Alexandra “Ola” Weber ’24 was 7 years old when she was thrown into the rec team of her hometown to play against older kids.
She was 11 and willing to do anything to get time on the field, even if it meant long hours of intense practice.
She was 17 when she won a state championship while battling a bout of bronchitis and a double ear infection.
She was 21 when she played as a student-athlete on Columbia’s women’s soccer team for the first time — excited to be on the Rocco B. Commisso Field.
As Weber’s story progresses, the world has turned its attention to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which concludes on December 18.
The economics and mathematics double-major is a determined competitor who developed a fierce ability to shoot a soccer ball with accuracy, power, and strategy. Weber’s leg strength and dribble skills help her to maneuver through opponents without losing possession of the ball. And her tactical knowledge has made her a focused midfielder. However, none of these skills made Weber who she is or got her where she wanted to be. It was her perseverance.
“There wasn’t one single moment that defined me as a soccer player. Instead, it was the numerous late nights training with my team or going to the field alone and getting extra reps in,” explained Weber. “It takes time and patience to develop as a player and as a teammate. That’s why being a student-athlete [at Barnard] is an incredible journey that I would not give up for the world.”
Weber plays through the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium, a collaboration designed for Barnard athletes to compete alongside Columbia undergraduates in the Ivy League Athletic Conference and NCAA Division 1 Athletics — making Barnard the only women’s college to offer this opportunity.
Over the course of her athletics journey, Weber has learned all too well that excelling at sports means playing through pain and hardship. “I don’t think people understand how difficult playing sports can be — not only physically but also mentally,” she explained. “I have always identified as an athlete, and not being able to play in the case of an injury or being sick is difficult to deal with.”
Raw talent is one thing, but drawing from her favorite book, Grit by Angela Duckworth, Weber said that people tend to overlook and underestimate the importance of hard work. “Those moments when you don’t think you can do the extra sprint on the fitness test or you don’t think you can push through five more minutes really show you what you are made of,” she said.
Growing up, Weber was eager to stand out, but becoming a student-athlete taught her to be a good teammate. “There is a reason why a lot of student-athletes mention their teammates so often,” Weber explained. “Looking around the locker room and knowing that there are others who share my experience is comforting and creates an unbreakable bond between us.”
It was this bond that functioned as a driving force in Weber’s healing from an injury sustained last September. After surgery, Weber struggled to get back on the field but found the support needed from her coaches and teammates when she showed up to practice.
Weber appreciates the opportunities that come with being a student-athlete at Barnard and looks for ways to pay this forward. “I think being a Barnard student-athlete is special and something that should be celebrated,” said Weber. “So many people have mentored me along the way, and it’s in this spirit of mentorship that I want to help first-year student-athletes get through the maze of adapting to school and sports.”
When it comes to balancing academics and athletics, Weber turns to a simple trick. “I write down five things for which I am grateful. This keeps me grounded and helps me to appreciate all of the positive aspects of my life,” she explained. “Being a student-athlete at Barnard teaches me to manage stress and pressure, even during weeks that seem impossible to get through. I know that if I put my head down and focus, I will get through anything.”
—ZUYU SHEN ’24