This month we have a very different Athlete Spotlight article than normal for you! With the college year quickly coming to a close, we wanted to feature several of our collegiate athletes in a joint question and answer. With athletes playing all over the country across a variety of sports, we are very proud of all of them and wish them continued success in the future! Enjoy!
Achieve: When did you first know that you wanted to be involved in collegiate athletics?
Madeline Perez (Cross Country and Track, Georgetown): I knew my freshman year of high school that I wanted to run track in college, but that dream started to really become a possibility during my junior year.
Mimi Schneider (Swimmer, University of Texas at Austin): The summer before my sophomore year of high school I qualified for my first Olympic Trials. I was racing girls that had already committed to big-name schools and I knew I wanted to be just like them!
Michael Dudek (Football, University of Illinois): I knew that I first wanted to be involved in college athletics when I first started to play sports in Kindergarten. I quickly fell in love with the competitive nature that came with playing football. I knew that this was something that I wanted to do for as long as I could.
Danielle Allen (Softball, University of Chicago): I’m not sure exactly when I knew I wanted to be a collegiate athlete. I’ve loved playing sports my whole life and just knew I wanted to continue playing as long as possible. However, I did start seriously thinking about playing college softball during sophomore year. I had always played boys’ baseball, so my desire to continue playing in college caused me to switch over to softball in order to pursue this goal.
Achieve: Why did you choose the program that you eventually went with? What was the biggest draw?
Alexa Tolitano (Dancer, Western Michigan University): Western Michigan University has an amazing dance program that has led me to be successful in pursuing a dance career after college. A big draw for me was that they not only shape us as artists but as people. Our dance professors really care about their students and push us past our limits so we can be successful when we head into the real world and start our careers. Western’s department of dance doesn’t only focus on technique, artistry, and performance but the academics to become well-rounded and knowledgeable dancers. When looking at other dance programs, Western Michigan’s program blew me away and exceeded all of my expectations making my choice for college the easiest decision I’ve ever made.
Cora Climo (Soccer, Bucknell University): Bucknell has been the best decision I have ever made in my life. I really wanted to go to a school that valued academics and the success of their athletes as students. Bucknell was the perfect place for me to play at a Division 1 level while also being able to devote time to academics and other aspects of the college experience.
Jenna Squillo (Gymnast, University of Illinois at Chicago): The UIC coaches reached out to me. When I went to visit the school, UIC had many things that I loved about it. Going to a college in a city atmosphere is very different from many other schools, but that kind of college experience is what I wanted. I felt very comfortable with the team and the coaches were very nice. Also, going to a school that is close to home has its benefits. I am able to have family and friends come to home competitions. I just felt like UIC would be a perfect fit for me.
Corinne Rechenmacher (Gymnast, University of Kentucky): I chose UK because I wanted to be part of an ‘up and coming’ program; I wanted to go somewhere that I could make an impact. I saw this opportunity at Kentucky and with head coach Tim Garrison. Tim was encouraging from the beginning and I knew he was someone who would help me to continue to improve my gymnastics throughout my college career. Another big draw was the area; I fell in love with Lexington the first time I visited it.
Achieve: What is the biggest difference between club/prep sports and NCAA format?
Julia Beyer (Gymnast, Bowling Green State University): I would say that the biggest difference between club gymnastics and NCAA gymnastics is the team aspect. In club, the main focus is your individual performance. Team awards are given, but a lot of gyms didn’t have enough people to make a team score. The most important awards are the individual event and all-around scores. In college gymnastics, the team score is really the only score that matters. Depending on your teammates for your success and competing for something bigger than yourself is something that is completely different and really cool to be a part of.
Josh Rogers (Football, Case Western Reserve University): The biggest difference has nothing to do with the sport itself, but has to do with time management and the environment of attending college. Once you attend college, everything you do and are involved in takes more discipline and becomes more time consuming than before. College requires more sacrifice in order to be successful in the classroom, on the field, and in anything else you want to become involved in on campus. From the moment you set foot on campus, you are treated like an adult in the workforce by your professors and coaches. In fact, you are held a higher standard and people demand more out of you through no fault of your own. There are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you want to do, so prioritize your workload and take advantage of the time you have.
Danielle Allen (Softball, University of Chicago): The biggest difference in format is the way making the playoffs works. In high school, everyone made the playoffs and you just played on from there. Now, based on your record and strength of schedule, you need to get selected for the tournament.
Achieve: What is the biggest challenge to staying healthy and fit for sports with the stress and environment of college?
Mimi Schneider (Swimmer, University of Texas at Austin): There is a lot of freedom and responsibility that comes with the college environment. It’s very easy to stay up too late studying when you have morning practice or to choose the pizza at dinner when you know you should be eating healthy. Not having a parent to guide your decision makes you responsible for how you treat your body. Getting enough sleep is a top priority for injury prevention and recovery and it’s often overlooked because of the time demands on college athletes.
Jenna Squillo (Gymnast, University of Illinois at Chicago): I think the biggest challenge to staying healthy and fit for sports in the college environment is the time management. You need to carefully plan out healthy meals while also balancing classes, practice, and homework. It is tempting to buy a quick snack from a vending machine or the café near campus but it is important to control those temptations by bringing your own food. Also with time management, it is important to plan when you are going to eat your meals. Sometimes my schedule can get a little hectic so it is always a good idea to plan ahead to stay healthy.
Michael Dudek (Football, University of Illinois): The biggest challenge was constantly trying to take make sure I took recovery seriously. Having to juggle the student-athlete lifestyle is tough at times and sometimes we don't think about doing the proper treatment to recover.
Achieve: How important is injury prevention in your team's program? Give examples where applicable.
Alexa Tolitano (Dancer, Western Michigan University): Injury prevention is very important to the dance program at Western Michigan University because we are required to take classes in kinesiology, conditioning, and dancer wellness to know how to take care of and use our bodies correctly. Stretching and warming our bodies up before dancing is something our dance faculty takes very seriously. They really focus on teaching us correct body placement and body alignment to avoid any injuries. We also have athletic trainers at every dance performance which all of the dancers take full advantage of.
Melissa Zurawski (Gymnast, University of Iowa): Injury prevention is very important to our team’s program. We have exercises we do collectively as a team during practice for injury prevention, as well as individual exercises and stretches we are required to do prior to training. Also, we go into our training room on every single one of our days off. During season, as a team, we do a “pool flush” so we can adapt our bodies to the toll competitions take on our bodies and so we can recover faster before the next competition which is just days away.
Danielle Allen (Softball, University of Chicago): Injury prevention is pretty important. We do a lot of strengthening and stretching. This past week we went to Florida and played almost every day. Every night, we would stretch and roll before going to bed. We also do band work.
Cora Climo (Soccer, Bucknell University): Injury prevention is definitely important to our program. Before and after every session, whether a practice or a lift, we devote ample amounts of time to stretching and rehabilitation. We are constantly in the training room utilizing our hot tubs, cold tubs, and other forms of body rehabilitation tools to keep ourselves healthy.
Achieve: How is your body holding up? Any injuries or setbacks?
Julia Beyer (Gymnast, Bowling Green State University): Last year, I tore my ACL and meniscus and was unable to compete. I had surgery and worked on rehab with my athletic trainer for the rest of the school year. Over the summer, I went to Achieve and really improved my knee strength. This year, I was cleared and am able to compete.
Corinne Rechenmacher (Gymnast, University of Kentucky): My body is holding up. I had surgery on my right shoulder (labrum and posterior capsule) in May 2015 and dislocated my left shoulder in March 2016. Both injuries left me completely out of gymnastics for 6 or more months. Luckily, I have been able to recover from both and return to competing.
Jenna Squillo (Gymnast, University of Illinois at Chicago): Meet season takes a big toll on our bodies because it is non-stop for a couple months. Coming to the end of my season, I would say my body has been holding up pretty well this year. I have had no major injuries that have prevented me from doing gymnastics. Right now, I do have a slight injury that I have been trying to maintain and control. I have a bone bruise on the outside of my fibula bone due to tight muscles on that side of my leg. This has limited me on the amount of turns I can take during practice. Because this bone bruise could possibly lead to a stress fracture on that bone, I have been working on it by trying to loosen the muscles by having my athletic trainer scrap or cup that area. It also helps to stretch and roll out the muscles. While this injury is manageable during practice with little pain, it is important that I can fix it completely so I don’t have more pain in the future.
Achieve: Talk a little bit about injuries that you had in the past and how you rehabilitated them. How did you get past them to still obtain a spot on a collegiate team?
Madeline Perez (Cross Country and Track, Georgetown): I dealt with a few injuries my senior year of high school, but I luckily had Gina and the Achieve team to get me through all of them. Ironically, the worst injury I’ve ever faced was purely bad luck and something I never thought I’d have to deal with as a runner. The summer before my freshman year of college I fractured and displaced my clavicle. Surgery and 8 weeks of immobilization left me with a weak arm and limited range of motion. I only had about 3 weeks to rehab with Gina before heading to college. I went to Achieve almost every day, where a routine of strength, stretching, Graston, and dry needling got me mobile and ready to go.
Josh Rogers (Football, Case Western Reserve University): I have been injured many times. During my high school career, I broke my left ankle, my finger, and got whiplash. During my college career, I was injured every season. I broke my right thumb, got whiplash again, sprained my left shoulder, and had rhabdomyolysis. The broken ankle and the broken right thumb were the only injuries that required surgery. From these experiences, I found the only way to overcome these injuries while simultaneously keeping a starting spot is to work harder than anyone else. Actions speak louder than words and it is sheer willpower that determines your success. The song ‘Remember the Name’ by Fort Minor holds true in many regards when it comes to athletic training and injury rehabilitation. Sometimes, all it takes is 10% Luck, 20% Skill, 15% Concentrated Power of Will, 5% Pleasure and 50% Pain to overcome anything setting you back from becoming a better athlete or being successful at the next level.
Cora Climo (Soccer, Bucknell University): Before going to college, I had never really had an injury before – no ankle sprains, no broken bones, no torn muscles – nothing. Five games into my freshman year, I broke my ankle and was out for the rest of the season. This was devastating for me, having come into school in the best shape of my life and starting all of those first five games, it was really hard facing the reality of my situation. Staying mentally positive and focused on recovery is the most important part of rehabilitating. Along with this, continuing to make sure you are a positive, supportive member of your team is crucial, even though you may not be making an impact directly on the field. I ended up having to get a second surgery that summer in order to remove a floating bone that had occurred during my first surgery and thus had to repeat this process all over again. These were definitely some of the hardest times of my life, but experiences that shaped me into the collegiate athlete that I am today.
Achieve: How important was your PT in the process leading up to college and how important is your relationship now with your athletic trainer in school? What stood out about your rehab program and made you excel? (i.e. your work ethic, our techniques, focus, coach support, whatever!)
Mimi Schneider (Swimmer, University of Texas at Austin): PT is so important because making your body stronger and healthier is crucial for having a successful college career. Right now, I am in our training room for hours every day working to get my hip back. My trainer is one of my favorite people on campus, and there is no way I could have gone through surgery without her! She is my “second mom” and I am so grateful she is there to help me. What I loved at Achieve was that things Gina taught me I now see in action in college. Her techniques are always on the cutting edge of the rehab world and she has a great laugh that makes you want to laugh, too!
Julia Beyer (Gymnast, Bowling Green State University): PT was really important for me leading up to college so that I could prevent injury and keep myself in top shape for college. Also, PT was essential for me in the past year to come back from my injury. Achieve, my PT in Bowling Green, and my athletic trainer all made it possible for me to get back to where I was before I was hurt. My relationship with my athletic trainer at school is extremely important. Not only can I count on her to rehab my injuries, but I can also talk to her about aches and pains and how to manage them so that they don’t become a problem down the road. What stood out the most to me about my rehab program at Achieve was Gina’s knowledge. She knew a lot about gymnastics and was really good at knowing specific exercises that applied to my sport. She was able to tell me exactly what skills I should and shouldn’t do. Having someone who really knew what I was going through and knew the best and most way to fix it was invaluable to me. Also, Taylor and Lindsey helped me to come back from my knee injury and I can’t thank them enough for their help.
Michael Dudek (Football, University of Illinois): PT was not important to me before I got to college. However, once I arrived at School I realized how beneficial it was to me. My relationship with my athletic trainer is very good. He helps me both physically and mentally with my success as a student-athlete.
Achieve: What is your dream goal athletically while you are competing collegiately?
Corinne Rechenmacher (Gymnast, University of Kentucky): My dream goal is for my team to make it to Nationals! It would be the first time in program history and I would love to be a part of making history for the University of Kentucky. My previous goal was to gain an All-SEC Honor and I did so my freshman year when I was lucky enough to be named to the All-SEC Freshman Team.
Cora Climo (Soccer, Bucknell University): Coming to Bucknell, my dream was to win a Patriot League Championship and go to the NCAA tournament. This year, my senior year, I accomplished this dream. As a senior captain, I was able to help lead my team to a Patriot League Championship scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against Boston University. This was absolutely the most exhilarating and emotional athletic experience I have ever been a part of and I will never forget that day. It made all of the hard work and sacrifice worth it. My friends laugh when I say this, but honestly, thus far, it was the best day of my life.
Melissa Zurawski (Gymnast, University of Iowa): I don’t necessarily have an athletic goal while competing collegiately, but rather an intention to be remembered as the person somebody could always count on. I mean this in both an athletic way as well as a compatible way. I want to be the one people can go to if they need help or advice. I also want to be the person my team can count on if something goes wrong. I hope I can motivate others to be better. I also hope I can inspire others and be someone who is living proof that you can come back from any setback life throws at you. I want to be reliable, and I want my gymnastics as well as my personality to speak for itself and to drive others to be their absolute best.