Growing up in a small New Jersey town, Angela Severn never imagined she would become an elite swimmer on her path to achieving athletic and academic excellence. Swimming in a man-made lake as a kid, her hobby soon developed into a passion, earning her a spot on the Ohio State swimming and diving team — where she achieved All-American honors three times — and eventually qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials.
However, Angela’s academic and athletic journey did not happen overnight. While many college students spend their undergraduate years drinking and dodging class, Severn’s experience stands apart. When she wasn’t in the pool, Severn was studying, training or spending time with her team. Angela’s passion for sports and medicine did not end when she graduated from Ohio State in 2013. After college, Severn earned her Master’s degree in clinical athletic training from Bloomsburg University, where she later worked as an athletic trainer before coming to NYU for the start of this athletic season.
Recently, Washington Square News had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Severn, who explained her journey and how she ended up at NYU.
Washington Square News: How have you enjoyed your first month at NYU
Angela Severn: It’s great. I came from small-town USA and now I’m living in the big city — in the heart of it all — in Midtown. I love having the big group of sports medicine staff we have here and I think that’s why I was looking for something new. I did graduate school at Bloomsburg University and worked there too, and I felt like I’ve always worked with and learned under the same people. The sports medicine world is so big, I wanted to branch out, meet new people, learn new things because that’s how you grow. I love what the city has to offer: all the broadway shows, the lights, the noise, the excitement. I’m really into food so I love walking around. I like Central Park, and Bryant Park too, because it gives you the country, homey feel.
WSN: Your bio mentions you qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials. Is that something you always dreamed of as a kid? How did you continue to push yourself to the next level?
AS: Growing up, we swam in a man-made lake, so I was swimming with the geese, the fish and the turtles. I can’t say it was that big of a dream when I was growing up, I wasn’t fast, I just really enjoyed swimming. My family moved from New Jersey to Pennsylvania and I kept going. I did water polo in high school with swimming and I realized I really loved water polo. And then I was stuck in high school because I wasn’t sure if I was being challenged enough, so I joined Germantown Academy. And that’s what kind of changed my life. I was recruited, went to Ohio State, and after Germantown it was like, “alright, maybe I can do this,” and I started working a lot harder. In 2012, Omaha, Nebraska it was unreal — the atmosphere and everything — it gives me the chills just thinking about it. Having your team there, having your family travel with you to watch you swim, it was definitely something I’ll always remember.
WSN: What specifically were you doing at Bloomsburg and Valley Forge University? What were the most valuable lessons you learned from being there?
AS: Valley Forge was my first job out of college, and I was the head athletic trainer and the strength and conditioning coach, so I was actually the only one in charge of all of that. It was a big responsibility but it made me learn everything so quickly. The systems, budgeting, insurance, I think it was the best thing for me. I’m a very driven person, so for that to be my first job really helped. It was just a small Division III university, with no contact sports. It was long hours, but since I was also the strength and conditioning coach I could see my athletes on a daily basis, I really got to know them, their bodies and their mechanics, so I could fix it right away in the weight room and we had a lot less injuries that year. And then I went to Bloomsburg, I had seven teams there. The wrestling team was Division I, and then I had field hockey, soccer, cross country, track and field, and baseball. Again, it was very busy and I loved all my athletes there. I studied under George Salvaterra, who was the head athletic trainer at Penn State for 25 years, and I learned a lot from him. And now I’m here and I have women’s soccer, men’s volleyball and wrestling.
WSN: Is there a big difference in working with Division I, II and III?
AS: I think some of the biggest differences include the academics and the stressors. In terms of the sports, the passion is there across the board — Division I, II and III. Everyone wants to do so well in their sport and they want to succeed. If they’re hurt they always want to get better and get back on the field as quickly as possible. The bigger universities have money. I think the pride for the school is huge at Ohio State, so that school pride is one of the bigger differences. But across the board, everyone takes care of themselves and their bodies, because that’s what they’ve done their whole lives. It’s part of the reason I became an athletic trainer — because I’ve done sports my whole life — and I wanted to stay in the medical field and I love watching sports and helping my athletes in any way possible, the same way athletic trainers helped me.
WSN: At Ohio State, you were on the swimming and diving team and ended up being a three-time All-American and a three-time All-Scholar athlete. What event did you compete in? What did it take for you to be both an All-American and an All-Scholar athlete in three of your four years?
AS: I was a breast stroker — breast stroker on a relay — the individual relays, and I swam the Individual Medley — so that’s when you do all four strokes in one. The biggest thing is time management. You really have to get in a zone of wake up, do your work, make a schedule, make a plan. They always say this — school, social life, sports — you kind of have to pick two. Especially going to a big school like Ohio State, you just jump in with your team. Your team is your family, your team is your social life. So inside and outside of practice you all just take care of each other, and you just know you have to work and grind. It’s not easy; it’s never easy. You have to ask for help; it’s always there. It was stressful but it was also fun, you reach out with your team and your girls. We also trained with the men in the summer which made it interesting and different. We went on lots of trips; they’re your family and they help you get through everything. We practiced in the mornings 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., and then 1:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the afternoons, we would lift three days a week and spin or row the other days, so it was a lot of work. But it was fun, the intensity of the competition — I miss it every single day. But again, that’s why I like this job, I get to be in the middle of it all still.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, October 8 print edition. Email Brendan Duggan at [email protected]