Honorable Mention: Nathaniel Kuffner crushes his lax and soccer competition


Photo by Tami Lyon

Senior Nathaniel Kuffner rips a ball away from a Saint Ignatius player on Mar. 30.

One might think senior Nathaniel Kuffner’s epiphanic athletic moment was a soccer strike or lacrosse check; however, it didn’t happen that way at all. According to the varsity lacrosse midfielder and varsity soccer center back, his realization came from a much different type of competition: golf.

“I was in the sixth grade, playing in the Mill Valley Golf Club Championship. My brother was also in the tournament and he played for the Tam varsity golf team at the time. I shot an 80 through 18 holes and he shot a 79, and with him being four years older than me, that was kind of when I realized that I was good at most things that I did athletically,” Kuffner said.

As a kid, Kuffner dominated the youth sports scene. Before high school, he participated in competitive golf, basketball, cross country, track, baseball, lacrosse and soccer. Once Kuffner reached high school, he decided to focus on the sports he loves most.

“Soccer is a really amazing sport. It may seem simple in its idea but it’s also really complex in terms of tactics and ball movement. When it’s played well, it’s really fun to watch,” Kuffner said. “For lacrosse, it’s really fast paced and physical. I love that you have to be really athletic but also smart to excel in the sport.”

According to Kuffner, he made the right choice. Over his four years at Redwood, Kuffner has played a big part in four Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) championship-winning teams: varsity lacrosse in 2017, varsity soccer in 2018 and for both sports this season. Along with his team success, Kuffner has also racked up his own accolades, being named to All-MCAL teams in both sports for his junior and senior seasons. But, according to fellow senior and lacrosse teammate Miles Dean, Kuffner is not in it for the personal acclaim.

“Nathaniel just gives it his all every time he’s on the field,” Dean said. “He doesn’t try to make the flashy passes or score the crazy goals, he’s in there to make the plays that are critical to winning games. He’s not asking for the glory and all, he’s the player who goes all out to get a ground ball and other effort plays to help the team win.”

In soccer, fellow senior and Kuffner’s center back partner Justin Neustaetter echoed Dean’s sentiment.

“[Kuffner] is one of those players who’s really motivated and shows that in his game and in practice. He has a lot of great energy and teammates love to play with him and stand by him. He just leads by example which motivates other players to play as hard as he does,” Neustaetter said.

While Kuffner is a dynamic competitor in both sports, his versatility doesn’t end on the athletic field. Ending his senior year with a 4.57 GPA, Kuffner plans to study political science and engineering at UCLA next fall. In order to balance school and sports in his busy schedule, he believes it all comes down to work ethic.

“You have to be incredibly motivated to get the work done; there’s really not a lot of time to just be off in your own world not being productive and that’s what has really helped me,” Kuffner said.

While Kuffner does not plan on trying out for the UCLA soccer team, he plans to play club lacrosse there, once again planning to focus his efforts on athletics and a heavy school workload. That same work ethic, according to Dean, is what has driven Kuffner to become such a successful athlete in both sports.

“Nathaniel is always the one who works the hardest on the field,” Dean said. “Whether it’s offense or defense, every time he’s on the field he’s giving it one hundred percent. He’s an absolute work horse, tank, animal, whatever adjective you want to describe him as, he’s all of them.”