You reach, I teach: how Kaitlyn Marenyi’s role in the classroom impacts her play on the court
Marenyi balances books and basketballs to step up as a leader in her final season
Senior guard Kaitlyn Marenyi is sitting next to the Bender Arena court with a walking boot on her left foot. Just minutes ago, she switched it over from her right foot. But are both legs injured? Could the university only provide one boot?
The reality is that she’s simply resting her feet since she’s been standing for seven straight hours, which she does five days a week, every week of the month, since the start of the semester.
While most AU students start their days on campus, Marenyi heads to the third-grade classroom at the National Presbyterian School to work as a student teacher and help out the elementary students who, in Marenyi’s words, are “awesome.”
You might be asking yourself: how does a player who leads the team in total minutes find the time to student-teach?
After several taps of the snooze button on her 7 a.m. alarm and a quick breakfast, Marenyi heads over to the classroom to prep.
From 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m., she helps out around the classroom, teaching some lessons and working with students who may need her help. After her shift at National Presbyterian is over, she typically heads straight to the gym, and will occasionally receive a lift from one of her coaches if a lesson runs over time.
She said that her coaches usually make sure she’s eaten before she goes to practice.
“It’s awesome that they do that, but I also kind of hate it,” Marenyi said. “It makes me feel like people are waiting on me.”
Practice lasts until about 4 p.m., at which point she immediately grabs something to eat since she has been working for eight straight hours, and heads back to her home. The rest of her day is “open,” after that, but she still usually has work to do.
That type of schedule might seem feasible if it was given to an end-of-the-bench Division III player. Marenyi’s role looks different.
Marenyi is one of the stars on the women’s basketball team. She is currently first in 3-pointers made, and is second in free throw percentage (81.6%) as well as points (13.3) and steals (1.4) per game. Her calling card, though, is definitely the 3-point shot.
Marenyi isn’t just a good shooter, but a great one, and she cemented herself atop AU’s all-time leaderboard in 3-point percentage last season when she hit 46.4 percent of her treys. Her biggest impact this season, though, has been as a leader.
After seniors Kaitlyn Lewis, Elina Koskimies and Patriot League player of the year Cecily Carl graduated last spring, the expectation was that Marenyi would step up as a leader for this young Eagles team, where nine of the 13 players are underclassmen.
Marenyi said that there are similarities between teaching the third-graders and helping lead the team, although she makes sure not to directly equate the two. In both roles, she said, there are situations where she has to step up.
“You want to get everybody to be cohesive,” Marenyi said. “In the classroom, you talk about different roles. You’re a teacher, but you’re also a facilitator, also a coach working one-on-one with students. It’s the same thing with the team, step up and be a facilitator. There are parallels.”
The jump into a leadership position can be a difficult one for collegiate athletes to make when they’re still growing into themselves, but stepping into an influential role just seemed inevitable for Marenyi, who has long held a passion for teaching.
From an early age, Marenyi said she would “play teacher,” and mock up fake classrooms to practice in. One year for Christmas, she even asked her parents for an overhead projector.
“Nerd alert, right?” Marenyi joked. “I got the clear slides, the special markers that you would write with, and I would go in my basement and play teacher, whether anyone would be down there with me or not. I would talk into thin air.”
Four years ago, Marenyi enrolled in AU’s School of Education, confident in her future as an elementary school teacher. Marenyi, who is from Granger, Indiana, said that moving to D.C. has been instrumental in broadening her horizons and informing her teaching.
“Being in the DMV area has opened my eyes to the diversity and growing up, I didn’t have much of that at home,” said Marenyi. “And so when I came here that was something I really liked about this city, and then I learned a lot about inequalities in the education system.”
That confidence and passion have shown up in the classroom – Marenyi has been on the Patriot League academic honor roll all four of her years at AU.
In her first semester this year, most of her time out of practice and teaching was spent taking SOE methods classes and working on subsequent homework assignments. Now, most evenings are spent with lesson plans and portfolios or in the starting lineup for AU.
Marenyi won’t tell you any of this directly though, and has a penchant to divert all praise toward the people closest to her in life. It’s a testament to her leadership ability, something she has worked to develop on the court and in the classroom.
“I will say if you talk to my parents or my coaches, TK [senior forward TaeKenya Cleveland], they’ll say I’m very much a different player than I was freshman year,” Marenyi said. “I really am appreciative of my coaches and teammates for giving me the confidence and giving me the space to find myself.”
Over her four years at AU, Marenyi has racked up over 800 points, 250 rebounds, and 200 assists. She also earned a Patriot League all-tournament team nod last season. This year, Marenyi has a chance to snag her first All-Patriot League team selection, as she is third in scoring among guards in the conference.
With the Patriot League tournament just days away, Marenyi’s career knocking down 3-pointers and slicing up defenders at AU will inevitably come to its conclusion in the coming week or so. But the impact she has made on her teammates, coaches, students and peers will last long after the tournament.
With so much in her schedule, Marenyi is trying to take the time to appreciate the constants that have made up her four-year career. As for her future, she plans to stay in the area to teach, though she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing overseas after graduation.
“It feels very bizarre to be wrapping up,” Marenyi said. “When I come into practice I know I only have a limited amount of practices left, amount of games left, and it’s hard to wrap my mind around basketball as I know it ending soon. I’m just trying to appreciate and enjoy every day.”