminton clubs are common. Two years later, at the advice of her coaches, she started running to build endurance.

Since then, Ng has had great success on the badminton court. In 2012, she won the silver medal at the USA Adult National Championships, just a year after advancing to the quarterfinals of the tournament in 2011. She has represented the United States at the Pan Am Junior Championships four times, winning gold in both the Under-22 and Under-19 divisions at Winter Junior Badminton Internationals in 2010. She also represented Team USA at the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, Russia. 

While badminton remains her first love, it is not an NCAA sport, so she rarely plays during the school year. “A few days before a tournament, I try to get my touch back,” she says, “but usually I play at home because more people play out there.”

At Wellesley, Ng focuses on the Blue cross country and track & field teams, which have felt like a second family since her freshman year. “I’m so glad I joined the team because I had 30 friends right off the bat,” she says. “I spend a lot of time with them each week, and I look forward to practice every day because once you are at practice, all your other worries melt away and you focus just on having a good run.”

That feeling of camaraderie is common among members of the cross country and track & field teams, says head coach Phil Jennings. “Even before our student-athletes arrive for first-year orientation, they already have a support group of older women who have experienced the challenges of transitioning to college life, from simply figuring out Wellesley’s acronyms to getting advice on how to live with a roommate,” he says. “This support continues throughout their time at Wellesley, and truly helps them build confidence in all areas of their lives.”

Ng recalls how teammates helped her learn to structure her time more efficiently and get enough sleep as a first-year student. She also learned to challenge herself in the face of adversity and push hard in competition, knowing that teammates were counting on her to perform to the best of her ability.  

Those lessons contributed to her recent badminton championship and to her best indoor track season yet. Ng finished third at the All-New England championships in the 1000-meter run, and she helped the 4x400 meter relay team crush Wellesley’s school record by nine seconds. At the ECAC Championships, Ng set a personal record in the 800-meter run—her favorite event—to take ninth place. 

On both the court and the track, Ng has a maturity in her approach to competition that is unusual for most collegiate athletes, says Jennings. “She knows what she needs to do to get herself mentally prepared to compete—how to transform pre-race jitters into positive energy, shut out distractions, and stay focused on her own goal and race plan just prior to competition,” he says. “This gives her the ability to be a fierce competitor.”

-Information from Wellesley Athletics contributed to this story.