Student-athletes sound off on 'Concordia Experience'

Student-athletes sound off on 'Concordia Experience'

Download video of Friday's student-athlete panel discussion

A panel of returning student-athletes sounded off on the “Concordia Experience” on Friday as part of the fall athlete orientation day on campus. New incoming fall student-athletes and their parents were treated to commentary from current student-athletes on topics ranging from what activities students engage in around the community to the nature of Concordia’s Christ-centered campus.

“It’s really good to grow with each other, especially when we do mission trips in the summer,” said Kyleah Bowder, a member of the women’s soccer team. “We’ve been to Nicaragua and this past summer we went to New Orleans. It’s just a really great way to grow in faith with your teammates off the field as well in another culture, another surrounding, to learn more about each other and learn more about Christ.”

Drew Baxter (football) Jordan Donohoue (soccer), Nathan Douglas (soccer) Chris Podlich (soccer), Von Thomas (football) and Michael Voelker (football) joined Bowder on the seven-person panel. The group was moderated by Martin Kohlwey, assistant director of student life and student activities.

Curious about how out-of-staters have acclimated to the environment, one parent asked how easily student-athletes have assimilated. For Douglas, a junior who led the men’s soccer squad with 11 goals last season, the transition from Winnipeg, Canada, to Seward, Neb., was made more smoothly by the welcoming people of the university and the surrounding community.

“I’m from kind of a big city compared to Seward. I came to Nebraska two years ago and the people are super friendly here,” Douglas said. “That was the big thing. Random people come up to you at Concordia and say ‘hi.’ It just makes you feel that much better. It’s a super friendly place to be. I feel extremely safe here.”

The panel also offered advice backed by their own experiences as Bulldog student-athletes. Donohoue says it’s important to meet many people and to interact with athletes from other sports.

“Don’t be afraid to talk to other teams,” Donohoue said. “I don’t know if there’s a stigma, like ‘don’t talk to other teams.’ Really just be open. Get to know everyone on your floor because it’s really helpful when you’re in a class and you know someone and you can do a project together.”

Some of the students also weighed in on the kinds of activities they take part in away from the playing field. While they admitted they have little time outside of school and athletics when their respective sports are in season, many panelists talked about the convenience of getting away to nearby Lincoln, home to many outstanding restaurants, sporting events and shopping areas.

But there are also many attractions on campus throughout the school year.

“We have concerts, comedians, magicians, dances and various things going on on campus,” said Kohlwey, who also serves as an assistant men’s basketball coach. “A lot of people also get involved in intramurals in different ways, shapes and forms. So there’s always something to do.”

One of the major hurdles for new student-athletes can be the sudden change that comes with going from the star athlete in high school to a college freshman, who may find the new challenges to be overwhelming at first. Voelker experienced this struggle first hand at Concordia, but was rewarded for staying the course.

“My worst time in college was the (first time going through) the week of two-a-days and then that first week of school,” Voelker said. “But then everything slowly kind of got better. Especially with football, once you get through those two-a-days, everything gets easier because you’re meeting new people and meeting friends. It slowly gets better.”

One parent even asked for season outlooks from each of the sports represented in the panel. With a new offense and upgraded talent, Baxter and the football program feel invigorated.

“As far as football goes, we’re looking forward to a lot of things,” Baxter said. “We’ve got a lot of good starters coming back on defense so hopefully look for some consistency on defense.

“We had a great spring and we’re ready to get going. It’s been good to see the work the offense has put into it (with a new scheme). We’re very excited.”

Kohlwey ended Friday’s discussion with a prayer, solidifying the Christ-centered community characterized by the “Concordia Experience” and Bulldog student-athletes.

10 August 2012