Hannah Stapp & Evan Murphy
University of California at Berkeley ’18 & University of Oregon ’18
Hannah Stapp and Evan Murphy go way back. They met playing competitive soccer in Pleasanton, CA and eventually played both soccer and lacrosse together in high school. They started playing for Tenacity in the club’s early days and now, sophomores in college, they’ve started a blog dedicated to making healthy eating easy, affordable and physically feasible for DI athletes making serious demands on their bodies. And they would know! Evan plays midfield for the University of Oregon, double majoring in International Relations and Spanish. When I asked her for a fun fact, she said, “Recently my friends got me a hedgehog as a birthday present. She got really fat—really fat—and then she had four baby hedgehogs.” Jealous? Me too.
Meanwhile, Hannah plays defense at the University of California at Berkeley. She’s majoring in Integrative Biology and minoring in Global Poverty and Practice. This summer, she plans to volunteer at a medical clinic that helps homeless people in Berkeley and get an internship. If you’re wondering how Hannah and Evan find time to cook, write the blog, give back to their communities, double major and play DI lacrosse, you’re not alone. These Tenacity girls clearly know how to do it all! Read on to get the inside scoop, and once you’re done with that check out their phenomenal blog here: Cuz We Eat.
Can you talk a little bit about starting up the blog? What’s the relationship between the four of you? Why food? Was there a particular moment of inspiration? A light bulb?
Evan: The idea came about last summer when I was hanging on the beach with my cousin and sister. We were all into healthy eating, but we realized that it was really hard to find cookbooks and recipes that would fit into the time constraints of a Division I athlete. We asked Hannah to do it with us because she’s into the same type of food and she’s a pescatarian, which added some variety. So basically, there’s two sisters, a cousin, and a close friend.
I changed my relationship with food the summer going into my senior year of high school. I had a really traumatic experience with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (I posted a rant about it on the blog – “A Tribute To My War With My Intestines”). I was pretty much a terrible eater up until then, and I had to dramatically change my diet in order to live comfortably. It was all a blessing in disguise because I now love cooking and learning about food.
I read that blog post and would definitely encourage our high school laxers to take a look! I find that many younger girls don’t think actively about what they’re putting into their bodies and even fewer think about long term effects. Do you find that your college teams put more of an effort into talking about nutrition? What do you wish you knew about food as a high school athlete that you know now?
Hannah: We have a Nutritionist on staff that I’ve meet with to talk about the unique dietary needs of being an athlete and a pescatarian and gluten free. She has been a good resource, especially when I first began training really hard. My coaches are also supportive. Before our games, one of my assistant coaches asks all of the defenders what we ate that day (peanut butter is one of her favorite answers). While we do talk about it some as a team, it’s really up to each individual to take it seriously.
In high school, my parents regulated more of what I ate. In college, I make the decisions: in the cafeteria, at the grocery store, or at restaurants. I have to be accountable in maintaining a healthy balance. As a high school athlete I wish I knew how important it is to think about what you’re putting in your body all day, rather than just before practices and games. Eating junk food and sweets too often made me tired and less focused during lacrosse; once I found a good balance with what I was eating, I saw my mental and physical game improve.
Evan: My team and I are so blessed to have a really awesome nutritionist this year. We’ve done cooking demos, nutrition talks, and she prepares post-game snacks that are ready for us when we step off the field (she even has dairy free smoothies for the lactose-intolerant people which is awesome). The nutrition staff as a whole is very involved with all teams at U of O. I hope that Cuz We Eat has inspired some people too!
This sounds repetitive but in high school, I really just wish I thought about what I ate. My parents are really good about cooking healthy meals for our family, but when it was up to me I would eat a Double-Double animal style, a Neapolitan milkshake and fries after every game. In high school, I was essentially 0% muscle. I always wonder if my play would have been better if I’d eaten better.
How do you get yourselves pumped up for games? Do you have pre-game rituals that you follow? Superstitions? What’s the ideal meal, aside from peanut butter?
Evan: We are lucky enough to have a dining hall exclusively for student-athlete right near our field. We eat our pregame meal 4 hours before we play, so that it can fully digest. My favorite meals to eat (depending on the time of day) are toast with almond butter and banana, chicken with brown rice and veggies, an egg scramble, or oatmeal. I tend to keep my pregame meal pretty bland so that I know it will not upset my stomach. By game time I’m hungry again, so I will usually have some nuts or a granola bar before playing.
As far as pre-game rituals go, I am not a very superstitious person. I get a lot of sleep the night before, and I usually listen to rap to get pumped up and focused. In high school I had this weird superstition where I would wait to tie my shoes until after the dynamic warm up. That pretty much died once I got to college, for obvious reasons.
Hannah: Like Evan, I usually listen to rap music because it makes me feel intense. Both on my team in high school and in college we’ve actually had a pre-game ritual of singing a song together to pump everyone up. In high school, we sang ‘Dream On’ by Aerosmith and at Cal, we sing the Cal Fight Song. In terms of pre game meal, I like to eat eggs, Greek yogurt and granola, or quinoa 3 hours before a game, and I always pack a snack to eat right before the game.
How did your experience with Tenacity differ from your standard high school lacrosse experience? How do club teams develop that camaraderie when they’re only playing together once a week, twice a week, as opposed to every day.
Hannah: With Tenacity, I think we really bonded over our devotion and dedication to lacrosse. In high school, the level of skill on our team varied a lot, and so did the level of commitment. At Tenacity, everyone was there because they themself really wanted to be the best and learn from the best coaches. I think having teammates that were just as dedicated as myself, who pushed me every practice made me respect them.
Evan: Until now, I have never really thought about how little time we actually spent together because the bonds we created were so strong. It was an interesting dynamic because, like many Tenacity teams, the girls on our team were the top players from high schools throughout the Bay Area. We were all extremely competitive, but it never took away from our ability to be teammates and friends once BearLax practices came around. I think I took that atmosphere for granted, but it really is a unique program to be apart of. I really feel like our team had a selflessness and camaraderie that is not seen on most competitive club teams. We wanted to win and be recruited, but we were also friends and that was most important to us.
We were also lucky enough to be with BearLax from its first days, since we were in middle school. Being able to grow as people and players together from the very beginning made us extremely close. Seeing everyone achieve their goals and play college lacrosse was the best end to an incredible chapter in our lives.
If you could give your high school self (let’s say 9th grade), a piece of advice, what would it be?
Evan: I would love to be able to go back and tell high school Evan to not sweat over the little things. Like most other high school students, I tended to be consumed by the stresses of recruiting, taking the SATs, and improving my GPA. Although these things are super important, there was so much that I took for granted. Hindsight is 20/20, but something I want to encourage my little sisters and other high schoolers to do is to live in the moment, appreciate everything, and only worry about what you can control. I try to keep that in mind when I have 6 AM practice, a midterm, and a paper all in one day!
Hannah: There’s a phrase from a song that has always stuck with me and become sort of a mantra: “But the fighter still remains.” It reminds me that even when things get tough you have to keep fighting for what you want. Everyone faces adversity, and in my own experience, that’s when it’s hardest to keep fighting, but it’s also when you learn the most about who you are and your capabilities. I would want to tell a younger me that learning to fight for what you want is an important lesson in growing up.
How do you feel that Tenacity prepared you for college lax? What else helped to get you ready?
Evan: Our head coach, Annie Leibovitz, was a huge source of motivation for our team. She really cemented her intense work ethic into our game, which was extremely beneficial when I got into the Division I scene. To be perfectly honest, we were all pretty scared of her (I’m pretty sure she knows this…we love you), but everything she taught us really helped our college game tremendously. I still remember the little rules she had to make sure weren’t being lazy. They taught me to have better attention to detail. And believe it or not, I actually learned to appreciate all the sprints I did back in the day.
I also had my dad as a coach for most of my childhood. This created a pretty intense, high-pressure situation that really taught me to be able to take criticism and be coachable no matter how badly you want to talk back. It goes without saying that Theresa plays a huge role in shaping Tenacity players into successful college student-athletes. I think the majority of BearLax alumni would agree that without Theresa we would not be in the place we are now.
Hannah: Tenacity taught me a lot about lacrosse. It helped me create a foundation for my skills and gave me a “Lax IQ” that I’ve been able to build on as a college athlete. The intensity of practices and the expectations of each individual were high, which made the transition to college practices a lot easier. I think there was an unspoken “no excuses” rule at Tenacity practice, with skill work, conditioning, and giving 100% effort. I think the support of my parents also helped prepare me. They’ve always pushed me to be the best player and person that I can be, which has made me want to work really hard as a student athlete to show them, and everyone else that helped me get here, what I can accomplish.
We talk a lot about how sports help prepare you for some of the challenges you come across in other aspects of your life. Do you feel like that’s been true of your experience?
Evan: One-hundred percent. I was recently in an interview for an internship with a congressman, and I could literally tie every single tough question I was asked to being a student-athlete. You feel like you’re in such a little world when you’re amongst your team, but the problems and situations you face are so applicable to any big world scenario. Above all, I think a never-give-up work ethic is the most valuable skill I have acquired through my experience so far. You don’t want to wake up at 6AM for conditioning? You’re sore? That sucks… you still have to get up, play through your mind, body, and rain to fight for some playing time. Not many regular college students can say that have that kind of will power, and I think (hope) any potential interviewer would love someone as hardworking as a student-athlete.
Hannah: Absolutely. Being an athlete has taught me a lot about mental toughness. I’ve experienced plenty of adverse situations because of sports (losing, injuries, not getting playing time, etc.) but I’ve also learned a lot about what it takes to get over that adverse situation. I think this had made me a hard worker (or at least I hope it has) and has prepared me for how to handle difficult situations in that I’ve experienced in life.
By: Courtney Bird
April 28, 2016