“What I love about playing volleyball is it’s just so much fun,” says Ramon Partida, a native of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, who’s studying electrical engineering and computer science.

The 19-year-old sophomore, who’s the son of a cardiologist and a pediatrician and who one day plans to go to medical school, began playing volleyball when he was 10. Last year, he was chosen as the most valuable player and best defender on MIT’s men’s varsity team.

“Volleyball totally clears your mind,” says Partida, who spends 40 hours a week on schoolwork and 20 hours a week on sports. “It’s a perfect way to release the stress of an academic load. After many hours of schoolwork, you just need a break. Those hours you take off really help you organize and focus, and when you return to your schoolwork, it actually helps you study.

“I expected to learn a lot at MIT from professors, classes, and books,” Partida says, “but playing volleyball has taught me much more – how to communicate, how to treat others, how to win, how to lose, and always to play fair.

“It’s impossible to play volleyball by yourself, so you have to learn teamwork,” he says. “You learn to constantly communicate, letting everyone on your team know exactly what you’re doing.

“And being on a team means it’s not just you. If you don’t go to the practices or games, you’re not only disappointing yourself, you’re disappointing a whole team. It teaches you the importance of responsibility and discipline.”

Partida says one of the greatest benefits of participating in sports is that it puts into practice many of his values – like honesty. “Playing sports has taught me never to cheat and always to be honest,” he says. “I’ve learned you must be true to yourself, because if you’re not, you can never be true to others.”