March 1, 2011
The word "leader" is used frequently in sports. Success, wins and team chemistry are often attributed to strong leadership.
When leadership is spoken about in reference to the 2011 UC Santa Barbara softball team, one name is conjured: Jessica Beristianos. The senior third baseman was the team's unanimous pick for team captain this year and it is not hard to see why.
"She does everything that you hope everyone else will do, every day," head coach Brie Galicinao said. "She has done that since she has gotten here. She is quick to make corrections. She does what is asked of her, no questions asked."
Beristianos, for her part, does not take the role that she has earned lightly.
"It is a huge honor to be seen as the team leader," Beristianos said. "I remember being a freshman and looking up to the team leaders and hoping that one day I would get the opportunity to be a leader just like them. It wasn't just that they were amazing players; they had great attitudes and were always such great examples. They worked hard and even during tough times, they always kept their heads up.
"Now that I have been given the opportunity as the team leader, I feel that it is very important to be a great example for the players both on and off the field. They look to me for answers during the good and the bad."
Beristianos' emergence as the team leader was not a given. Known more for her sweet nature, frequent giggling and accommodating attitude, Beristianos may not come across as someone with the take-charge disposition often attributed to those in leadership positions.
"She has been surprising because she is very unassuming and very kind, but she has developed that other part of her personality where she understands that we need her to take charge," Galicinao said. "With her personality and how much she cares and how nice she was, I wasn't sure of how she was going to step into that role but she has found a way to make it work for her.
"She can organize the team and tell them what needs to be done all the while it fitting with her caring way. I think she has found a way that is comfortable and works for her and the team is really buying into her, which is huge."
The Newark, Calif. native does not just lead the Gauchos emotionally, she has also been a consistent performer on the field while wearing the blue and gold.
Beristianos has started every game since coming to UCSB - over 160 - in the infield. She earned All-Big West honors last season and has already made her mark in the UCSB record book ranking in the all-time top-10 for career doubles and RBI. After spending two seasons as the Gauchos' starting shortstop, she moved to third base last season where she has taken up permanent residence.
"I love playing third base because it really tests your reactions and natural instincts," Beristianos said. "You really just have to trust your glove and that your arm is good enough to get the ball to first, or wherever, in time."
In addition to her dedication to UCSB softball, Beristianos is also an active member of the community. She is a Board Member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Board and is also a member of the Dare Referendum Committee, which is attempting to get the student body at UCSB to approve a fee that will help fund the building of a new pool as well as fund improvements and upgrades to several of the intercollegiate athletics venues on campus.
Beristianos has participated in Relay for the Life, the Adopt-a-Family project, has volunteered with Adopt-a-Block - an Isla Vista clean up project - as well as the Red Cross Blood Drive, the Special Olympics and Cops Care Foundation.
On the field, she has worked the Nike Softball Camp and the Softball Advanced Winter Camp, helping pass on her knowledge and enthusiasm for the game to younger players.
"She doesn't talk about it (her community service) a lot," Galicinao said. "A lot of time I hear it from other people. She doesn't make a big display about it.
"We ask her to show up to a lot of things, but she winds up making connections just by talking to people and being genuinely interested in them. You could just show up to those things and be there and be a figure, but I think she goes there and really tries to get to know the community. She wants to be there."
Following graduation this spring, Beristianos, who is majoring in sociology, intends to pursue a degree in nursing, a career that couldn't coincide better with her caring nature.
Before she leaves UCSB though, she has unfinished business on the diamond.
"Of course one of my goals is to go out with a bang!" Beristianos said. "I believe this team has the ability, strength, work ethic, and the heart to have a successful season this year.
"We are all so motivated and want the best for one another. We have great chemistry and are ready to show everyone all the hard work we have put in during the off-season. We have become the type of team that when faced with a challenge, we are not going to lie down and die. We are not the type of team that will let the little things brings us down."
1. What are your favorite things to do when you're not playing
2. If you were on a deserted island and could only bring three
things, what would they be?
3. What is your favorite class you've taken at UCSB?
4. Do you have any role models?
5. What is the best part about waking up in Santa Barbara every
6. What is your favorite TV show?
7. What will you miss most about life at UCSB after you
8. What actress would play you in a movie about your life?
9. What is your favorite professional sports team?
10. What is your favorite movie?
11. If a book were written about your life, what would be the
12. Do you have any pre-game rituals?
13. What is your favorite spot on campus?
14. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it
15. What is your favorite UCSB sport to watch (besides your
16. Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?
17. What is one thing about you that most people do not
18. Is there a motto that you live by?
19. In one word, how would you describe UCSB softball?
20. What is your main goal for the 2011 season?