Op-ed: Saying goodbye to my student-athlete family
Senior staff writer Shannon Scovel reflects on the lessons she has learned during as a student-athlete and student reporter
I wasn’t going to write this column. I thought I had said everything I needed to say about my AU sports journey in my last column about my dad. That column flowed easily, my emotions and gratitude for my father and my family pouring out of my head like a rushing river. But, as I sat down to write a paper one night in the library with my swim teammates, I became overcome with another sensation of gratitude. And those feelings needed to be documented as well.
Some students have the opportunity to share their story in a commencement speech, artwork or music. But I’m a writer, and this identity has carried me through my four years at American and defined the way I approach situations and handle challenges. So, when an idea comes to me like it did that warm night in April, I had to write.
For four years, I bounced back and forth between my roles as an AU student-athlete and an AU sports reporter. Yes, I knew many of the athletes that I interviewed. Yes, I wore those same colors and the same logo in my own athletic endeavors. But, in the press box, I managed to approach each assignment with objectivity. I served as a journalist, but more than that, I was a student, soaking up the messages and mantras of the coaches I covered and incorporating their messages into my swimming career.
“Be 1 percent better everyday,” head wrestling coach Teague Moore would tell his team during practices.
“The mind leads the body,” head cross country coach Matt Centrowitz told his team.
“Our biggest strengths are our differences,” head field hockey coach Steve Jennings said to me before the 2016 season.
And, of course, the words of my own head coach Mark Davin also left an influence on me.
“Embrace all of it,” he told me once in the single interview that I conducted with my coach during my Eagle career.
These messages stuck with me, and they made reporting on these teams so enjoyable. I learned everyday on the job, and I became inspired by the coaches that I interacted with in my role as a journalist.
And then there were the messages from the athletes. Through all the interviews, all the conversations, one message stands out to me from all the rest. And this is the message I had the hardest time learning, but the message that I wanted to share the most. As I sat down to reflect on this journey, this was the theme I kept coming back to, the one that made me smile, and the one that put things in perspective for me, as I challenged myself to take on more responsibility and push myself to high standards.
Two years ago, I sat in the Butler Board Room for the student-athlete academic reception and listened to class of 2015 graduate Jen Dumiak address the crowd as the female student-athlete with the highest GPA. Jen graduated with a master’s degree, a 4.0 GPA and 1,000 points, but the message that she emphasized in her speech had little to do with her accomplishments. Her message, a message that I am reminded of frequently by my teammate Caylee Watson, was to have more fun. Dumiak said she wished she relaxed a little more, she wished she wasn’t as stressed.
But what I’ve discovered, as I reflect on my four years at AU, is that this whole thing was fun. From the anxiety-provoking midterms to the early morning distance freestyle sets that stressed me out every Thursday, I’ve loved it all. I love being a part of this community, this supportive group of student-athletes, coaches, teammates and friends. I love swimming for AU, covering all of the sports here for the paper, interviewing the coaches for articles and contributing to the campus community.
If I had stressed a little less, I maybe wouldn’t have developed stomach issues or been as sleep deprived, but I wouldn’t trade those late nights in the library or the hours spent editing articles in the newsroom for anything.
My teammates, classmates and coaches made this journey so exciting and rewarding for me, and I can’t thank them enough. And throughout my entire four years, they almost always offered the right advice.
Caylee, you’re right, it’s important to have fun, so thank you for helping make this journey so fun for me. Thank you for counting for me in the mile and encouraging me to relax. Thank you for standing up for me when you didn’t have to, and thank you for always having my back.
And thank you, Mark, Beth, Garland, Dr. Walker, Athena and Dr. Kerwin for providing me a space to grow as a student, athlete and reporter and for encouraging me to pursue these goals while also representing your institution in the pool.
I know I should end with something profound, something that resonates with people two years from now, just like Jen’s speech stayed with me. But all I have is this: I am proud to be an Eagle, and swimming and reporting for this school was so much fun.
Shannon Scovel is a senior staff writer and former Editor-in-Chief for the Eagle. She also served as captain of the AU varsity swim team for the 2016-2017 season.