Sheila Joyce: Triple Threat


Courtesy of Sheila Joyce

Sheila Joyce (front) has found success as a walk-on to the women’s rowing team.

Brooke Ackerman, Staff Writer

Some people excel in the classroom, others thrive in athletics and some flourish in social settings. But for senior Sheila Joyce, she shines in all three. She is the ultimate triple threat. 

Growing up, Joyce was always active. She started competitive swimming at the age of six while also participating in martial arts at 13, earning her second degree of black belt. She also mixed in some softball, surfing, as well as the Philadelphia Half Marathon in her free time. 

But after nearly 12 years of competitive swimming, Joyce fell out of love with the sport her senior year of high school. She declined her five collegiate offers to swim at the next level and instead chose a school where swimming wouldn’t be her dominating college experience. 

And that’s when she joined Nova Nation. 

However, upon stepping foot on campus, Joyce quickly realized that something was missing. 

“When I got to college, I realized that I missed the athletic experience, the structure, community, the family you get,” she said. “I missed the water.” 

So, in effort to combat her longing for the water, Joyce tried out for club swimming to try and “focus on the fun of the sport.” While club swimming offered her this, Joyce recognized that she “was still looking for that more athletic, more competitive intensity and structure.” And that’s where rowing came into play. 

At 6’1 and with an intense aerobic background in the water, Joyce was the perfect candidate to lead her boat down the river. 

“I remember tryouts last year,” sophomore Rose Baker said, who is one of Joyce’s teammates. “There were two groups of girls, and I’m really thankful I was in the second group because Sheila lapped everyone in the first group. She was insane.” 

One of the first tests that rowers have to do is the 2k — a test that determines both one’s power and aerobic endurance — and when Joyce first walked on, she hit the top 2k score on the team. She then proceeded to drop that time eight more seconds as the season progressed. 

“My goal this year is to try and get the program record,” Joyce said. “Right now, I have the second fastest time in program history.” 

“She’s on track to be one of the strongest, if not the strongest rower that we’ve had in the history of Villanova,” head coach Carissa Adams said. “The funny thing is, I don’t even think we’ve seen all her power yet. I have no doubt that she’ll break the program record, last time she attempted [the test], she made it look easy.” 

However, even with the power and speed Joyce brings to the boat, she still recognizes that there is more learning to be done.

“A lot of my teammates have been rowing for over a decade,” Joyce said. “At the beginning, I really relied on [them], and if they weren’t as sympathetic and encouraging as they were, it would’ve been a whole different kind of experience. They were truly just non-judgemental and supportive.” 

While Joyce received support on the water, it was back on land where she formed her true friendships. 

“It’s funny how quickly you can bond with people,” Joyce said. “Over the course of this year and the last, [my teammates] have become my family on campus. We see each other at our best, our worst, they’re genuinely just the most kind people I know.” 

And for her teammates, the feeling is mutual.

“She’s the most humble person you’ll ever meet,” said teammate and friend Olivia Frizzell when asked to describe Joyce. “She’ll never outwardly be like ‘yeah we’re gonna take you down.’ She doesn’t do that. She’s not that type of person. She’s just always super positive, and if she’s in your boat, you know it’s gonna be a fun day. She’s always giving it her all.”

For Baker, she noted how on land, Joyce was always guiding the team, especially the underclassmen, in life in general. 

“She would advise us to take certain classes or encourage us to get dinner with her,” Baker said. “[Sheila] just always wants to have fun, she’s good at keeping people chill and balanced.” 

While Joyce has made an impression as a Wildcat athlete and in her friends’ lives, she also continues to place an emphasis on the student part of student-athlete. 

As a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Humanities, Joyce has her work cut out for her. 

“I’m just really passionate about sustainability and environmental engineering,” she explained.

This passion for her academics has also led Joyce to devote extra time to her capstone project, where she and her three other group members are partnering with NASA.

“It’s a human shoulder dynamometer, which is meant to measure the force at your shoulder joint for three motions, and to strengthen or measure how long your shoulder is,” she explained. “Long term wise, it’s meant to be used as a strengthening tool and a way to measure astronauts’ strength while they’re at the ISS.” 

With this passion for sustainability and her newfound passion for rowing, Joyce hopes to combine these two things during the next stage of her life. 

After graduating from Villanova this coming spring, Joyce plans on applying to a more specialized graduate program where she can focus on sustainability and environmental engineering. She will enter the transfer portal on Dec. 1. 

However, beyond appearing like Superwoman, Joyce still describes herself as a “go with the flow” type of person. 

“I love to stress bake, to go on runs, and I’m definitely a little bit of a geek — I just love Star Wars,” Joyce said about her personal life. “I just always make sure to leave time for myself. Time management is a huge part of what I do, so I always try to make time for my friends, making sure I’m balanced in everything I do, and ensuring that one thing doesn’t take over the others.”