My name is Stephanie Alderson and I am a Senior Elementary Education major and Cross-Country runner. When coming to Ozarks as a Freshman, I was nervous that being an athlete would be difficult in terms of keeping up with my academics and homework. I was scared that my sport would feel like a job more than a passion. However, being a student-athlete these past four years has been so amazing. Our coaches, athletic staff, professors, and the University as a whole have always put academics first. There’s a reason we are called STUDENT-athletes and we take pride in that. All of the professors understand that we are student-athletes and schedule meetings with us before and after our athletic events to discuss what we are going to miss and to develop a plan to stay caught up in our classes. They hold us accountable, but they don’t hold it against us when we miss class for our sport. They want us to excel in our sports and in our education. Also, they are always at our home events cheering us on. I’ll never forget Dr. Oatis ringing a cowbell at our races or President Dunsworth taking time out of his busy schedule to show up at 8 in the morning to watch us run.
Our coaches and staff are beyond amazing. Our athletic trainers invest their time to make sure we are healthy and taken care of while even being some of our biggest fans in athletics and in our education. Chad and Tina will be there through your injuries and academic and athletic journey here. I am also so thankful to have a coach who has always believed in me and pushed me to be the best person I can be inside and outside of Cross-Country. Coach Provence always stresses that being an athlete is so much more than just our sport. I have learned how to be a better leader throughout my time of being a student-athlete. From ringing the bells for Salvation Army, helping lead field days and community events on campus for local students, to leading Operation Christmas Child packing parties and volunteering at community events when they need a helping hand, I have learned the value of being a servant leader and giving back to the world. They have also been very supportive of my beliefs. Coach always allows gives us Sunday mornings and nights off so we can go to church. He works around our church schedules as well. I have grown so much closer with God here thanks to the support of my coach, the athletic staff, and the professors.
I have also become a member of a whole new family while being an athlete here. All of the athletes are so supportive of each other and always go crazy cheering for our sports. From dressing up in different themes at basketball games, face painting at soccer games, to getting up really early to make posters and cheer us on running, our competitions are always full of support. I have also gained many teammates who have become like brothers and sisters to me. Whenever I am doing an activity pertaining to my major or participating in an extra-curricular event, my teammates and coach have always been in the front row cheering me on. Whenever I need a study buddy, I know my teammates are a text away. Whenever I’m having an off day at practice, my teammates are cheering me up and reminding me of the bigger picture. When I go to church, I have teammates on both sides of me. Being a college student can be stressful, but I have never been alone thanks to the friends and family I have gained being an athlete here.
All in all, being a student-athlete is worth the early morning practices and two-a-days. It’s worth doing your homework a little early in preparation for traveling with your team to compete. It’s worth getting out of your comfort zone to embrace college athletics and become a part of a family so special here. You won’t regret it. Get ready for the best four years of your life.