Sarah Snyder puts up a strong defense. Dustin Harris / Daily Nexus

For most athletes, a pregame routine consists of them listening to their favorite music, eating a healthy snack or going over plays that they want to run against their respective opponent.

For Sarah Snyder, sophomore utility of the UCSB women’s water polo team, a pregame routine involves performing the national anthem before the game, an honor that most players usually only participate in by watching from the sidelines.

Snyder is currently having her best offensive season as a Gaucho as she has tallied 46 goals on the year, which ranks fourth in the Big West Conference. She is also considered one of the leaders of the team as she brings a gritty attitude and carries a lot of responsibility on the team.

With such a hectic schedule consisting of practices, classes, traveling and studying, it is almost impossible to not feel stressed with so many things going on.

However, for Snyder, singing has allowed her to de-stress ever since her childhood.

“I was four when I started singing, and my mom kind of forced me into choir,” she said. “It started off as a cool thing where I had friends, and it was something aside from sports that I could do. I love singing because it is a way to add positivity to my life.”

Although it may seem that singing was always a positive experience for Snyder, this was not always the case. When she was seven years old, she was told to sing the national anthem at a local swim meet, but in the middle of the song, she forgot some of the words, which led to a very traumatic experience.

“I was scarred,” she said. “I did not sing for two more years, but I finally had the courage to do it again two years later.”

It would be reasonable to imagine that she would have had to sacrifice some of her time singing to primarily focus on her water polo career, but that could not be further from the truth.

“Being a student athlete is definitely time consuming, so I don’t really have much time for other things, but I sing around the house and the pool a lot,” Snyder explained. “I don’t really sacrifice much.”

The idea of Snyder singing the national anthem before games first came about when Head Coach Serela Kay asked her to sing the piece on Senior Day of the 2017 season.
With the whole team on board with the decision, Snyder decided that she would give it a shot despite being extremely nervous that she would make a mistake.

“My nerves are already up before games and my adrenaline is going,” Snyder explained. “My heart is racing and adding singing to that is very difficult. I was like, I got to do it for the seniors and then it just turned into something after that.”

When asked whether she had to audition for Coach Kay, Snyder chuckled and explained how she was asked to perform. She would also go on to advocate for freshman Sami Stebbins joining her in the near future.

“Sami Stebbins is pretty good,” she explained. “She is really good actually. When I leave, she will probably carry the torch.”

For Snyder, there will never be any singing competitions between her and her teammates because they all have talented voices. Instead, her idea is that the best singers on the team should sing the national anthem together rather than one person having the spotlight.

“No competitions,” Snyder explained. “I think Sami has a great voice. I would love for her to sing with me. Pip also has a great voice and can play the guitar. Emily can sing also. We should do it all together but definitely no competition.”

Despite the stress that comes with singing before games, Snyder has been able to limit it through a mantra that she has recently started to follow profusely.

“Singing probably makes me more tense before games, but a little mantra that I have been sticking with is that failure doesn’t exist and carries over into every aspect in my life,” Snyder said. “If you can’t fail, you can’t succeed, and the least I can do is try.”

When performing in front of her teammates, Snyder has mixed emotions, especially since she is singing in front of the home crowd as well.

“It’s nerve-wracking but comfortable, I’d say,” Snyder said. “I know they are all supportive even if I forget the words to the national anthem. Nobody will be upset or anything, so I feel very supported. It helps having a very close-knit team so everybody is always there for each other.”

With the support of her teammates and the home crowd, it makes performing a lot easier as she explains that the applause quells her nerves and strengthens her bond with her teammates.

She often finds herself listening to alternative rock in her free time, as it sets her into a positive mood as she goes through her hectic schedule.

“I love so much music,” Snyder said. “I actually started with classic rock because my dad used to play it all the time. My favorite artists are probably bands nobody has ever heard of. I like Arctic Monkeys and Parachute in particular. When songs like “More Than A Feeling” by Boston come on, I am definitely blasting it in my car.”

Despite being such a talented singer, her primary focus is on water polo and her education, as well as finding the perfect balance between the two.

“As of right now, water polo and school is the most important thing right now,” Snyder said. “If I could become a pop star, that would be awesome, but it is not in the cards right now. Or probably ever. It will probably just be my hidden talent, just something fun to do.”

With the Big West Tournament coming up this weekend, Snyder will look to continue to bring this positive mindset that she has acquired through singing to the team as they look to make some noise in the tournament and win their second Big West Title in the last three years.

A version of this story appeared on p. 7 of the April 26th, 2018, edition of the Daily Nexus.