All posts by Sophie McKnight

The Good and the Bad in Cannoli’s Class

            Entering this class in the beginning of the semester, I was excited to learn about the world of sports journalism and what it takes to be successful in it. Overall, I think I learned what I wanted to, whether I enjoyed doing the assignments or not.

            The assignment I liked the most was the midterm assignment when we had to do a Q&A with a professional in the sports world. I enjoyed assignments like this and others that included interviewing people because I feel like that is an important skill to have in the professional world.

            Another thing about this class that I enjoyed were the guest speakers that came in or face timed us during class. I learned a lot about each of their professional fields and it helped me get an idea of what I want to do. Which is nothing to do with sports journalism.

            Other than that, I couldn’t stand writing the blogs every week. I ran out of ideas after the first four and struggled to hit 500 words, which will probably happen with this blog. And always forgot to do them until 10:30 at night on a Thursday when I’m already in bed.  Another thing I learned about sports journalism is that I am horrendous in front of a camera and couldn’t look more awkward doing a stand up video if I tried. So Cannoli, I apologize for putting you through that awkwardness when you watched my video.

            I definitely think that the class would have benefitted from a couple work days leading up to when our final project was due because of the amount of work we all had going on in our other classes. Besides that I feel like we had plenty of time to finish every assignment. Except for that horrid game story activity that you made us do in class. I was so flustered during that 30 minutes and I’m pretty sure I forgot how to read because of how rushed we were. I’m very thankful that assignment was not graded because I probably would have had to drop the class after that one.

            In the end I do think that I improved as a writer in this class and became more comfortable standing up and speaking on the spot, so I guess that’s a good thing to take away from this class. Thank you Don Cannoli for a fun semester and hopefully we didn’t make you hate teaching that much.  C

Mental Health in Collegiate Athletes

Not all mental illnesses in collegiate athletes appear during their career. Many don’t show signs of mental illness until long after they have left the student-athlete experience. Unfortunately, this is the circumstance for Peter Busch. An Elizabethtown College who was part of the men’s soccer team in 1989 when they won the NCAA championship his junior year. In 2003, Busch took his life because of the toll that 9/11 had on him. Many of his fellow firefighters perished during 9/11, and Busch was not there to help because this was on his day off.

“After two years of living in turmoil and strife because he was not there to help, it weighed on him heavily,” Busch’s former coach and head men’s soccer coach at ETown Skip Roderick said, “After a lot of thought and a lot of guilt and a lot of sadness; he stopped his truck on the Tappan Zee Bridge and because of post traumatic syndrome, he jumped off the bridge.”

The Elizabethtown College men’s soccer alumni have come together and donated a touchstone soccer ball placed in the entrance of Ira R. Herr Field. The purpose of this ball is to remember not just Busch, but all soccer alumni. Before every home game played, men’s or women’s, each player and coach on the team must touch the soccer ball to remember and honor Busch and all former Blue Jays who have passed away. The college came together in a time of great sorrow to do something out of the ordinary to honor those who have suffered.

***

The NCAA completed a survey in 2016 called the GOALS Study of the Student-Athlete Experience. Over 21,000 student-athletes responded from Division I, II and III schools. The NCAA was looking at all the different aspects of college that athletes deal with that non-athletes don’t have to experience. In the findings, one of the top issues relevant to today’s college athletes health and well-being. College campuses reported that they are seeing an increase in the number of student-athletes experiencing anxiety and depression, and 30 percent of the athletes taking the GOALS survey stated that they have been “intractably overwhelmed” in the months when their sport are in season. However, this survey was anonymous, which makes the NCAA ask how many of these student-athletes that responded actually reported the problems they faced to their coaches or athletic trainers.

According to an ESPN study, suicide was the third leading cause of death of student-athletes from 2004-2008, behind accidents and cardiac issues. The study found that suicide is due to the accumulation of the many factors being a student-athlete entails that begin to build up over time. And the worse it gets, the more impossible it feels for an athlete to come forward and seek help because he or she does not want to appear weak to their teammates and coaching staff. A prime example of this is former Michigan football player Matt Heininger.

            “I had emotional pain that was overwhelming; I would wake up, and from the morning until I fell asleep – when I was able to sleep – I had troubling thoughts that were utterly consuming,” said Heininger to ESPN. “Not a minute would go by in a day without my depression on my mind… this, this felt impossible.”

            It wasn’t until Heininger had a breakdown on the practice field when he came forward to seek help. Mental illness is truly one of the greatest silent epidemics found in student-athletes that is starting to be recognized more and more. ESPN also spoke to Timothy Neal, the assistant athletic director for sports medicine at Syracuse University, about his research done on the subject and the excessive pressure put on today’s student-athlete.

            “One in every four to five young adults has mental health issues,” Neal said, “but what is unique about the student-athlete is that they have stressors and expectations of them unlike the other students that could either trigger a psychological concern or exacerbate an existing mental health issue.”

            Student-athletes face different stressors and reasons for depression than other students. Yes, all students write papers and take tests, but they are not competing in front of a massive crowd in the middle of an exam and are not cramming homework in on three hour long bus rides after playing a full game. This is what non-athletes do not understand. Collegiate athletes, when in season, have a very limited amount of time to get all of their homework and others things accomplished. This is where the overly induced stress and anxiety sets in. It is important that non-athletes involved in collegiate athletes lives understand the stressors they go through every day and offer support whether it looks like they need it or not.

“Stress, anxiety, and mental illness stems from many things transitioning to the college level,” Dr. Elizabeth Dalton, psychology professor at Elizabethtown College, said. “But athletes do have that higher expectation in terms of high performance regardless of how intense their schedules are and how they manage their time.”

***

            Chris Morgan, head athletic director at Elizabethtown College and former roommate and teammate of Peter Busch, told us that none of Peter’s friends or family had seen his suicide coming. With a wife, kids, a good job and great friends, no one thought that he would’ve done this to himself and all of those that he loved.

            But mental illness, whether it develops before, during, or after college, is something that many keep to themselves. It is not until a mental breakdown like Heininger, or Busch’s case, that those around them realized that there was something off about the person.

            What people need to realize is that athletes don’t want to have this trauma in their lives, and they are not making it up to get out of running a fitness test. The stress and anxiety that consistently high expectations has on a person can wear them down. It is a concern that is becoming more prominent in the NCAA across all divisions of college athletics, and should not be ignored.

Competitive Corn Hole

Yard games are meant to be light hearted and played for fun. This however is a foreign concept when you have a group of teammates playing corn hole against each other.

One Saturday early in the semester, my teammates and I just got done playing against F&M in a scrimmage, and we were excited for our first day off from soccer in 10 days. We were all ready to let loose, relax, and actually enjoy being around each other. Let’s just say that tensions are high during preseason.

We all decided to go enjoy the freedom of not having soccer the next day and go hang out at one of the off campus houses. That’s where we all eyed up the corn hole they had set up in the back yard.

First of all, picking teams and figuring out who was playing the first game was more of a process than it should have been. Once people started playing, we might as well have been back at soccer practice. Every toss, every point and every little comment someone made on the sideline made the tensions grow.

I’m not trying to brag, but my teammate Sophie and I were running the corn hole boards. We went undefeated the entire afternoon and may or may not have been getting a little cocky about it, but that’s beside the point.

Anyway Sophie and I were challenged to one last game against our two roommates. So this game was a battle for bragging rights in the house.

The game was filled with yelling, questionable calls and obviously, insults. All of our friends watching probably thought that the four of us actually didn’t like each other because of how heated the game was getting.

Of course, after a day of being undefeated, Sophie and I lost to them by two points, leaving our roommates to rub it in our faces for the rest of our lives. Maybe not that long, but they definitely won’t let us hear the end of for the rest of our college careers. And the entire next week of practice, our entire team kept bringing it up to Sophie and I just to annoy us.

Needless to say, it doesn’t matter what game we’re playing or what kind of setting we are in. My soccer team, and probably the rest of the athletes at Elizabethtown College, are easily some of the most competitive people on this earth. The competitiveness runs through all of us, and even when we’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves and have a light hearted corn hole tournament, we will always compete to be number one.

Eyes of the Storm by Gary Smith

When I committed to play soccer for Etown, I had a good feeling that the coaches would value me as a player and a person. They all put in a lot of time and effort to come and watch me play in showcase tournaments during my senior year of high school. But none of them were about to give birth whenever they came to visit me. And once I was here, none of them became blue in the face from yelling at me on the field because of the intensity they brought to the game. In other words, to a point they are all normal coaches, which is why one of them are or ever will be as successful as Pat Summitt.

As a player, I have been pushed very hard by my coaches. But reading Gary Smith’s piece Eyes of the Storm about Pat Summitt and Michelle Marciniak is a completely different story when it comes to being pushed by a coach. I was obviously impressed in the beginning when Smith told the story of Summitt traveling across the country while in labor just to briefly visit Marciniak. But what I was more impressed with was the intensity Summitt brought to every game, and the amount she pushed Marciniak.

In my experience as a player, coaches have only yelled at me because they couldn’t wait for me to get off the field and leave because of how stubborn of a person I am. Summitt was different. After seeing the results of the personality test between her and Marciniak and how freakishly alike they were, Summitt pushed her for a different reason. It was fascinating how hard Summitt was on Marciniak because of how much of herself she saw in her player. Summitt didn’t coddle her because she wanted her to be great, she was harder on her then anyone else on the team because she believed in her the most.

This is what I enjoyed the most about this story. I’ve only played for one coach like this and unfortunately it is not my current college coach. So in frustrating times in my collegiate career, it was nice to read a story where the coach is pushing a player so hard because she truly believes in what Marciniak can do. Which paid off in the end because of the NCAA championship and Marciniak fulfilling her dream of playing for Summitt.

Starting with Canada, Ending in France

The United States Women’s Soccer Team is ending their hardest regular season schedule to date against a familiar foe. The USWNT and Canada have one of the longest histories against each other in professional women’s soccer history. Even though this upcoming match is just a friendly at the end of both teas schedule, it will not be taken lightly.

            Looking at the United States’ all-time record against Canada, 47-3-6, you would think that there is no real competition between the rivals.   However the past 10 meeting have featured two ties and four one-goal wins for the U.S. One of the most well-known matches between the teams was in the 2012 Olympics to qualify for the gold medal game. The U.S. came from behind and dramatically defeated Canada 4-3 in overtime. Ever since then, the games have been nothing but competitive.

            Going into this game, United States head coach Jill Ellis is fully prepared with a roster full of both veterans and rookies. Since the end of the 2016 Olympics, Ellis has looked at 50 players both in games and in training camp to ensure that she is bringing the best roster into the battle ahead. Superstars like leading goal scorer Alex Morgan and captain and former FIFA World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd are part of this roster alongside rookies like midfielder Andi Sullivan hoping to earn her sixth international cap, and defender Chioma Ubogagu who is looking to play in her first international cap.

            All this talk about who Ellis is bringing to each game wouldn’t be such a topic of discussion if the roster had remained consistent. Ellis has played and looked at a lot of different players in the last year and a half, and in the 2017, she only has two players who have started every game this season, midfielder Samantha Mewis and defender Becky Sauerbrunn.

 Currently, the United States go into the match against Canada with an 11-3 record for the 2017 season. So all this worry about the constantly changing roster would be much more concerning if the U.S. held a losing record. Thankfully they have consistently been named the best named the best team in the world which is why they can afford to play their rookies in big games.

With such a successful record already this season, it has given the U.S. berth into the final eight-team tournament next year for the 2019 World Cup Qualifying. The ultimate goal of the USWNT is to say that they are among the 24 teams heading to France in 2019 to compete for the World Cup, and hopefully their next two games against the Canadians can give them the confidence they need going into qualifying.