Four-year varsity athletes look to past mentors as examples of exceptional leadership

December 2, 2021 — by Anjali Nuggehalli
Senior Giulio Morini Bianzino shoots a layup in warmups before a varsity game during his sophomore year.

During senior power forward Giulio Morini Bianzino’s sophomore year, the varsity boys’ basketball team took a trip to Santa Barbara, where they were woken up in the middle of the night by a blaring sound. With a summer league game just hours away, the athletes crowded around the fire alarm, jostling with each other trying to turn it off. 

“It took 10 Saratoga athletes to figure out how to turn it off, and we ended up just breaking it,” Morini Bianzino said. “Memories like these just show the community we have, which is one of my favorite parts about being on the team.”

Morini Bianzino is one of the few senior athletes who have been on a varsity team for all four years. With two upperclassmen brothers, Morini Bianzino said he was already friends with a lot of the players when he joined in freshman year, which made adjusting less intimidating.

While Morini Bianzino quickly adapted to such an intense level of competition, he felt that he was still treated like a “little kid,” and had to adapt to being surrounded by older players both on and off the court. 

“Being able to grow up with the seniors every year was a really interesting and unique opportunity for me,” Morini Bianzino said. “I wanted to compete at the highest level possible, and having upperclassmen guide me through it was really cool.” 

As a captain on the varsity basketball team this year, Morini Bianzino hopes to be a mentor for younger players. 

“Throughout the years, I’ve grown into myself physically for sure, but I’ve also matured a lot,” Morini Bianzino said. “It was a really interesting challenge to start as a small guy, which is something I want to help younger players with.” 

Senior midfielder and co-captain Lauren Yarrington is also a four-year varsity athlete, and has played on the girls’ soccer team throughout high school. Despite having experience in an elite level of club soccer, Yarrington didn’t know what to expect trying out for the team during her freshman year. 

When she made the varsity team, Yarrington said she felt both “relieved and bittersweet,” as she wouldn’t be playing with most of the other girls in her grade. However, she quickly came to appreciate being one of the youngest on the team. 

“As a freshman on varsity, I learned so much, both on and off the field,” Yarrington said. “The upperclassmen were so helpful, whether it was giving advice on which classes to take, or teaching me how to be an effective leader.”

Yarrington specifically remembers looking up to Class of 2019 alum Sasha Pickard, whom she described as “just incredible.” 

Through both her exceptional leadership skills and high quality of play, Pickard consistently displayed the qualities that Yarrington wanted to develop throughout high school. 

“Everyone loved Sasha, and looked up to her so much,” Yarrington said. “The energy she brought to the team is still inspiring me to be a good leader and play well as a senior.” 

While Yarringon described herself as “pretty quiet,” she tries to lead by example in hopes that younger players will learn from her technical proficiency and understanding of the game. Because she knows how intimidating being a young player on varsity can be, she hopes to foster an uplifting environment where every player feels encouraged to improve.

“I want to create a community that revolves around lifting everyone up collectively, and not leaving anyone behind,” Yarrington said. “We only play with each other for a few months out of the year, so it’s so important that we create a tight bond, and really enjoy the time we have together.”

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