Somewhere in her parents’ house, there is a photograph of Occidental tennis standout Samantha Farrell (junior) holding a racquet on a court at two years old. Hailing from Oakland, CA, athletics have been an integral part of her life since the very beginning.
“Both of my parents are super into sports,” Farrell said. “My mom especially is super sporty … I think it comes from a genuine love of sports and I think she wanted to pass that onto me.”
Farrell plays both No. 1 singles and doubles for the Occidental Tigers tennis team — though she says she is more of a singles player — and she is one of only four upper division students on a young Tiger squad. She provides veteran leadership from her years of experience.
Though she plies her trade on the tennis court, she began her career in competitive athletics as a swimmer, which she attributes to her mother, who swam for Stanford and in the Olympic trials. But Samantha Farrell’s swimming career was to be short-lived.
“I hate swimming so much,” Farrell said. “[My mother] tried to get me into that, but she understood that that was not my path … She let me pursue what I was most genuinely interested in.”
When she was 11, Farrell stepped out of the pool to focus on the court. During high school, she was totally committed to tennis, spending her afternoons in tennis lessons and her weekends traveling for tournaments. By the end of high school, her busy schedule paid off, and colleges were recruiting her; she was recruited by other SCIAC teams like Pitzer, but she ultimately committed to Occidental because of the tennis team’s close community.
“Tennis can be really lonely,” Farrell said. “And that can be a good thing because I do like the independence of it, but it’s a sport that’s a combination of things. It’s just you when you’re actually playing, but I love the team aspect of it and I loved the closeness I felt when I visited Oxy.”
Men’s and women’s tennis head coach Ghia Godfree asserted that Farrell leads her team through her individual success on the court.
“Sam is a talented tennis player with a great deal of experience,” Godfree said via email. “She’s setting a fantastic example for the rest of our team about how to grind it out against tough opponents.”
Lexi Banbury (sophomore) echoed her coach’s sentiments. She praised Farrell’s attitude on the court.
“I love being on the team with Sam,” Banbury said via email. “Sam always has a positive attitude and can easily bring the team together. She is a leader in her enthusiasm for tennis and her warmth for both [teams].”
Farrell strikes this balance between individual success and collaborative effort off the court as well as on. She has a bent for creative writing and screenwriting, which has led her to major in Media Arts and Culture (MAC). She says that, because she has to take classes in all areas of filmmaking, she has discovered her fondness for another aspect of the process.
“I’ve discovered about myself that I really, really like editing,” Farrell said. “Even though I’m such a newbie at it, I still feel so cool when I’m doing it — even when I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Farrell is also fresh off of a semester in England where she took film classes and played club tennis at the University of Bristol.
Though both writing and editing are fairly solitary, her coursework is exceptionally reliant on group work and centered around a collaborative process. A film production strikes a balance between individual work and a greater communal picture, not unlike a tennis team.
Farrell says that, because of how much pressure it can put on an individual player, tennis has taught her to accept things that are out of her control, which she incorporates into her playing, her classwork and everything else in her life.
“The way to be a better player is by learning patience and learning to be forgiving of yourself,” Farrell said. “I think that the patience and forgiveness and the willingness to let go of something have been things that I’d say affect everything else in my life.”