"Karly's Korner" by Karly Hansen

Karly's Korner #18:The Farewell Tour

Fear not!

I would never abandon this blog without a lengthy and heartfelt final issue! I should apologize that it took me so long to sort through my emotions and actually write this, but trust me...the first few drafts weren't good enough to publish. I wrote one right after our season ended and it was much too melancholy. It had depressing Eliot quotes and everything ("This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper"). The second draft was a written version of an "inspirational" talk that I dictated into my phone's voice recorder. It is marginally better, but still scatterbrained and in need of serious editing. It is half-finished and should remain so (sorry, Mom!).

In other words, I've never been the best with conclusions--I have more than a few English professors who can vouch for that.

So, now it is almost June and I've finally organized my thoughts. I'd like to focus, briefly, on the past, present, and future with regards to my experiences as a player. First, let's take a look at the past:

When you come into college as a freshman, everyone tells you that time will fly. Even though it feels like class/practice/the week/etc. is never going to end, suddenly you look up and somehow you're sitting at graduation. I had senior teammates tell me that each year goes faster than the last, and it's certainly been true in my experience; I found that the days go slowly but the weeks speed by. When I was a freshman, the EHS building was brand new, and many dorm rooms had five people in them (the incoming class of 2010 overwhelmed CMU's housing facilities). Tuition was about $50 less per credit. Our team locker room was a shared room in the IAC, not the amazing space we have now. We only had one practice shirt per day, so if we lifted in the morning, we had to wear that same (stinky) shirt to practice in the afternoon. And when I entered the program, the field at Margo Jonker stadium was being renovated. We had to drive to Mt. Pleasant High School for our fall practices every day.

I can't believe how many changes I've seen, even in just five short years. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities I've had to meet so many amazing women and travel across the country playing the best competition. For a nerd like me, sports have completely reshaped who I am and how I view the world. I am grateful that I got to play a year with my sister, and that all this year's underclassmen had patience with Grandma Karl.

I am particularly thankful for my fellow seniors, Kristen Kuhlman and Trista Cox. These two are not just my teammates, but my genuine, lifelong friends. I do not know how I will function without back-of-the-bus gab sessions and Qdoba Wednesdays. I can't imagine having to explain the sheer amount of movie quotes which make up my everyday speech. Thank you for everything, both the laughter and the tears. And a special congratulations to Tyler and Trista on your engagement! Our entire CMU Softball family is happy for you!

Looking ahead, our team has two upcoming summer camps for those who are interested. The Individual Skill Development Camp is Tuesday, June 16th and the Chippewa Challenge High Intensity Camp is Wednesday, June 17th. For more information, check out the webpage HERE!

Also, I need to thank some folks. Obviously, if you read this blog I am SO thankful for your support and encouragement. A big thank you to all my coaches. You've taught me so much, both on the field and off, and I am thankful for this opportunity to represent the program with my ramblings. I'd like to thank my family and friends for their support (and well-timed reminders to finish these entries!). I owe Mr. Adam Burhans and Mrs. Jeannie Mishler more than I could ever possibly express--thank you both! I am thankful to all the amazing professors I've had at CMU, but I'd like to give shout-outs to the following for going above and beyond: Dr. Anne Alton, Dr. William Brevda, Dr. Elizabeth Brockman, Dr. Tracy Collins, Dr. Mark Freed, Dr. Desmond Harding, and Dr. Stephen Jones.

This week's quote is Green Day lyrics because, as Trista says, "We really did have the time of our lives!"

Another turning point
A fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist
Directs you where to go
So make the best of this test
And don't ask why
It's not a question
But a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable
But in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life

Karly's Korner #17:

Last week I read Natalie Babbitt's classic novel Tuck Everlasting for class. Tuck Everlasting is a great book if you want to think about the cycle of life and the passing of time. However, Tuck Everlasting is not a great read if you're a fifth-year senior trying to live fully-in-the-present-moment for your last few weeks of school. It managed to make me nostalgic for the past and excited for the future all at once. Okay, maybe that's just who I am and I should stop blaming literature...

Let's address the past first:

We were honored to have so many CMU Softball alumnae on campus this past weekend. The program was able to recognize the achievements of Pam Stanley with the retirement of her jersey, as well as honor our 1985 MAC Championship team. We were also excited to welcome back members of the pre-varsity sport era teams who helped to blaze the trail for CMU Softball. The alumnae were able to share stories and memories at a post-game picnic. It was interesting (and hilariously entertaining) for our current players to hear stories of the past successes--and antics--of CMU softball players. We are truly lucky to have such a family tradition within our school and our sport. Thank you to all who traveled back to campus, and to all who've been a part of this tradition!

I'd also like to thank everyone who makes our home games such a success. Our grounds and field crew, marketing team, athletic communications, the sports medicine staff, and all the parents, family, friends, and fans. We have had some of the best crowds at our field this season, and it makes the game much more exciting. In particular, our Strike Out Cancer game was a huge success. I can't name all of you individually, but this community is such a huge part of our program and we appreciate all that you do!

Now looking ahead:

It seems unbelievable that we only have a handful of regular season games left. If you haven't seen a home game yet, we take on Michigan State University at 4p.m. on Wednesday, April 29th and our only remaining home weekend is May 1st-3rd against Toledo and Bowling Green. We would love to see you there! Our academic semester is quickly coming to a close too. For student-athletes (especially those in season) this is when time management skills become extra important. Trust me, research papers CAN be written on a moving bus, and flashcards CAN be studied in hotel lobbies. We are also, sadly, reaching the end of "Karly's Korner." I have to go pretend to be a real adult soon. Alas! But if there is anything special you would like to see featured in my final issues, please feel free to leave suggestions/comments.

This week's quote: "Life's got to be lived, no matter how long or short. You got to take what comes." - Tuck Everlasting, page 54

Karly's Korner #16: There's No Place like Home! (Or, alternately, "50 Shades of Sunburn")

I apologize, everyone. It seems that the last post I wrote back in February never made it up on the website. It was a recap of our early spring games and (mostly) a lot of cursing the Michigan winter weather. I've included some of it here:

**Flashback music**

This year, our opening weekend was an indoor tournament at The Dome in Rosemont, Illinois. We also flew to gorgeous San Diego State University for their spring tournament. If you could look up "Ideal Softball Weather" in the dictionary, you'd probably find a picture of our pasty team basking in the California sun. Not only did we get to play ball, but many of us flew past the Rockies and experienced the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Furthermore, we have had some amazing bus drivers in my time, but Carlos--who cheered and prayed for us, and who told us where to get the best burritos--was definitely one of my favorites!

You also learn a lot about your teammates in airports and on long bus rides. We tried playing a new group drawing game in the airport, and I learned that most of us can't draw. I've learned that nobody takes Photo Booth pictures quite like our freshmen, nobody can take a better selfie than CJ, and that "Hey Mr. DJ" is the runaway favorite Heads Up! category for our team (and that gets very, very loud).

**Flashforward music**

Since even more time has passed now, our annual spring break trip to Clearwater, Florida, is also behind us. We had some of the best softball weather I've ever seen, and I now have some of the worst jersey tan lines as proof.

Some highlights from our Florida trip:

● Freshman Maison Kalina and Redshirt Sophomore Kristen Goodall both hit their first career home runs over spring break! These are just the first of many!

● Our team had some big wins over Boston College, Wisconsin, Maine, Penn, Quinnipiac, and Yale.


● Our outfielders made some spectacular diving catches; they cover so much ground it's scary.

● We were lucky to have a BBQ dinner with our parents and family who made the trip to support our team. As always, John's cooking was fabulous and much appreciated!

● Our flight home got delayed and we were able to sit in the airport restaurants and watch our men's basketball team play in the MAC championship game. We made a huge ruckus (sorry, Coach!), and the outcome wasn't what we were hoping, but we are still very proud of the season the team had. FIRE UP CHIPS!

Now, as crazy as it seems, we are just days away from our home opener! If you don't have a copy of our schedule, check out this page. We have a solid home schedule this year, starting with Miami of Ohio and Ball State this weekend (03/27-03/29). We would love to see as many of you at the games as possible! Also save the date for our annual Softball Alumnae Celebration on April 18-19 at our games against Buffalo. We will be recognizing CMU Softball great, Pam Stanley, with the retirement of her jersey on Saturday, along with honoring our 1985 MAC Championship team. On Sunday, we will recognize our pre-varsity sport alumnae, who helped to pave the way for CMU Softball.

The weather in Mt. Pleasant lately has been (dare I say it?!) actually pleasant. Margo Jonker Stadium is ready for some games!! P.S. I'd like to thank all the recruits and their families that we've had on campus over the past few months. I hope you all consider becoming future Chippewas!

This week's quote: "To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It's not about winning and losing; it's about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It's about embracing the pain that you'll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid. I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge." -- Summer Sanders

Karly's Korner #15: It's Go Time!

Okay, Mother Nature, you've made your point. Winter was very cold and impressive...but could we get a little sunshine soon? Or at least wind chills that aren't miles below zero?!

Softball fans: I know it seems impossible that our first home games are a month away, but trust me, we got our schedule posters this week and it is true (it is also true that I never need to see poster-sized pictures of myself...). And, as you will recall from last year, sometimes part of spring practice includes shoveling ice and snow off Margo Jonker Stadium. There isn't much that can stop us from playing as many games as possible!

That being said, our upcoming weekend in Tennessee did get cancelled due to inclement weather (I'm looking at you again, Mother Nature). But I won't complain too much, because we are lucky to have the opportunities to play that we do. Getting to play our sport while also traveling to new places is one of the best parts of collegiate athletics. This year, our opening weekend was an indoor tournament at The Dome in Rosemont, Illinois. And two weekends ago we flew to gorgeous San Diego State University for their tournament. If you could look up "Ideal Softball Weather" in the dictionary, you'd probably find a picture of our pasty team basking in the California sun. Not only did we get to play ball, but many of us flew past the Rockies and experienced the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Also, we have had some amazing bus drivers in my time, but Carlos--who cheered and prayed for us, and who told us where to get the best burritos--was definitely one of my favorites!

You also learn a lot about your teammates in airports and on long bus rides. We tried playing a new group drawing game in the airport, and I learned that most of us can't draw. I've learned that nobody takes Photo Booth pictures quite like our freshmen, nobody can take a better selfie than CJ, and that "Hey Mr. DJ" is the runaway favorite Heads Up! category for our team (and that gets very, very loud).

Looking ahead, our spring break trip to Clearwater, Florida, is March 6-14. We hope to leave this nasty weather in Michigan and face some great competition at the USF Tournament. Our home games begin March 27th, and we hope to see you all there!

This week's quote: "To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It's not about winning and losing; it's about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It's about embracing the pain that you'll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid. I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge." -- Summer Sanders

P.S. To all the recruits and potential future Chippewas that have been on campus these past few weeks: thanks for giving our frigid campus a chance! It has been great to meet all of you!

Karly's Korner #14: Season is almost here!

Back in the first edition of this year's Korner I explained that everything I do now is touched with finality. As Trista and I have started joking, "Our days are numbered!" So, when my final group left my final station at my final softball clinic this past weekend...well, let's just say I had a lot of feelings. CMU Softball clinics have been part of my January schedule for the past 13 years, first as a participant and then as a player. There's always a chance I will come back and help, but this was my last official clinic as part of the team. So, I am happy to say it was an excellent one!

But, first, let me rewind a bit. In my last edition, if you recall, I was still on break and rambling about leadership and vision. The seniors and coaches have been working very hard to make this year's vision clear and attainable for the team. Now that everyone is back on campus, we have started our journey in pursuit of a championship. Hitting the ground running after break is always an exciting and busy time as we prepare for upcoming competition; we have a lot of irons in the fire: classes, practices, strength/conditioning, as well as meetings and individual work. Each class is also working on the mental game by reading various books and discussing them. Though we have a lot going on, it is still the best part of the year because it means season is truly here!

Our two major weekends in January involve a team camp (which was extended to a third day this year) and our various skills clinics. The team camp allows many people to experience CMU while playing some quality softball, and it also allows our team to gain valuable coaching and communication experience. Our skills clinics allows for in-depth instruction as well as a glimpse into how we do things in our program.

However, none of this would happen without a lot of support and effort from our volunteers. We'd like to thank the CMU Facilities staff as well as the Sports Camps staff. Ron Shoemaker deserves a medal for his organizational skills in helping put together our team camps. Our managers, Emily and Gabi, were both incredibly helpful as usual. Betsy Horan is still a concession stand guru and deserves so much gratitude for all that she continues to do for the program. John and CJ not only helped feed our team (which is like feeding a pack of wild dogs) but did it with a smile. Thank you to all the parents, alumni, umpires, community members, and volunteers who helped with both weekends. And a special thanks to Linda Wells for not only bringing your wisdom to our clinics, but for your insight with our team as well. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!

If you haven't looked at our spring schedule yet, check out the link HERE. Either bookmark it in your computer, or print out a copy to hang on your fridge. Please notice that we have a lot of home games near the end of the season, and would love to have your support!

Stay strong through the cold, folks, softball is right around the corner!

This week's quote: "In winter, I plot and plan. In spring, I move." - Henry Rollins

Karly's Korner #13: Vision

The coolest thing about going into education is that I get to consistently learn from great teachers. I spent the first week of my break observing teachers in a school district far, far away and I'd like to share with you some of the best things I learned.

One of the classes I got to observe on multiple occasions was a Leadership class. At first I was wary; I have a hard time with clichés, and talking about leadership often lends itself to those. I was confused as to how you'd develop individual leaders in a classroom setting. How can you make a class about leadership? What would you possibly teach high school students? Oh, how wrong I was.

You see, the brilliant thing my host teacher did was focus on skill development. If you think about leadership as a group of skills which can be improved upon (rather than as a gift or talent--or worse, a personality type) then students can see which skills they possess and which they don't (or those which they need to improve). Maybe this is too basic, or I was too naïve, but leadership has literally never been explained to me in this way. I've always been told I was a certain "type" of leader, or that your personal "style" of leadership stems from your personality. This class was predicated on the belief that everyone can be a leader if they have the desire to develop a certain set of skills. We can debate this philosophy all day long, but for me it was revolutionary. Look at it this way: it takes a certain set of skills to field a ground ball. Some people are naturally more likely to field that ground ball, but anyone who works to develop hand-eye coordination, quick hands and feet, good glovework, etc. can get better at fielding ground balls. Maybe some of you are reading this, nodding along like well, of course one can become a better leader...but have you ever seen this development in action?

My point is this: I hadn't ever seen someone teach these skills. I've heard a lot about leadership over the years, and I've read books about it, but I've never seen such an obvious demystification of the process. These students were reading articles about a skill, looking at people who had this skill, developing that skill themselves, and then putting the skill into action with their classmates. They weren't learning leadership, exactly, they were developing things like communication, collaboration, and determination that would help them become better leaders.

This post is starting to run away from me, so I'll wrap this up. One of the skills these students were working on was building a vision. Effective leaders present a challenging vision to a group of people and then execute the steps necessary to achieve that vision. In class the students had to work together to build paper towers. In our case the vision is for our upcoming softball season. I know my fellow seniors have been thinking about this too (and perhaps, if the paragraphs above suggest anything, I've been overthinking this), but it is important. This year's team has the talent and the shared goals...but we need people like the seniors (and super seniors) to get everyone to believe in the vision. One of our winter break tasks is to define this vision in a way that can be communicated to the rest of the team. Basically, we have a map to the treasure, but someone has to steer the boat. Okay, actually the coaches are probably steering the boat...so we need people to get everyone excited about months at sea, fighting off alligators, seasickness, and pirates.

No problem, right?

This is why I never get any sleep. I hope some of the above, coffee-fuelled ramblings makes sense, because I truly am excited about the upcoming season and I think we have an amazing group of ladies. I will probably be writing some inspiring emails to my teammates soon, but I'll spare you for now. Instead, I'd like to take a minute to thank Taylor Lewallen for organizing the first softball Secret Santa gift exchange--it was a wild success! And, of course, I need to thank Coach Jonker and Coach B for hosting the annual pre-break party! You're the best!

I hope everyone has had a great holiday break, and don't forget about our upcoming camps and clinics! I'll see you all in the new year! This week's quote: "If I am through learning, I am through." - John Wooden

Karly's Korner #12: Community Service, Camps, and Clinics

As student-teaching continues to provide me with fresh material, I've been thinking about my autobiography a lot lately. For those of you who may not know, the inevitable publication of my memoir (Karly Hansen: I Brought the Bagels©) has been a running joke in my family for years.

So far the projected chapters include:

1. Jaundice, Colic, and the Early Years

2. Stretch Pants and Other Horrors of a 90s Childhood

3. Kissing Trees and Other Horrors of Adolescence

4. "Townie"

5. Greatest Hits (This is the softball chapter--see what I did there?!)

6. Reading James Joyce at 3am and Other Horrors of Majoring in English

Okay, so it still needs some work. But, in this issue, I'd like to focus on the fact that it would be impossible for me to tell my life story without including the Mt. Pleasant community. Most of my family is from the area, I remember when they put the skate park in Island Park, I've been to the Ziibiwing Center more times than I can count, and this coming weekend I'll be graduating from my hometown university. Just as Mt. Pleasant has been an integral part of my life, the softball team's relationship with the wider community is so important to our program as well. Our supporters, donors, Chippewa Champions, and fans are what set our team apart. In turn, giving back through community service has always been a priority on our team. This year we had members of our team volunteer at the Isabella Community Soup Kitchen as well as the Mt. Pleasant Humane Animal Treatment Society (HATS). We also worked in partnership with United Way of Isabella County to adopt a family for the second year in a row. We were proud to collect donations and purchase items for a local family in need. These experiences not only allow our team to grow as a family, but allow us to give back to our great community.

Speaking of the local community...our annual camps and clinics are right around the corner! Held in our fabulous indoor facilities, we are offering a variety of clinics this year, as well as three days of team camps. The 11th Annual Chippewa Indoor Team Camp will be Saturday, January 17th through Monday, January 19th, 2015. The winter pitching and catching clinics will take place on Saturday, January 24th along with the Little Chips clinic. Our classic general skills clinic will take place over two sessions on Sunday, January 25th. For all camps and clinic information, head over to the softball camps webpage Here..

It feels like just yesterday I was a nervous 10-year-old at my first clinic *wipes nostalgic tear from corner of my eye.* Look how far we've come, Mt. Pleasant!

For anyone heading away from campus in the next couple days, drive safely and have an amazing break! To my teammates: let's come back ready to roll in the spring!

This week's quote: "I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live." - George Bernard Shaw

Karly's Korner #11: Giving Thanks

November has always been my least favorite month. It is a grueling stretch between Halloween and finals when the temperature drops and I inevitably get sick. Professors either give up on their syllabi completely or try to jam everything in before the final exam. November means our softball team time gets limited and, when I lived in the dorms, it meant walking to weights at 6am in ankle-deep snow.

So, I find it perfectly fitting that we end this month with the holiday of Thanksgiving. Not only because the break is a much-needed respite, but because it takes all of my negative feelings about November and refocuses them into gratitude. It makes me remember that I'm lucky enough to have the support of our Athletic Training staff and access to medical care if I get sick. I'm blessed to be getting an education, and lucky to have professors that care about my learning (even if they're human too). And I'm fortunate enough to have teammates that will come work with me outside of practice--and give rides to the underclassmen so they don't have to trek through the snow!

I am endlessly thankful that the coaching staff gave me the opportunity to run this blog, and that they've been so flexible with the publishing schedule. Finally, I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you that reads this; I never expected to get so much positive feedback on this silly thing. THANK YOU!

Now, here at the Korner, I like to include other teammates. So, today's guest feature comes from my fellow seniors. I asked them to briefly summarize what they're thankful for about CMU Softball:

Kristen Kuhlman - I am thankful for my health and my family's health, as well as their loving support through everything. They are always there to pick me up or tell me to keep pushing. I'm also very thankful for my sister, her daily encouragement, and her loving friendship as well as the new addition to my family, my brother-in-law Jay! I'm so thankful he is a wonderful person with a huge heart. I love each and every one of them! Finally, I'm thankful for Jesus Christ and all He has done. I am so blessed to attend CMU and play softball with all my amazing teammates and I thank the Lord each day for all the opportunities He has provided. Happy Thanksgiving!

CarolAnn Sexauer - I am thankful for my coaches and teammates who always believe(d) in me more than I did myself. This team is a family away from my family and they've made it a lot easier to leave home and have a place where people care about you on AND off the field. I'm thankful for all the opportunities and learning experiences I've been given through softball: I've traveled to new places (saw some gators!), learned so much about myself and others, and taken home lots and lots of CMU gear J

Trista Cox - I'm thankful that our coaches have given me a second chance to end up here at Central. I'm thankful for this program for giving me a second family and a home away from home, and I'm grateful to be able to get out on the field (or turf) every single day to do what I love with people I care about.

I hope all of you have a safe and relaxing holiday season. Expect more coverage about our community service activities in the following issue, as well as information about our annual winter camps and clinics. It has been a busy November, and it only picks up from here as we get closer to season!

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. To my sister Sara and all the freshmen...you're not going to get any studying done over Thanksgiving break, so be prepared for a crazy week starting December 1st!

This week's quote: "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." - William Arthur Ward

Karly's Korner #10: Fall wrap-up

You know you're falling behind the publishing schedule when the strength and conditioning coach starts to ask you when the next edition of Karly's Korner is coming. And, folks, you NEVER want to keep the strength and conditioning coach waiting! So, here it is, Taylor! And let's remember this the next time you're considering putting lunges in the lift, eh?

I'm just teasing; Taylor puts up with tired college athletes--before sunrise--three days a week. He deserves all the shout-outs.

Originally, I was going to write this edition two weekends ago, but we hadn't wrapped up fall ball yet so it felt unfinished. Then I was going to write it last weekend, but I took my city gal roommate (and our powerhouse third baseman) Trista Cox to Mackinac Island and was having all sorts of nature feelings. Michigan is gorgeous this time of year, and always makes me want to read Keats (English Romantic poet, 1795-1821). My first draft of this edition started with these lines:

"Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-- While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue" -- From To Autumn by John Keats

I realized rather quickly that this would be a turn off for most readers, so I wisely decided to wait a week and come back to this. As you can see, I couldn't shake the Keats completely, but just be happy I didn't include the entire poem (incidentally, go read the entire poem. It's lovely). Now, after three weeks of wrestling with this post, I'm finally in the proper frame of mind to recap our fall season for you.

As I explained in the first edition of this year's Korner, we have a fresh, young team this season. Lots of new faces and energetic spirits which make me feel like an old lady. We hosted fall games against Northwood University and Ferris State University, and we went north for the annual college tournament in Traverse City. Traverse City is a big weekend for us, not only because we get to play excellent competition, but because we really get to bond as a team. Nothing brings a team closer than sleeping in cabins together!

We are also trying a new program for team development which gives everyone on the team a specific off-field role, as well as accountability partners. I won't go into too much detail or compliance will nail me for promotion, but it is a pretty cool system and I think it will bring us closer throughout the year. It still blows my mind that I'm actually a senior and in charge of such leadership responsibilities, but it was awesome to see our planning fall into place at Traverse City. I would like to give freshman Hanna Warren a shout-out for facilitating the game "Most Likely To," which was a big hit in the cabins (I was voted "most likely to move to the forest and become a hermit.") I would also like to give a huge THANK YOU to my fellow seniors (Kristen Kuhlman, CarolAnn Sexauer, and Trista Cox) for being patient with my busy schedule and for keeping me in the loop!

Last weekend (October 17-19th) we honored all Chippewas, past and future. Softball's latest inductee to CMU's Marcy Weston Hall of Fame, Brenda Schrader, was honored this weekend with the rest of the induction class for 2014. Our team attended the presentation ceremony and was, as always, excited to see more softball players achieve such a high honor. We also had recruits on campus this weekend which is extra weird for me, because I won't be playing with them. I can't give their names (rules, rules, rules), but they are all very kind (and YOUNG! So young!). It is amazing to have so many generations of Chips gathered on campus, and our annual alumni tailgate brought us all together to share stories.

Enjoy the last few weeks of decent weather! Fire up!

This week's quote: "When you're young you prefer the vulgar months, the fullness of the seasons. As you grow older you learn to like the in-between times, the months that can't make up their minds. Perhaps it's a way of admitting that things can't ever bear the same certainty again." - Julian Barnes

Karly's Korner #9: New year, new team!

Welcome back, Chippewa family!

At first, when I was asked to continue Karly's Korner for a second year, I immediately began thinking of ways I could make the blog BIGGER and BETTER than ever. I actually entertained the idea of making a video (perish the thought) of myself giving a campus tour. Then I thought about asking The Powers That Be if we could spice up the graphics or something. However, I ultimately realized that the people who are going to actually read this (Hi, Mom) are going to faithfully read it no matter what. You guys want a peek into the softball world at CMU, and I am here to bring you the inside scoop. We'll save the fancy bells and whistles for the marketing team.

That being said, this isn't going to be the same old Karly with the same old Korner. You see, readers, I am old now. I'm a Redshirt "Super" Senior, in fact. Which not only means that this is my last year of eligibility (and that I face a joint-popping symphony every morning when I get out of bed), but that everything I do from here on out is going to be twinged with finality. This will be my last first blog. Followed by my last first day of practice. And, blessedly, my last compliance meetings! I will do my best to remain somewhat objective, but you'll have to forgive me if I get a little saccharine (adj. excessively sweet or sentimental) about this being my last year. It seems like just yesterday that Kristen Kuhlman and I were literally crying through our Redshirt lifts. Yet somehow, I'm ancient now and my poor sister Sara has to listen to me say, "When I was a freshman..." every five minutes. Time is tricky; every day at college feels long and tiring, but then you look up and four years have passed!

Thus, I begin this year's blogging with the end in mind. Every year, Coach Jonker tells us that who we will become as a team starts taking shape as soon as we gather together on campus. She often asks questions such as "What will our team identity be?" and "What does this team want to accomplish?" Right now the back-to-school rush makes all of our heads spin, but the meetings and preparations that take place these first few weeks will lay the foundation for the whole year. The journey has begun, and trust me when I say the year is going to fly by! And be sure to check out our home fall games on September 23rd (vs. Northwood) and October 2nd (vs. Ferris State).

I'd also like to especially welcome all of the new folks on our team. This is going to be a great year, and we are so excited to have each of you!

Stay tuned--season will be here before we know it!

This week's quote is not just a quote, but a paragraph from Neil Gaiman: "I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever."

Karly's Korner #8: End of the Year

Things that never fail to make me emotional:

1. Babies

2. Saying goodbyes

3. End of semester exam stress

4. That scene in the final Harry Potter movie when the Death Eaters finally break through the protective magic bubble around Hogwarts and you know that the real final battle is about to begin

Get excited - the following issue of Karly's Korner is going to contain 3 out of 4 of the above items! I know it's been a while, but I assure you that I spent extra time putting this one together so you're in for a nice long read.

Let's start with the fun stuff first, eh? BABIES! As many of you have heard by now, the CMU Softball family recently welcomed its newest (and youngest) Chippewa! Carol Joan Ratliff was born to proud parents - our Assistant Coach Joanna Lane and her husband (grill master extraordinaire) John Ratliff on April 18, 2014. She is the cutest little thing, and even brought us cookies for our bus ride to Bowling Green! CJ's name was originally supposed to be Karly "Korner" Ratliff, but I convinced them that name was simply too much for a baby to live up to. However, giving her the same initials as Coach Jonker is much more manageable...

(Just to be clear, ladies and gentlemen, that was sarcasm! Don't fire me!)

Now, our season isn't over yet so I don't want to get too sentimental with saying goodbyes. However, since the publishing schedule of Karly's Korner is rather erratic, I wanted to give the Seniors a chance to say a little something about their time as a Chippewa in case there's not time later. I basically asked them to send me something from their time on the team that they'll never forget. The results are in:

Lauren Bowman - I'll never forget winning the MAC Tournament in 2013!

Cory DeLamielleure - [REDACTED] Okay, so Cory sent me a story which involved the following: short people pushing sleds at conditioning, laughter, and tears. However, the Karly's Korner policy is WHAT HAPPENS IN THE WEIGHT ROOM STAYS IN THE WEIGHT ROOM. Just trust me when I say pushing sleds is always memorable in one way or another.

Brittney Horan - I'll never forget beating NIU with only 4 bats!

Chelsea Sundberg - I'll always remember the late night bus trips with Kristen Kuhlman! We always had nonstop laughing attacks while everyone else was trying to sleep!

Morgan Yuncker - I will never forget Coach Al screaming at Karly to get in the car at Yogurt Mountain. And then screaming at her again to put her seatbelt on. The whole car knew it was a joke, but Karly actually thought Coach Al was mad at her! (Thanks for including this gem, Morgan! I'll get you back one day...)

Raechel Zahrn - My favorite memory from my four years at CMU was a game in Florida my sophomore year. It was one of my first few at-bats, and I got put in to lead off the 7th inning and we were down a run. I put down a perfect bunt and got on base and, while I didn't end up scoring, we did actually score that inning and ended up winning the game! I'll never forget how it felt to have all my teammates cheering for me and so excited for the team's success. It is the best feeling in the world to celebrate with your teammates, whether you just got the clutch hit or one of your teammates did. I'll truly miss being able to celebrate with my team!

It has truly been a privilege to play with these girls! I don't know when we got so old?! It seems like just yesterday we were visiting campus together for the first time! But, as I said, our season isn't over so let's not pull out the tissues yet! If you haven't been paying attention, you can find our team results here and MAC updates here. We still have one huge weekend left, so send us some positive vibes!

We also recently had our Appreciation Banquet. This dinner allows us to say thank you to all the people who help support our program (and allows us to see one another in nice clothing). I would also like to say thank you, in print, to the Coaching staff (including Rick and Paula!), the Athletics Department (basically everyone who works in the IAC or Rose!), all the Athletic Training staff, the Communications and Compliance teams (I see you, Elise!), the Equipment staff, the Marketing and Broadcasting people (yeah, radio dudes!), the Student-Athlete Academic Services staff (especially Tera), the gurus of Strength and Conditioning (on the hop, Taylor), Guy and his Amazing Grounds Crew (especially with the nastiness of this year's weather), all the CMU Faculty and Staff who've helped make us proper student-athletes, our wonderful parents, our Softball Chippewa Champions, our alumni, and our loyal community supporters!

Also, if you're reading this, I personally thank you for putting up with the ramblings of the team's token English major this year. Writing Karly's Korner has been a huge blessing and ego boost, so thank you all!

Now we're staring down the barrel of Finals Week, and I know we've got a lot of work to do both on and off the field! If you see a CMU student-athlete in the next couple days, wish them luck! If you see me in the next few days, please remind me that my 15-page term paper isn't going to write itself.

Thanks again for tuning in!

This week's quote: "In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices." - Elizabeth Gilbert

P.S. On April 10th, the Mt. Pleasant community lost a beloved mentor, coach, teacher, and friend in Keisha Brown. I would be remiss if I didn't take a moment to say thank you to Keisha, her husband Damon, and their daughter Angel for letting me be a part of your lives. Keisha is an amazing woman, and I am blessed to have known her. I know she's shooting hoops with the angels now :)

Karly's Korner #7: Spring Break wrap-up

T. S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month, but with the Michigan winter (and all the recent bracket-busting madness) I'd like to make an argument for March. Not to mention the horror of your professors deciding to pop midterm exams on you AFTER you've returned from Spring Break (I'm lookin at you, Education Program cohorts).

But, fear not! Your Chips have been hard at work trying to ensure that Margo Jonker Stadium will be clear by game time next week. Along with the tireless grounds crew, we've been viciously attacking the remaining piles of ice and snow. 

Frozen superfans Lauren Bowman and Raechel Zahrn confirm it was like a scene out of the Disney movie.

But allow me to use the power of language to take you back a week in time. Over Spring Break the Chippewas were in sunny Clearwater, Florida, enjoying sun, sand, and softball games in which you can feel your fingers. The team came out strong in the opening weekend, going 5-0 with wins over Providence, Fordham, Chattanooga, Seton Hall, and Villanova. Our final record for Spring Break was 9-3 despite some new and nagging injuries. As always, check out our official website for full results and stats.

As you'd imagine, Spring Break as a student-athlete doesn't look quite like that of a typical college student. We stay in apartment-style hotel rooms with our teammates, and spend the majority of the trip at the ballfields. Our program is lucky to have lots of parents and friends that travel down to watch us play, and there is some off time for visiting and relaxing. This year various Chippewas went to Spring Training games, rented boats, visited the zoo, went parasailing, shopped, toured Walt Disney World, ate their weight in seafood, and Junior CarolAnn Sexauer finally fulfilled her dream of seeing an alligator in the wild!

Reminder: Home games are right around the corner; don't let our ice chipping be in vain! Come out and support your Chips this season!

This week's quote: "You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming." - Pablo Neruda

P.S. Our athletic trainer Hayley has asked for a shout-out in my blog. I try not to take requests, but Hayley truly does deserve recognition for managing all the injuries on our team this season. She and I also both went swimming with manatees, and if she had not yelled at me (repeatedly) from the boat I fear I would still be in the water with the sea cows. So thanks, Hayley!

Karly's Korner #6: Games On!

Originally, my plan was to write this issue of Karly's Korner on the bus. I thought it would be fitting, since we started traveling this past weekend, to have a blog post published from the bus. However (like most of my plans for bus rides) my to-do list got pushed aside, so I could watch movies, play cards, read books, laugh with Kristen Kuhlman, take naps, send obnoxious pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch to the freshmen and try to beat Chelsea DeLamielleure's Flappy Bird score.

What's that quote about best laid plans?

Anyway, for our sport, this is one of the most exciting times of the year. Season is finally here! We got back from winter break and had to hit the ground running. Our first weekend back we held our annual winter pitching and skills clinics (with a brand new format!), which were lots of fun. The second weekend back, we held our indoor team camp. For that camp, we, the current Chippewas, get to see how tough coaching actually is when we take over coaching a team for the day. Interacting with the campers is always worth it, though. They make the weekend great! Also, big heartfelt thanks to all the parents and volunteers we had help with those two weekends. It takes a lot of people to make things run smoothly, so THANK YOU!

Over this last weekend, your Chips were in Chicago for the indoor Rosemont Rumble tournament. Our trip began with a Team USA apparel contest to see who could show the most support for America's Olympic athletes. I think it's safe to say Coach Jonker won, hands down, and her victory parade through Arby's was well deserved. All the bus silliness aside (and, seriously, Coach Bracamonte's snack bag was bigger than my suitcase), we opened the season 3-1. Not too shabby! For our complete schedule and more details, check out the official website. I counted the other day, and we are only in the state of Michigan for 16 days in the month of February, so there is lots more softball action to come! Next week we are in Arlington, Texas, for the UTA Maverick Invitational, and then we head to Louisville, Kentucky for the Cardinal Classic.

Reminder: next Friday is Valentine's Day! For those of you who aren't cynical or jaded about the holiday, I hope you have a good one! Mrs. Knapp was kind enough to bring us delicious cupcakes over the weekend, so everyone take her example and spread some love. I've got my locker room surprises ready (yes, I still hand out valentines!) and the CMU softball team, as is tradition, will deliver Valentine's Day care packages to residents through the Isabella County Commission on Aging. And I have to say happy anniversary to my parents, who decided to be a living cliché and get married on February 14th (good one, guys!)

That's about all for me this time - get ready for more Chippewas softball soon! And don't forget our home opener on Friday, March 28th. We only have two home weekends this season, so we need to see everyone at the games!

This week's quote: "Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down." - Oprah Winfrey
(yes, I just Googled "quotes about buses")

P.S. I am so proud of all of my teammates for how well they played this weekend, but Trista Cox deserves special recognition for her mental toughness when faced with her third slice of Chicago-style deep dish pizza. I still have no idea how she did it.

Karly's Korner #5: Winter Break

2014 Resolutions for Karly's Korner:

- Get more input and features from my teammates (the more voices the merrier!)

- Include more clever ways to test my compliance editor Elise (just kidding!)

- Get more likes on Facebook from people who aren't related to me

- Vary punctuation (stop using parentheses so much)

- Pictures?


Happy New Year, Chippewa family!

It's time to get back to campus and start our season! 2013 was a pretty good year for our team *flashes MAC ring* and now it's time to focus on this year's goals. But first: what have we been up to for the past month? Last time on Karly's Korner, I was wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and we were all preparing to buckle down for finals. Honestly, I remember that week as a blur of caffeine and hand cramps from writing essays, but we must have survived because our team came away with a fall GPA of 3.479. Good work, Chips!

Winter Break is a time for us to unwind and relax with our families. CMU is awesome enough to give us a full four weeks off, and Coach Jonker is kind enough to host a party for the team before we all scatter back to our hometowns. It always features great snacks, Delicious PunchTM and desserts. After finals, we head home to celebrate the season with friends and family. For me, that means Christmas Eve mass, family pictures, rowdy storytelling, cousin card games, and blowing all my Christmas money on books (grand total: 12). I'm sure each of my teammates has her own special activities and traditions that take place over break as well.

However, break isn't just about eating cookies and catching up on sleep (or, in my case, Netflix TV shows). There is also work to be done to prepare for the upcoming season. Our strength and conditioning coach, Taylor, sends us home with a full workout plan which he also modifies based on what equipment we have available. I am lucky enough to live within travel distance of the IAC (except when we get monster snowstorms that block my driveway!) so I can use CMU facilities over break. Some of my teammates work out at their high school or local gyms. Rumor has it that we are going to test our max numbers again before season, so training over break is essential. I know everyone put the work in, but I've got to give a special shoutout to my fellow local girls Morgan Yuncker and Brittney Horan for getting together to hit live. It was a big help! I'd also like to recognize that we had multiple girls rehabbing injuries over break, so kudos for your dedication to getting healthy!

I hope everyone has had a great time off, but I know I'm not the only one ready to get back. I can't wait to see what 2014 has in store for our team. Be sure to check out our busy schedule as well as updates on the official website. We also have our winter indoor clinics and team camps coming up after break too, which I'm sure I'll feature in a future post!

Stay warm!

This week's quote: "Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work." - Booker T. Washington

Karly's Korner #4: Becoming a Chippewa

Personally, I have no idea where this semester went! It seems like just yesterday we were buying textbooks and starting fall practice. Now Thanksgiving break is just around the corner and I have to start planning my final exam study schedule (ugh!). But while the semester is coming to an end for current students, the journey is just beginning for the newest Chippewas. On November 14th, the CMU softball team officially welcomed five new recruits for next year's team. I'd like to give a warm welcome to Taylor Weaver, Hanna Warren, Lacy Tolfree, Maison Kalina, and Sara Hansen (no relation.)* For more information, check out their bios here.

These incoming recruits got us to thinking about what it means to become a Chippewa. As a local, I spent a long time agonizing over whether or not I actually wanted to go to the college that was in my hometown. But then I came on my official visit with the softball team and was amazed by how much of CMU's campus I had never seen (like that abstract mosquito statue by the Engineering and Technology building?!). Even for townies like me, the campus itself has a unique atmosphere of its own. That's when I knew that I had definitely made the right choice. But don't just take my word for it! Here's what some of my teammates had to say:

"My official visit was a great experience! I was able to meet the team and watch Bridesmaids for the first time. I realized the team was not only a team, but also a family that I was excited to be a part of."
- Michelle Dornan, Redshirt Freshman

"My mom dragged me on an unofficial visit here the summer before my senior year. I literally screamed and yelled that I didn't want to go. She told me 'Shut up and give it a try.' After walking around campus with Molly Coldren and Brogan Darwin, my mom and I both got back in the car and started crying simply from the fact we loved it so much. From then on, I knew I was supposed to be a Chip. And it's all thanks to my mother. Now when I don't want to do something, I think 'shut up and give it a try!'"
- Evie Lorimer, Sophomore

"For me, becoming a Chippewa changed my life. Transferring here after my freshman year and not knowing what to expect was terrifying, but CMU easily became a second home for me because of the atmosphere here, specifically that of the softball team. The CMU athletic department is an outstanding extended family and I couldn't feel more blessed to be a part of it all."
- Trista Cox, Junior

Coming to college is different for everybody and so is transitioning to collegiate athletics. But, from my biased point of view, I'd say the extended CMU family makes that transition much easier. To next year's new Chippewas: enjoy your senior year and we can't wait to see you on campus in the fall! To current Chippewas: stop reading this blog and get to studying! Finals are only two weeks away!

*P.S. I'm just kidding, Sara is my kid sister and I can't wait to play with her and the rest of this amazing incoming class!

This week's quote: "The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings." - Dave Weinbaum

Karly's Korner #3: Community Service Week

Before I properly begin this entry, I'd like to take a moment to personally say thanks for all the positive feedback this blog has gotten! We English majors love to write, but it isn't always easy sharing that writing with others (and, if any of my professors are reading this, I'm sorry about all the inevitable comma errors!). It means a lot to me that people seem to be enjoying Karly's Korner, so THANK YOU!

Our softball team also said thank you to the Mount Pleasant community last week (October 21-26th) with our Community Service Week. Our players and coaches worked shifts at the Isabella County Soup Kitchen, the local Humane Animal Treatment Society (HATS) shelter and did projects with the Isabella County Commission on Aging and the Angel Wings Fund. Here's some more details:

HATS: Throughout the week, teammates went in small groups to the animal shelter (which, as freshmen Rachael Knapp and Danielle Marlink discovered, is actually across town from campus!) to perform a small volunteer task and then either walk dogs or play with the shelter's cats. I had to endure a Cleaning Task Which Shall Not Be Detailed but afterwards I got to joyously play with a bunch of black cats (#CrazyCatLady). I know the dog lovers on the team also had a great time playing with some new four-legged friends! And, FYI, November is the shelter's "Back in Black" adoption special, so every Friday in November you get $10 off the adoption price of any black animal. Check it out if you're in the market for a new pet!

Commission on Aging: Our team did two projects with the Isabella County Commission on Aging. A few girls helped decorate boxes for a Let's Make a Deal game (check out our Facebook page for pictures!) and a few of us helped with a craft (we made adorable pumpkins out of fabric and rolls of toilet paper -- Google it!)

Isabella County Soup Kitchen: Our team worked two early Friday morning shifts (no sleeping in for student-athletes!) and had a great time helping at the Soup Kitchen. If you're interested in donating or volunteering as well, check out http://www.icsk.org/.

Knock Cancer Out of the Park Home Run Derby: To round off our Service Week, a few of us made appearances (in my case, very brief appearances) in the home run derby to benefit the Angel Wings Fund of Mount Pleasant. Redshirt freshman Michelle Dornan blasted some bombs to help our team, and (yes, we brought in a ringer) junior baseball player Pat MacKenzie really helped us out too!

Again, be sure to check out our CMU Softball Facebook page for all the pictures from Service Week. I'd also like to give a big shoutout to senior Morgan Yuncker for organizing the events of the week and for compiling the information I needed to blog about it! Thanks, Morgan!

Thanks again to everyone for reading, and to my fellow students: stay warm and do your schoolwork! Final exams are only five weeks away! Yikes!

This week's quote: "Service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life." - Carrie Chapman Catt

Karly's Korner #2: Fall Games & Team Bonding

Fun fact: Did you know softball used to be called "pumpkin ball"? (Okay, technically the sport has had many alternative names but that one seemed fitting for the beginning of October - you see what I did there?)

On an unrelated note, I was reading an article for a class the other day that has inspired the topic of this Korner. The author's main point in the article was that the happiest families (as far as communication and cooperation go) are the ones which share a strong narrative. Basically, sharing stories and traditions allowed family members to develop clearer senses of identity and better cope with challenges. Scientific data aside, this general idea directly applies within softball teams (and, I would assume most athletic programs). Thus, today's topic: team bonding!

For many student-athletes, the team becomes a second family when away from home. Teammates and coaches are more than just friends; they become support systems. I won't assume that is true for everyone, but it certainly is true of the softball teams I have played with here at CMU. We have a strong sense of program tradition (check out the name of our stadium if you're looking for the source of that legacy!) and our alumni, community members, and fans always have a direct impact on the current team with their involvement.

One of the biggest team bonding experiences we have every year is playing in an annual fall tournament in gorgeous Traverse City. We go semi-rustic at Lake Ann Camp for the weekend, staying in cabins and making s'mores at bonfires in the evenings. There are lots of stories, games, and singing. Last year there was a memorable (terrifying?) "trust fall" experience. This year there were ghost stories, tears, and, my personal favorite, freshman Dani Marlink hitting the high note in The Little Mermaid's "Part of Your World."

While lots of the warm fuzzy moments happen off the field, one of the best ways to bond as a team is to play as a team. We are lucky that we get to play fall games during our offseason and this year we played eight of them. In case you missed them, here's a brief recap:
- Beat Northwood at home and senior Brittney Horan had three hits!
- Beat Grand Valley State in both games at home with multiple homeruns and two shutouts from the pitching staff!
- Traverse City Tournament: (5 inning games) Lost to Michigan, tied, beat Western Michigan, 2-0.

- Traverse City Tournament: (7 inning games) Beat Oakland, lost to Michigan.

Well, that about does it for this time! Expect more in the future about our upcoming October volunteering projects and our winter camps and clinics. To all my fellow students: best of luck on midterms!

This week's quote: "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." 
- Henry Ford

Karly's Korner #1: Welcome back to campus!

Hey, Chippewas!

It's the time of year again: packing up the car, saying goodbyes to hometown family and friends, and heading back to lovely Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Whether CMU is states away or (in my case) just a few minutes down the road, transitioning from the freedom of summer back to a hectic academic schedule can be tricky. This semester I've been asked to write a few entries for our CMU Softball website about campus life and what it's like to be a student-athlete. I thought for this first one, just to kick things off, I'd make a list of a few handy back-to-school tips. Whether you're an energetic incoming freshman or a wizened old senior like me, this list should have some helpful reminders for everyone.

Back to School at CMU: 10 Campus Tips

1. Learn the abbreviations - Students on this campus toss around abbreviations all the time: SAC, IAC, SBX, UC, HP, EHS, etc. (and my personal favorite: `MP' being short for Mt. Pleasant). It doesn't take too long to catch on.

2. Prep for all weather - This is Mid-Michigan! Rain boots are a recognized fashion accessory here. Pack extra sweatshirts and umbrellas, because I guarantee the weather won't stay the same throughout an entire day.

3. Invest in a good backpack - I often talk to people who assume college students don't use backpacks. That is certainly not the case! You'll want something sturdy to keep your books and schoolwork safe through the long winters.

4. Use the library - CMU's Park Library is amazing (yes, I'm an English major and a little biased, but really it is amazing). Look into taking advantage of everything the library can do for you, especially with the Writing Center and the Documents on Demand program. However, the printing system in the library can be confusing sometimes so don't be afraid to have a librarian help you set up your account.

5. Get to know your professors - Go to office hours. Go to office hours. GO TO OFFICE HOURS. Student-athletes especially need to establish good relationships with our professors because we need their help when missing classes and staying on top of homework. Professors set office hours (or schedule appointments) to meet and help their students. It would be crazy not to take advantage of this! You don't have to pester them every week or become their new best friend, but get to know them (some of them may be surprisingly interesting people!)

6. That weird building name is Anspach. It rhymes with `coleslaw.' Say it with me: "AN-SPAW."

7. If you're driving on campus, BEWARE LOT 22. I know some of the other commuter lots get pretty busy, but Lot 22 (it runs parallel to Anspach and Pearce, down Washington Street) is typically a nightmare between midday classes. Add an extra 15 minutes to your travel time whenever you know you'll have to park there.

8. Know your food options on campus - If you have a meal plan and flex dollars figure out how you'll best use those programs to your advantage (I always obsessively budgeted my flex dollars, but that was a bit ridiculous). If you're off campus or without a meal plan, figure out if and when you're going to eat on campus at all. Will you bring snacks or meals in your backpack or eat at a campus restaurant? Will you make coffee in the morning or grab Starbucks at the UC? They've added lots of new options (food carts, expanded cafeterias) on campus lately, so if you do want to buy something you have plenty of choices.

9. Get involved - You don't necessarily have to join a student club or organization (though it's cool if you do) to get involved on campus. Especially within the first couple weeks there will be all sorts of activities going on. Go explore before all the homework really kicks in!

10. Stop and smell the roses - The early weeks of school can be insanely stressful and busy (SO MANY MEETINGS). Remember to take time to enjoy the autumn weather and the college atmosphere. I also recommend walking through buildings you may not have classes in. It helps you get to know the school better and see what other students are doing.

I hope that list was a least somewhat helpful for everyone! I'll be writing more of these entries over the coming weeks with more info on softball specifically.

This week's quote: "A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad." - Theodore Roosevelt



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