Nov. 14, 2005
Justin Lafleur of the UMass Media Relations Department sits down with junior Nicole LeBarge. Read what she has to say about the 2005-2006 season, in and out of the pool.
Q: What made you want to become a swimmer?
A: I liked being in the water. I was a runner, too. So, I liked doing individual sports.
Q: What made you want to come to UMass?
A: I lived in a town near the University of New Hampshire my entire life. I wanted to get away from New Hampshire. I came to UMass because the team was really fun when I came here on my recruiting trip. Everyone was really nice, and Bob (the coach) was really nice. It just seemed like it wasn't only a top Division 1 swimming school, but they had a lot of fun, and worked hard too, so it wouldn't be something easy.
Q: What was your biggest transition to college?
A: I didn't have that big of a transition because throughout high school, I took classes at the University of New Hampshire. I'm an art major, so I took a lot of painting classes. I like being alone, and doing my own thing, so being here wasn't much of an issue.
Q: What is the one thing you like most about UMass and why?
A: I like the diversity of the people on campus. It's a big school that has its perks and downfalls, but at the same time, you meet a lot of interesting people, and the town is very cool. UMass is a well-rounded school, so I don't have to choose just one place to be. For art, I applied to tons of art schools. I decided not to go to art school, because it didn't seem like a good fit for me.
Q: How have your first two years gone athletically?
A: Athletically, I've done really well. But, at the championship meets, specific things make a huge difference in the race. I've had better in-seasons than out-of-seasons generally. This season I've done really well, so I'm excited. We've done really well; the aspect of just the team isn't just individual; everyone on the team cares about each other and how they do in the pool.
Q: How have your first two years gone academically?
A: Academically, I've done really well. But, with swimming, the hardest thing in the world is to be a painter. I spend hundreds of hours a week doing work. It's hard when the studios aren't open all night. I'm taking a welding class right now, and if I have to weld, the only time it is open is when swimming is, and I can't skip. It's a conflict for me staying up all night and not sleeping, and that's what happens with swimming. I have had a very good GPA, being on the Dean's List. At the same time, I think I could do better.
Q: As a student-athlete, how do you manage the responsibility of being on your team and handling your school work?
A: In the past, I would pick my priority which is always art. That's my life. That's the reason I'm alive. Athletics is helping me get to school, have money, have fun, and be healthy. You're balancing both sides of your mind. Athletics is so structured; I feel like art is completely not. It's like balancing my right and left sides of my brain. If I didn't make my body healthy, what's the point of making my mind healthy? It's hard to manage our responsibility, but I'm definitely figuring it out better.
Q: What is your dream career and why?
A: My dream career is to be a professional artist, which is what I'm going to be. I'm not going to sit and not let it happen. It's very difficult to be a painter and have a job. I don't want to take the cheap way out and become a graphic designer, and do all this stuff to make money that have nothing to do with my art. I want to be a fine arts artist. Hopefully, I can get an apartment and sit all day doing nothing but paint. With painting, you're selling art to please people. I'm not even trying to sell it; I'm trying to make an impression. When I swim, all I think about is what art I'm going to do next, which is good. It makes me meditate, thinking of projects.
Q: Did you play any other sports when you were younger? If so, what?
A: I did cross country and track. In high school, I did cross country. I've been running for a long time, ever since I was little. Then I joined a swim team called Seacoast, which is a club team. It's just insane how much work they do. They do more work than UMass swimming. These kids are basically soldiers. I was really bad at sports that involved balls like baseball, softball, soccer.
Q: What is your most special accomplishment outside of sports?
A: My art. I know I'm doing really well in it. I'm definitely one of the top art students at UMass. Hopefully that will show. I want to go to graduate school, and I want to go to Yale, which is a stretch. Yale is the top painting school in the United States, and if you get in, it's ridiculous.
Q: What is your most special accomplishment in the world of sports?
A: On different levels, it when I was on the team Seacoast back at home. It was the same team that Jenny Thompson, the most decorated Olympic woman swimmer, was on. When she came back, we would swim together. We had enough fast girls on our team to go to the Nationals, which is a step before the Olympic Trials. That was fun; I didn't go for an individual then, I went for a relay. There were times I personally didn't make, but our relay times combined enabled us to go. Also, we made a relay record at UMass, and I was in it, which was cool. I definitely want the freestyle record-I'm close. It seems so close, but seems so far at the same time.
Q: What kinds of music do you like and why?
A: I just went to a Nine Inch Nails concert on Tuesday. I like crazy heavy metal, and used to like punk, but it's annoying and whiny now. When you think of music, there are so many amazing bands. Music is something that definitely drives my art.
Q: What do you like to do with your free time?
A: With my free time, I usually just listen to music or make more art. I hate TV, I think it's stupid. I have one for movies, but not for TV. Getting rid of TV makes you so much more productive. I don't go online either. I don't like all that technology.
Q: As you grow older, what adjectives do you want people to associate with you?
A: Random or spontaneous. I like to do things now. I'm really impatient. If I have an idea, I'll go and do it. I don't think about it.
Q: As you look ten years down the road, what do you see......?
A: I hope to have an apartment in New York City, even though I know I hate New York City. That's where I'd have to be to be successful in art. Eventually, I want to go to Italy. I just want to be happy; I don't care if I'm rich.
Q: What advice would you give to a high school athlete hoping to compete collegiately at a Division I school?
A: You have to work your butt off every single day and devote all your time to it, so when you come here you'll be at the top of your game. As long as you work hard, there's nothing to say. If you do badly in something, but work hard at it, no one's going to say anything. Look at schools very carefully. Don't arbitrarily pick a name. Make sure you know what you want in the school and coach.