Graphic by Daniel Rey

Smells Like Team Spirit: Frederik Brinck Jensen

The sixth part of an interview series on the evolution of traditions within NYU Abu Dhabi's football team.

Apr 23, 2017

This article is the sixth part of an interview series on the evolution of traditions within NYU Abu Dhabi's football team.
Frederik Jensen, class of 2018, joined the men’s football team in his first semester at NYUAD. His commitment to the team, his self-discipline and his skill on the field earned him a spot as co-captain in his first year. He is currently finishing his second semester abroad in New York but will return to the men’s football team in his senior year.
####What are three words that describe what the football team means to you? Fun, family and festivity.
####How does football and the football team fit into your daily routine? It’s become a great part of my daily routine. Very notoriously, the intercollegiate teams have practice at 7 a.m., and although that is difficult for most people to adjust to, it also gives you a common denominator as athletes. You all struggle to meet your deadlines early enough the night before [so] that you can get to bed at a reasonable time. I try to go to bed at 10 p.m., but it can be a struggle sometimes. Still, people show up no matter when they went to bed, which is very saying for the commitment players have to their teams. They have a strong team spirit and sense of duty.
####What life lesson did the coaches teach you? Let me use my background to answer that question. I’ve played football for a long time: I played for 12 years when I was younger. During that time, what motivated players was either an individual drive or that your friends, your social group, pushed for you to come to practice. At NYUAD, the coaches drive you to come to practice by creating a sense of community. The coaches make you want to show up because you have a responsibility to the rest of your team.
####How has playing football shaped changed the way you look at life? Rather than change my daily life, I think football has given me tools to deal better with challenges in daily life. One tool is discipline and another is learning how to behave in a team: Learning when to talk and when to listen, when to fall in line and when to stand out. That lesson helps not just in academia, where you have a strict hierarchy, but also in social circles and on the job market. Football has taught me to adhere to a group’s standards and to sense what the right way to act in a given situation might be.
####What memories do ‘tradition’ and ‘community’ bring up? Coming from an education system where you follow the same group of people from start to end, NYUAD gives you greater chances to meet people from outside your year and your major, for example when you take core classes. However, I think the best way I have met people outside my field and my year group is on the football team. It gives you a circle of friends that is relatively stable: Even though some people leave at the end of the semester, most people remain on the team, which means the people around you know you enough that you don’t need to constantly redefine yourself socially. That’s been very valuable to me. It reduces stress and guarantees your mental well-being, simply put.
####What kind of traditions were already in place when you joined the football team as a freshman in 2014? The first generations of players already had a strong reputation. I mean, the team is named after one of the players from the original class, which tells you how big of a presence they were and still are to the players who came after them. We hear so many stories about those players that even though very few of us have actually met the players from the first class, we almost feel like we know them.
When I joined the team, some of the seniors playing at the time had a definite vision of the direction they wanted the team to grow in and our coach shared that: In three to four years, we wanted to be a competitive, solidly rooted team, and I think the facilities we got access to have enabled us to become just that. Coach Dicce wants football games to be something that binds the whole university together, not just the players on the teams, and I think we’re moving in that direction. We aren’t quite there yet, but then the stands only look so empty because they fit more people than go to the university. I know that some of the younger players have been telling their friends to come watch us play, and I think that helps foster a sense of community. People don’t have to come as fans, either: I think it has the potential to become a space where students come out just to see their friends, both the ones on the field but also the ones sitting next to them in the stands. I think the idea of having a crowd for football games is as much or maybe even more about giving students a chance to take a little over an hour out of their schedule to reconnect with their friends and not stress about their busy college lives.
####You've been abroad for almost a year now. Do you miss the football team? I do, but at the same time I know that the team is in good hands. The seniors who have taken a large share of the leadership this semester are leading by example. Even though we lost almost half of the team between the fall [2016] and the spring [2017] semesters, we managed to stay in the first division this semester, which is great, and which gives those of us abroad right now all the more to look forward to when we return in August.
####You'll be going into your last year of NYUAD next semester. What are your hopes for the team moving forward? I hope we keep the Thursday morning workouts. They are horrible because they are so tough, but it is both a fun way to kick-start the weekend and to go through some shared suffering. Also, before the start of my sophomore year, the school flew in the football team a week early to help with Marhaba and to have a pre-season training camp. I think that worked really well, and if that could continue, it would foster a great sense of community.
Nikolaj Nielsen & Yi Yi Yeap are contributing writers. Email them at
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