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Surviving Seven Weeks of Softball

Playing Tails

Playing Tails

One of the most challenging things of playing an outside spring sport in college is the lack of spring part. This winter has been brutal; between the ice storm to the two weeks where the weather didn’t get above 10 degrees, it gets incredibly difficult to get motivated to play the sport I love the most. However, Coach Sam Kszepka does an incredible job at keeping us motivated. She has many different techniques to keep us interested and motivated. Some of these techniques include a game called “tails”, which is a game like flag football where if the tail (aka a sock) is pulled out of your shorts, you are out and do sit ups until your team either wins or loses. She also makes these brutal 7 weeks interesting by adding a little bit of competition during practice, and my personal favorite technique, letting us listening to music as we practice. Another key concept of getting through these practices? The team that you are on. Luckily, there is never a dull moment with my team. One second someone will be running, the next second they are on the ground for no apparent reason other than they tripped over air. We are a team filled with sarcastic comments and ungraceful moments. I’m pretty sure if it weren’t for these types of teammates, these brutal seven weeks would have been way worse.

Swimming Championships

Juniata College Women's Swim Team

Juniata College Women’s Swim Team

Championships is the most important event of the year for a Juniata College swimmer, and the reason we all brave the 6 A.M practices every day. Everything builds up to that one moment at Championships. Championships is the motivation to keep us going in those brutal practices that tear our muscles to pieces.  Champs is the reason we lift and swim and push ourselves to the breaking point twice a day, every day for five months.  We give up our winter break, our lunchtime cookie, our afternoon free time and most of all, our sleep, just to perform to our maximum potential at Champs.  It is the goal of every swimmer at the conference to get up on the blocks and swim their fastest time.  After all the pain and suffering, winning the race, and beating the swimmer in the next lane by a tenth of a second makes all the grueling training worth it in the end.

This year, Champs was held at Marywood University in Scranton.  We left on Thursday afternoon, did a warm up swim to loosen ourselves up after the long journey, and settled into the hotel to ready ourselves for the next day’s adventures.  Friday morning we were all ready. The first day turned out to be very successful for Juniata; at the end of the day we were placed first on the score board. We hoped this would be a sign of the continuous successes to come.

The following two days points were eaten up by the larger teams and Juniata’s ranking was not longer at the top. The score and the rankings, however, did not reflect the lasting mark that Juniata made on the meet.  Two of our relays captured gold and set new personal, school, pool, meet and conference records.  Everyone preformed equally as well in each one of their individual events.  Several school records were broken and individual records were shattered all over the place and even a new conference record was set. How then is it possible to have so much success yet have it not show by our team’s ranking?

Swim meets determine winners by a point system. Each swimmer that performs for an event earns a certain amount of points for their school ,and the team that earns the most points (with the most points given to the first place and the least points given to the last place) wins the higher ranking. However, Juniata’s team is one of the smallest in the conference and it makes it hard for us eleven girls to gather up as many points as the other 20-30 person teams. So no matter how many successes we have, it can never reflect because the math just does not add up. On top of the sheer size difference is the equally frustrating principle that the meet is scored as a combination of swimming and diving; we do not have a diving program, and thus do not have eligibility to earn diving points.  As the larger teams in the conference devour more points from diving, Juniata continues to be pushed to the bottom of the rankings.

A congratulatory hug!

Tzvia gives a congratulatory hug to Hillary

Despite the seemingly unfair point system, Juniata comes out on top for the passionate relentless, die-hard spirit and team-support.  No matter whether we win or lose, for every race, the women on the Juniata swim team support each another.  The love and comfort that the team demonstrates is something that is better than points and better than winning. Any team, large or small can win, but not every team can be a family like us.

Congrats to the swim team and all of their accomplishments this season! Proud to be… JC!

Tis the Season of Basketball

My Juniata College Basketball family

My Juniata College Basketball family

In August, when the fall semester starts, something else also starts. Athletes begin their Coach Smith workouts. For Juniata College Women’s Basketball this means spending an hour everyday with their best friend and Juniata College Athletic Trainer, Coach Smith. Spending hours and hours with Coach Smith may be the worst and best experience of your life, but the best part is what lies at the top of the hill you have been sprinting up and down so many times that all of campus has now seen your “workout face.”

What lies at the top of the hill is the day in October when the official basketball season begins. On the first day of practice, you’re so nervous that you can’t tell if you have to throw up, go to the bathroom, or both. Once you start practice, you are so thankful for the killer workouts you had everyday with Coach Smith. Practice is not only full of learning new concepts, it’s also running sprints between your running drills. Some practices make your legs feel like they will never be able to walk or run again, but during all of that you have 12 other girls who are right by your side cheering you on to run faster.

Not only is playing the game and winning an amazing part of basketball, but its also the friendships you make. The newest way to bond with people is to go through killer workouts together! Getting through the workouts and practices is hard, but what gets you through it is your basketball family being your biggest cheerleaders and running right beside you until you finish.

It’s Shelby’s Turn to Give Back To Juniata College

As a recent Juniata graduate, I am so excited to be an official member of the Admissions team!  Here’s a little bit about me including my experiences at college, my hobbies, random facts, and whatever else I could think of mixed in between.

I graduated!

That’s me, Shelby Cassell.

So what could be a better way to start than to talk about Juniata?  Each time I visited Juniata while I was in high school it rained.  That did not, however, keep me from seeing how great this place is.  My favorite aspect of Juniata is the sense of community it has.  I love how friendly everyone is from the faculty to students to administration…I could go on and on.  I did not get enough in my four years here as a student so now I am sticking around for more!  In May I graduated with a degree in Health Communication and a secondary emphasis in Spanish.  Working in various positions at the Enrollment Center for the past year allowed me to learn about a new career path that I am now pursuing.

Besides working on campus, I also played volleyball while at Juniata.  It was so much fun to be a part of a team here on campus and make so many great friends through the years.  We traveled many places together including St. Louis, San Antonio, Rochester, and others.  It was always most fun, though, to play in our own gym here at Juniata surrounded by friends and professors cheering us on.  I actually flew on a plane for the first time in my life when we traveled to Texas my freshman season!

My volleyball team, and our beloved Eagle, at our annual “Dig Pink” game to raise funds for Breast Cancer awareness.

My volleyball team, and our beloved Eagle, at our annual “Dig Pink” game to raise funds for Breast Cancer awareness.

In addition to Juniata, I love the outdoors!  I can’t stand to have a day go by during which I haven’t spent time out in the sun.  Hiking, running, and vacationing at national parks are just a few outdoor activities I enjoy.  I have been to Yellowstone, Acadia, Badlands, Theodore Roosevelt, Grand Teton National Park, and more.  Hopefully in the next few years I can make it to Denali in Alaska and Redwood in California.  Recently, I went camping at Raystown Lake near Juniata.  The picture below was the view from my campsite!

SC Raystown Web

When I just need to get away, though, my family cabin is the first place that comes to mind.  While at my cabin there is plenty of wildlife to see including elk, deer, bears, etc.  I make sure to pack my hiking shoes, comfy clothes, and of course my latest book.  Sue Grafton is the author of my favorite series about the adventures of a private investigator and currently I am working through U is for Undertow.  I also enjoy reading health and fitness magazines.  My latest hobby that I am working on developing is cooking so if you have any favorite recipes, feel free to share them with me!

Me and my 2 year old Springer Spaniel at my cabin in Elk County, PA.

Me and my 2 year old Springer Spaniel at my cabin in Elk County, PA.

Some other random facts about me include that I enjoy watching movies and I find Steve Carell to be especially funny, my favorite colors are blue and purple, I love just about any kind of seafood, Red Lobster is my favorite restaurant (makes sense right?), I like to spend time with family and friends whenever possible, and I enjoy going to the beach during the summer.

I am looking forward to expanding my horizons through my work with Juniata Admissions.  I will definitely be looking for new natural areas, restaurants and fun things to do in my region!  If you have any questions about Juniata please do not hesitate to contact me!

Coach Smith and Beyond

That's THE man, Coach Smith.

That’s THE man, Coach Smith.

When you’re a student athlete at Juniata, your best friend is Coach Smith. Now while everyone has their love/hate relationship with Coach, myself included, we all have to admit the rockin body he gives us is awesome. Between the speed squats with chains and the Friday stair work out with our sand bags, the athletes at Juniata spend a lot of time in the gym with Coach. The best part about Coach Smith workouts is it only takes one off-season for him to turn you into the smoking hottie you were meant to be.

Oh, by the way, Coach Smith is casually one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the country and pretty much any big state institution would give anything to get him, but he chooses to stay at JC, which is awesome. He’s in such high demand because he can turn literally anything into a torturous workout. He uses random things from towels to scuba divers’ weights for arm work outs, ship chains and sliding boards for a leg work out, and stairs anywhere on campus for a cardio session. Coach also invents all these work outs you can do by yourself without any equipment or machines that are just as, if not more, tiring than anything you would find at a gym.

Coach Smith not only focuses on the physical side of training, but incorporates the mental side as well. He pushes each individual athlete to get out of their physical comfort zone to overcome mental barriers. He trains the mind and body to work as one to improve an athlete’s performance both on and off the court, field, or any other place you could play a sport. I personally have learned so much about how my body moves and how to lift or condition properly to get the most out of my body for volleyball while staying healthy. Coach Smith’s work outs not only make you stronger and a more efficient athlete, but also train you how you can mentally and physically overcome any obstacle using your mind and body.

Look at those awesome muscles!  Thanks, Coach Smith.

Look at those awesome muscles! Thanks, Coach Smith.

If you really want to get an amazing work out, Coach has a noon work out every day that anyone can go to. The cool part is that it’s his own work out too, so you get to sweat with the elite. I highly recommend it, especially if you would like to feel like you got hit by a bus the next morning. Kidding (sort of), they’re not that bad.

A Day in the Life of a JC Athlete

As you can imagine, student athletes have a little bit of a different schedule than other students at Juniata. We don’t have too much free time to nap, or watch tv, or hang out with other friends. If you plan correctly, you’d be surprised by how much you can fit into a day. Below I walk you through my typical Monday schedule (one of my more busy days).

A day in the life of a JC women’s volleyball player:
5:40am – Rise and shine!
6am – Practice starts
7:30am – Run back to my room to take a quick shower, grab something to eat (usually fruit or yogurt), and get ready for class
8-8:55am – Anthropology
9-9:45am – Nap Time! (best part of the day)
10-10:55am – Calculus I
11am – Go to the library and do work
12-12:45pm – Get lunch at Baker with the team
1-1:55pm – Biology Seminar
2-2:55pm – Organic Chemistry Concepts II
3-3:55pm – Rural Health Issues
4-4:45pm – Get ready for my hour workout with Coach Smith and do some reading
5-6pm – Coach Smith workout
6-7pm – Team meeting with the volleyball coaches

The rest of the night I’ll do homework, meet up with groups for projects, and relax. I try to go to bed by 11 pm because I have 8am lab Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that doesn’t always happen.

Also, Coach Smith is the greatest thing that will ever happen to you – but I’ll save that for a later post. But basically, he’s one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the nation and creates specialized workouts for each team here.

I’m not going to lie, getting used to a hectic schedule is hard. But if you stay organized and can resist procrastination (which I personally am a victim of), you can esily get used to it. I also have a lot of support from my team and coaches, because they’re all going through it too.

Don’t ever let a busy schedule intimidate you. Balancing classes, practice, sleep, and a social life is a lot easier than you think, if you stay organized and can plan well.


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