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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Thoughts on Senior Day -- Tuesday Cardinal Couple

Thoughts on "Senior Day"

Sunday was Senior Day for UofL's Softball team.  As we near the end of the spring sports season, we see the traditional celebrations for each team's "graduating" "seniors".  I put air quotes around both words because the tradition of Senior Day is more a recognition of the end of a player's collegiate eligibility, or perhaps their expectation that they will no longer be involved with the team for some reason or another.

 Many players will have already graduated with an undergraduate degree and have already embarked on some graduate level courses, and occasionally, in extraordinary cases...I'm thinking of Tia Gibbs, as an example...will have achieved more than one degree.  Others, on the other hand, may be taking the next major step of their life before they finish a degree.  Whatever the case, its very possible that the athletes being honored are neither seniors, nor graduating.

I love the tradition of Senior Day, even if it does sometimes feel a bit scripted.  The young men and women that compete in collegiate athletics and are preparing to take the next major step of their lives should be honored.  Beyond the process of graduation, which may or may not roughly coincide with the completion of an athletes athletic eligibility or involvement with the program, whatever the cause, that next step should be honored.  Most of these young men and women have been actively pursuing the sport...or sports...of their choice since early childhood.

 Some may go on to pursue their sport at another school, perhaps by beginning a course of graduate study, while others may take the next step to professional athletics.  

Most, however, will see this as the end of high-level competitive play in a sport that has likely been a major part of the majority of their life.  For those men and women, to say that this is a life adjustment, is the understatement of the season.  Of course, the transition from college student to making a living in the wide world is an adjustment just on its own, but for student-athletes, the change is even more drastic.

Taking a few minutes, before one of the last home competitions of the season, to honor those seniors, to remember their contributions, to laugh at awkward pictures from their childhood displayed in all of their jumbotron glory, is more than a little bittersweet, but is an important observation of where they have come from. 

Taking a moment to reflect before taking the next big step forward is healthy, it puts the hard work and time spent in context.  Whether that moment of contemplation is more important to the athlete, or to the family and friends that have supported them, and yes even us, the fans, is a question that I don't have an answer for.

Softball honored four seniors before the double-header started on Sunday.  Two of  the seniors, Brittany Duncan and Kelsi Jones, transferred from other schools and were only able to play for the Cards for two years.  Their value, even in just two years, to the Cardinal Softball team can not be adequately described.  Whitney Arion and Kayla Soles, however, were with UofL Softball for four years, and, in addition to the value of their play on the field which is considerable, have provided continuity and have helped create the wonderful culture that exists on the softball team.

The activities of senior day do become somewhat scripted, I fear.  For the staff that works with these teams, and even to the fans, we see a similar staging in each sport, each season, but I hope that we can take those few moments as the athletes walk out, flanked by family or those who have taken on the role of family, to claim a framed jersey and bouquet of flowers and to have their picture taken with the coaches, to remember what this moment means to these players, to what it means for their life journey, and to remember that we all are part of supporting them...perhaps only a small part, but a part nonetheless...and helping them embark on their life as adults.

Paulie and I are blessed, in our work with Cardinal Couple, to get to know some of the young women of UofL athletics on something of a personal level, and I believe we are doubly blessed when those though they may be...continue on beyond the departure from the halls of academia and the sports facilities of Floyd Street and elsewhere.

To Brittany, Kelsi, Whitney, Kayla, and all of the other seniors of this year:  Its been a pleasure watching you play your sport for the past years, we wish you well in whatever the next step in your life is.

On a side note, UofL Softball quietly added something to the Senior Day festivities that I heartily approve of.  Just after the main ceremony was concluded one of the staff members went over to Boston College's dugout and gave bouquets of flowers to the Boston College seniors.  BC will honor these seniors in their own Senior Day festivities, of course, but I thought it was a nice touch to include the other team in the honors.  While I have seen this gesture made in other Senior Day ceremonies, its not a common occurrence.

Golf Going To South Bend

The NCAA selection for Golf occurred Monday evening, and UofL was selected as the 11th seed for the NCAA Regional being hosted by Notre Dame in South Bend.  The regional competition will be May 7th-9th at Warren Golf Course.  The top six teams and three individuals not associated with those six teams will advance to the NCAA championship which will be May 22-27 at Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, FL.



  1. Excellent comments, Jeff. I agree with recognizing the other teams' Seniors. It is the last time - sometimes thankfully - that we, as fans will see them play. It is a nice touch.

    1. Excellent work on today's column by our esteemed columnist Worldwide! We do get attached to certain players during their time with us. Sonja still fondly recalls Asia Taylor's days here. They are with us for what seems to be an "oh-so-short" time before they move on to life after college. The training, preparation and advice they receive to prepare them for life after college is on the top of the agenda list of every coach that guide them.

      Sometimes, we forget they are college kids. That they are student-athletes. Teenagers when they get here and adults when they leave.

      It is why I love the college sports so. For love of game, school and team.


  2. Really a nice piece Jeff. To me the final measure of the success of any big time athletic program is how well their graduates do in transitioning to the real world.

    It's hard to emphasize the importance to some kids of understanding that at some point you have to walk away from the game, take the lessons you learned playing ball and apply them to becoming a successful professional. Unfortunately it's relatively easy particularly in basketball for a new graduate to spend multiple years post-graduation bouncing around between various semi-pro and overseas clubs kind of making a living but really not leveraging their education in any meaningful way. By the time some of them wake up, sometimes after five or more years, they haven't made much money and their degree isn't current any longer. Further many of them aren't any closer to knowing what they need to do to be a successful adult outside of sports.

    So...I hope U of L has a post graduation tracking mechanism in place for their kids. The NCAA stats on graduation rates are great, but they aren't necessarily a good indicator of a post-graduation foundation being in place that reasonably predicts success 5, 10, 15 and even 20 years down the road. It's particularly a problem because some of these kids don't come from a background of successful college graduates and may not understand the importance of "getting going" in their 20's in their chosen profession if they want to end up being successful over the next several decades.

    I always counted myself lucky that I wasn't talented enough to go to the next level in sports after college. There was never any question in my mind I needed to get into a different game. Leveraging the discipline and experience gained by playing ball made the difference professionally for me. It also helped me hire great people as I always looked for a background in athletics when I was hiring. Invariably those hires were my leaders and the folks that got promoted to management and went on to successful careers and lives.

    Two of the best people I ever hired and promoted into management were female athletes. One was a former state champion high school gymnast from Connecticut and one was a distance runner from California. Both were amazing people and knew how to get things done. Interestingly both were injured in high school and couldn't compete in college but you could tell by what they did every day they learned the most important lessons they needed in life from being athletes.

  3. Super column, Jeff. such was the life of a high school teacher when you "kids" walked out that door and into their lives. Some went to school, some got jobs, some went to the military and some may have had tough times and never recover. But, in each case, we always wished for the best. My best wishes go out to the graduating is college sports and hope that their lives can stand for something and they can make a difference in others lives.


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