By Bridget Schirripa
Special to GoHolyCross.com
On May 23, the Class of 2014 will walk across Fitton Field for the last time, as they cross the stage to graduation. As this class receives their diplomas many will graduate not only as students, but as athletes as well. Throughout four years these student-athletes have formed lasting relationships with teammates and coaches, dedicated large amounts of time and learned valuable lessons. While attending a rigorous academic school and playing a Division I sport are both extremely challenging, the Holy Cross senior student-athletes each recount fond memories of their times on and off the field. As they prepare for the next phase in their journey, many of these seniors had a lot to say about their time as athletes and how it has prepared them for life ahead.
Holy Cross is an extremely challenging school academically. Throughout students’ careers on the Hill, they are asked to push themselves intellectually and achieve academic excellence. While being a student is hard enough, also competing as a Division I athlete against many other strong athletic teams is another difficult task. Doing well at one’s sport comes with much dedication and hard work, which includes many hours for practice, travel and competition. The Holy Cross student-athletes are continually pushing themselves both in the classroom and on the field. In order to excel academically and athletically, balancing the two becomes extremely important. For freshmen this can seem like a daunting task as women’s basketball captain Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) explained. “Coming to Holy Cross, I knew from the beginning that I was going to have my hands full balancing academics and athletics. With individual workouts, practices, games, weight training and travel, freshman year was very challenging. I was fortunate enough to have great teammates who gave me advice on how to manage my time and get things done.”
Even though balancing the two seems like a challenging task as a freshman, by senior year these athletes have learned the key to managing their time affectively, as men’s track and field team member Tom Santa Maria (Winchester, Mass.) stated, “there is only one way that balancing athletics and academics is possible, and that is with passion. Whenever recruits come to Holy Cross, I always tell them that Division I athletics at an academically rigorous institution is a worthwhile experience only if they love the sport and they love to compete. One thing that will help along the way, is understanding that athletics is not apart from academics, but a critical part of the academic life, and the life that lives up to the mission of the College to educate the whole person.”
Playing a sport throughout one’s collegiate career is an amazing accomplishment, which these seniors should be applauded for. As these students have shown commitment to their studies, sports and teammates, many of them also express how grateful they are for the lessons college athletics has taught them. Time management is a major skill that these athletes have learned over their four years. Both field hockey captain Carly Grimaudo (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.) and men’s tennis captain Chris Brosnan (Garden City, N.Y.) recount how their time as athletes on the Hill helped them learn this lesson. For Grimaudo, time management helped her excel both on and off the field. “Student-athletes are constantly on the go, switching back and forth from a student identity to our athlete identity frequently in both the on and off seasons. With schedules so jam-packed, free time is precious and managing time to stay on track with grades and other priorities is crucial.” Time management is a major lesson, which Brosnan knows he has mastered in his time at Holy Cross. “After four years of learning how to manage my time, I know that this skill will carry over into my life after Holy Cross.”
Time management is not the only skill these athletes have learned over their four years. For Sandra van den Heuvel (Nashua, N.H.), captain of the women’s track and field team, the athletics and the classroom learning complimented each other. She declared, “Learning at Holy Cross certainly doesn't end at the classroom doors. I found that being on a team taught me hands-on lessons that would be nearly impossible to learn from a lecture, seminar or discussion. It requires active participation and commitment to learn how deeply connected we can be as students and student-athletes. While being on the team was an enormous commitment, it taught me how to be a part of something that extended far beyond myself. In this way, it taught me how to work for, laugh for, cry for, and set and enforce goals for purposes larger than, and outside of myself. In a way, being on a team has re-enforced the meaning of ‘men and women for/with others,’ because it asks you how much you are willing to give for your teammates and coaches.”
Learning how to lead effectively is an important life lesson and is often accomplished well as an athlete. The senior student-athletes at Holy Cross are great examples of how an athlete can grow in leadership throughout their athletic experience. Men’s rowing captain Jordan Traub (Eastham, Mass.) described this growth stating, “The biggest way my sport as attributed to my leadership development was by moving my responsibility from myself to my teammates. Even though rowing is a team sport and you need to work as one perfect machine in the boat, I tended to focus on my own successes and failures. What resulted from this was my inability to see how younger members of the team were watching my actions. Looking back, I realized I might not have set the best example in my earlier years. Now as captain I have become much more aware not only of the team as a whole, but also everyone else’s individual performance. I realize now how much my teammates rely on me and look to me as a role model.” As a member of the rowing team, Traub, like other Holy Cross student-athletes, grasped the importance of leadership and teamwork, lessons that are equally crucial in life.
Being a Division I athlete comes with both triumphs and difficulties. Balancing athletics, academics and a social life so as to enjoy the entire college experience is hard. While each athlete has times where the difficulties seemed too great, each has stories of triumph and joy. For women’s lacrosse captain Sara Hennessey (Winchester, Mass.) the relationships she built with her teammates made every moment worthwhile. “Knowing that you have 30 other teammates that you can count on and trust, on and off the field has gotten me through my four years here. Throughout my four years I have made friendships that I know will go beyond my years on campus.” Football captain Mike Fess (Caldwell, N.J.) too has enjoyed a career full of many great memories. Being a Division I athlete has helped him achieve an important goal he set before attending Holy Cross. “As a high school senior I wanted to challenge myself as much as possible, so playing a Division I sport at a great academic institution helped me achieve one of my goals. The great athletes at Holy Cross and the unbelievable students that surround me at this school forced me to push myself to be better both on the field and in the classroom.” For these senior student-athletes, participation in a Division I sport has been a crucial part of their college experience, and one they are thankful for.
As these athletic Crusaders prepare for graduation they look back fondly on their four years on the Hill, thinking about what they will miss most about Holy Cross and athletics. While they are excited about what the future holds for them, many are filled with mixed emotions, as they know their time at Holy Cross is ending. Recounting what they will miss most about their college experience many senior athletes shared how they will miss the community of Holy Cross, which has played such an influential part in both their academic and athletic lives. Men’s golf captain Tim DiStefano (Albany, N.Y.) stated, “I am going to miss my friends the most from my Holy Cross experience.” Similarly men’s hockey captain Ryan McGrath (Pittsburgh, Pa.) declared, “Most importantly, I will miss my time spent with wonderful teammates and friends both in and away from the rink.” Women’s tennis captain Maya Welch (Rye, N.Y.), too explained that she would miss the family at Holy Cross. “Holy Cross has such a great community of students, professors and staff that make this school so great and hard to leave. I've made friends for life and I'm so grateful for that.” Along with missing the community on campus, women’s hockey captain Amanda Gallagher (Park Ridge, Ill.) will miss the support this family has for every member. “I can honestly say during any game I could look to the stands and see friends, students, other athletes, professors and members of the administration there supporting our team. It was fun to be a part of a community that made the experience of playing hockey much more meaningful, and I am very thankful to have been apart of this community during my four years on the Hill.”
Throughout their four years at Holy Cross the senior athletes have shown their love for their sport, commitment to Holy Cross athletics and have truly left a mark on their programs. GoHolyCross.com would like to wish all the graduating seniors the best of luck as they embark on this exciting new journey and congratulate them for their success both on and off the field.
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