Going off to college usually means leaving your family behind. But for student-athletes, TJ Olifiers ‘26 and Cami Leyes ‘26, coming to Muhlenberg meant being reunited with their older siblings. Olifiers’ older brother, Kevin Olifiers ‘23, is a 5th-year punter and quarterback for the football team, while Leyes’ older brother, Sebastian Leyes ‘23, is a senior defender for the men’s soccer team. Even though young Olifiers may play lacrosse and young Leyes plays volleyball, their siblings and friends have significantly impacted their decision and transition to Muhlenberg.
One of the most difficult parts about being an underclassman is making friends, especially with upperclassmen. Olifiers and Leyes did not have that problem, already knowing their older brothers’ friends. “When I got here, I knew people already, I had already met a lot of Kevin’s friends so it was nice to have familiar faces on campus,” said Olifiers. “When I hang out with Sebastian, I’m with his friends and it makes it more comfortable to be on campus while we’re all still new here,” Leyes agreed. Even though most student-athletes know the upperclassmen on their team, having an older sibling has introduced Leyes and Olifiers to upperclassmen on other teams as well. Leyes’ older brother has introduced her to his friends on the tennis team, lacrosse team and friends that don’t play sports. Olifiers’ brother was also able to introduce him to players on the wrestling team, baseball team and even some of the upperclassmen on his own team.
Not only do Leyes and Olifiers have more confidence and knowledge about Muhlenberg than the average first-year, but they also have more support and outlets. “Having a sibling on campus is definitely a huge help. Kevin teaches me some study habits. I’ll go to the library with him sometimes and he’ll tell me how long I need to be there and what I need to do to get good grades,” said Olifiers. It is especially helpful since their older siblings understand what Leyes and Olifiers are going through and can offer support and advice. “Playing a sport is a little overwhelming, especially the first couple [of] weeks [because] every moment of your day is planned out, you don’t have any freedom. It was hard adjusting but it was nice because I would talk about it with my brother and he was like ‘it’s normal for you to feel overwhelmed’ and it was nice that I could comfortably talk about how I was overwhelmed and stressed,” said Leyes. Both pairs of siblings have each other’s back in a unique way. The freshmen also have their older brothers’ houses as a way to escape the sometimes-crammed Walz dorm. “It’s nice to have a place to decompress. When you meet new people, you feel the need to put on this mask, but my brother already knows me, so I can just go to his house and be myself,” said Leyes.
Neither of the freshmen chose Muhlenberg specifically because of their sibling, but it was a major factor in their decisions. “When I first got my offer from Muhlenberg, Kevin wouldn’t tell me anything about the school or give me any insider information, but just looking at the success he had with his network and the connections he made, I was like ‘OK I want to be a part of that, I want to have a close-knit community like that’,” said Olifiers.
Leyes’ decision to come to Muhlenberg was slightly different. “Once Sebastian came here and I visited a lot, I liked the campus and he seemed to be happy here,” said Leyes. However, she originally was not going to play volleyball in college. But after having a successful senior season, she reached out to head volleyball coach, Rob McVicker, asking if they had a spot for her once she was already accepted into the school. Unlike Olifiers, her brother had nothing to do with her athletic recruitment. However, both agree that they would’ve come to Muhlenberg regardless, having their siblings was just a benefit.