K-State Veterans Share Advice with New Wildcats
Tired from early mornings of weights and practices, the Wildcats took their seats ready to hear from a panel of former K-State student-athletes.
On the panel were K-State graduates Missy Decker-Heidrick (women's basketball 1993-97), Jermaine Berry (football, 2002-05), Jen Schulte (equestrian, 2007-11), Jason Schulte (men's golf, 2007-11), Matt Giller (baseball, 2008-12) and Alex Hrebec (football, 2007-11).
From questions about adapting to a new lifestyle to simply finding ways to sleep, the student-athletes listened intently as the panel shared their experiences.
"The reason why you guys are tired is because you're a student and you're an athlete," said Jason Schulte, licensed attorney working with the Marine Corps, when asked how he managed to get enough sleep during his time as a student-athlete. "There are going to be times when you need sleep, before a competition you're going to have to get that rest. So if you can work ahead when you're not competing, that can take off some of that stress."
Having been in the young student-athletes' shoes, the panelists' answers were truthful and full of insight.
Berry, a former Wildcat football defensive tackle who continued his football career after college as a free agent with the New York Jets and with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, is currently a successful broker with Prestige Realty & Associates, one of the top real estate agents in the state. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Berry's story hit home with many of the student-athletes.
As they sat wide-eyed and listened, Berry explained that he was the first person in his entire family to earn a college degree. He said when he first arrived at K-State, school wasn't his first priority. However, through the advice of his academic counselors, he was able to change that mentality and graduate. Now married and raising a family, he is thankful for that advice and for his degree.
"So how long did it take you to fully adapt to being a student-athlete?" asked one student-athlete sitting across the room from Berry.
"My first Christmas, I went back home and saw how my friends were living," Berry answered. "When I came back to K-State, I adapted right then and there. I knew why I didn't want to go back home. I knew what my life looked like now. I took a reality check right then and there. It didn't hit home until I went back home."
The student-athletes nodded; they understood. Their road ahead won't be easy, the panel told them, but it will be worth it.
"This is my sixth time doing this, but I think it went well," said Berry after speaking to the student-athletes. "There's always a group of students afterwards where my story kind of hits more at home. I grew up in a very poor part of town and I wasn't the best-educated person, so I think it hits home with certain student-athletes because, if it wasn't for their sport, they wouldn't be here."
Following a successful career with the K-State equestrian team, Jen Schulte - Jason Schulte's "other half" as she introduced herself to the group with a smile - now works with the Ahearn Fund. As the only former equestrian student-athlete on the panel, one of Jen's biggest keys of advice to the group was to befriend and network with student-athletes and professionals outside of their sport while in college.
"I hope they take away that they internalize it and that even though it may seem like we're harping, that the experience that they have here is truly amazing," explained Schulte on her hopes for the group of new Wildcats. "They have so much available to them. We want them to use it and not get stuck in just one thing but to expand and to grow as both a person and a student-athlete."
On what he thought of the panel, men's basketball freshman guard Tre Harris said, "I thought it was really cool getting to see where these guys went after their career here at K-State. It was pretty cool to see the different roads they've taken and where they are at now, that was encouraging to see... You never know where you're going to end up or how long you're going to continue to play your sport, so interconnecting with my peers, making those connections, hopefully we can help each other continue later on in life."
Though they entered tired and drowsy, the student-athletes left with a new knowledge and sense of pride of what it means to be a student-athlete at K-State. They learned tips that will last them well through their collegiate career and advice to help them both on and off their respective playing fields.
"Once you leave here, there is no coach. There is no one telling you to get up and go to class," said Berry as the panel came to an end. "My recommendation is to go home and find something to hang your hat on. Use that as motivation, become an adult and adjust now. We didn't have this panel when I was at K-State. We learned the hard way."