Athletes make choices as they enter and leave college
College sets up a wide variety of choices and opportunities that force student-athletes to continue, adapt, or leave sports behind.
SEMO Freshman and Seniors find ways to balance sports and everyday life.
Freshmen at SEMO face the challenge of having to adapt to a new environment in the transition from highschool to college
Freshman volleyball player Lucy Arndt (Outside Hitter), understands the journey all too well.
Arndt, as well as other SEMO students, shared her experience and insights on her athletic journey and the decision to continue playing sports at SEMO. Lucy’s journey into sports began at a young age, inspired by her older sister’s passion for volleyball.
“Growing up I would always look up to my older sister playing volleyball and I knew I wanted to play so my career of playing volleyball competitively started in 4th grade.” Arndt said.
For many high school athletes, the transition to college presents a choice, and Ardnt decided to pursue her love for volleyball while continuing her academic career.
“Definitely love of the sport. Playing Division 1 volleyball was a goal of mine ever since I was young.”
Her passion and pursuit of a dream helped influence her to seek opportunities.
Her decision to come to SEMO was easy and her response was infused with enthusiasm as she says “Right when I came to SEMO for my visit, I fell in love with the family feel that I got not only from the team but the coaches. Everyone was so welcoming and so kind and I knew that it was going to be my home away from home.”
Along with Ardnt, freshman Willow Van Haren also chose to continue her journey playing sports in college. Van Haren plays softball and said her decision to attend SEMO was last minute, but she doesn’t regret her decision.
“I chose SEMO two weeks before I moved in. I was originally going to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah but I had a coaching change last minute and Coach Redburn reached out so I moved 8 hours away from home.”
Balancing school, work, life, and sports can be a difficult task, but Van Haren has learned some important qualities from playing sports that transfer over to her everyday routine.
“I learned to be a leader and also having the confidence on and off the field. It definitely makes you emotionally stronger too. I would say putting how much you work on the field you should put into your school work and degree. If you want to be good at something you have to put in the time to get better at your challenges.”
While Arndt and Van Haren embarked on their athletic journeys in college, senior Payton Gronborg embraced intramural sports and a non-athlete college experience. Gronborg’s story began in high school, where she participated in volleyball, ran track and was on the archery team.
She said her decision to not pursue sports in college was difficult.
“When I was younger I thought I might play volleyball for a D2 or D3 school, but once I got into high school I knew I didn’t want to be involved in athletics in college unless it was for fun on a club or intramural team,” Gronborg said.
Gronborg said she found a way to stay connected to sports by participating in intramural sports with her sorority and her coworkers.
SEMO senior athletes discuss hopes and plans for the next stage
Seniors who are on their way out are tasked with the challenge of continuing or adapting their career path.
Adapting to life after sports is in the near future for senior receiver Garrett Todd from the Redhawks football team, who is getting closer to transferring what he’s learned from football into his work life. Todd is a native of Lebanon, Tennessee, and has been playing football since he was 7 years old.
“I get a slight adrenaline rush at times during the game, yes, but mainly I just have fun while I’m playing,” Todd said. “It’s a game. You should have fun while you’re playing it or there’s no reason to be playing.”
Unsure how he will transfer that energy and adrenaline into his work life, Todd said he will be sure to always find fun in his work no matter what he does.
There are many lessons sports can teach you that can be applied to life off the court or field. Garrett Todd said his favorite life lesson he learned from sports would be the importance of teamwork.
“Everyone on the team [has] a role and if everyone does their job correctly, then things will go the right way,” Todd said.
But the benefits of teamwork not only work for sports, as teamwork can apply to many jobs and other tasks as well. Todd plans to carry over this “teamwork” mindset into his post-football work career.
After graduation, he plans to return to SEMO to be a graduate assistant with the football team and earn his master’s degree in sports management to eventually become an athletic director. Staying around sports is how he said the missing patch with football being done for him will be fulfilled.
Garrett Todd said he has a plan for his life and who he wants to be when it comes to finding his identity outside of football.
“I feel like I have a plan for my life and I have established myself as the kind of person I want to be,” Todd said. “But at the same time I am still very young and have a lot of life left in me so there really is no telling what my true identity will be in the future.”
Senior shooting guard Megan Barton of the SEMO women’s basketball team is making the best out of each opportunity as she prepares to make that transition into her post-athletic career. She is a native of Carterville, Illinois, and transferred to SEMO from Bradley University.
Barton has been playing basketball since she was in the fourth grade and she said it has always meant everything to her.
“I’m just very compassionate about it and it’s my safe space,” Barton said. “[It’s] an area where I can showcase my art within myself.”
The journey to get to a Division I program was a little different for her than it was for other athletes. Barton played at a junior college her first two years after graduating high school. Because of this, she said she is very grateful for the opportunities she’s earned and she makes the best out of every moment.
Barton said her favorite life lesson she’s learned from playing basketball is just cherishing moments and opportunities.
“It can all be taken away in an instant if you don’t cherish the position you’re put in,” Barton said.
After graduation, Barton plans on going to medical school to become a radiologist. She then wants to begin owning apartments eventually as well. Cherishing every moment even while working is important because as she said, it can all be taken away in an instant, with unexpected causes.
When asked if she’s found her true identity yet outside of basketball, Barton said not yet.
“Yes to the ability that’s been given to me, but not all the way,” Barton said. “This does take up majority of my time, but I think I will fully when I’m done playing basketball."
SEMO Alumni find two different ways to succeed after college
Alumni athletes of Southeast have taken paths that are leading to their success in two different careers on and off the field.
Former SEMO pitcher (2019-2023), Bryce Grossius has found the transition from athlete to now car salesman to be a smooth one. Grossius said that there are three important attributes he has carried over from playing college baseball to his new job.
“I would say I carried over competitiveness, the grind, and adrenaline,” Grossius said. “Selling a car is not an easy task and is a constant grind, just like college ball was.”
Former SEMO catcher (2019-2022), Andrew Keck, who was drafted in 10th round by Atlanta Braves in 2022, has found the transition from college to professional athlete as a quick one. Keck said that he was pleased with how fast everything went.
“The transition was pretty quick after the SEMO season (2022) ended,” Keck said. “To getting drafted, then going down to spring training, then getting called up to an affiliate club, there was really no time to pause and think about it.”
A normal day for Grossius during his college years was getting up at around 5 in the morning, training with weights and cardio, going to classes, grabbing a bite to eat, practice on the field, and lastly, study hall and homework after practice.
After pitching five seasons for SEMO, Grossius finds that he has more free time now that he is done playing ball and tries to stay busy during those empty hours. He said he still gets up early, goes to work, and tries to find time for the gym, when he is not at work or spending time with his family.
“After grinding for all those years, staying in the gym can be difficult at times,” he said. “You gotta try to find time for it, no doubt. Dinner at night with the folks is nice as well.”
The path Keck took allows him to hone in on the same craft that he’s been working on his whole life, but there is always something to improve upon.
How to go about a day from a work standpoint, both on and off the field is one of the main things that Keck took from his time at Southeast and helps him stay active through mind and body.
“Approaching everyday with a competitive attitude and sense of professionalism is what keeps me going,” Keck said. “The coaching staff at SEMO did a great job of teaching us how to be professionals and it has transferred very well to the pro level.”
The careers Grossius and Keck entered differ in terms of preparation and approach, but share similar qualities of the process and grind. Grossius mentioned that you must be willing to put in the work on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s a big-time grind,” Grossius said. “You have to want to put in the reps and show up everyday, ready to compete with others around you. That’s the only way you will get better and hopefully see some results.”
Keck detailed how tough of a grind the minor league schedule can be and how you must be ready to go for every game.
“At the minor league level, you must be ready to go all 132 [games],” Keck said. “Pretty much every day outside of Mondays is game day, so it is important to put in the work at practice and on your own time.”
Keck, who was called up from Low-A Affiliate (Augusta Greenjackets) to the High-A Affiliate (Rome Braves) this past season, said it’s important to always be grateful for where you are regardless of how things are going.
“Some advice that I would give to athletes who want to make the leap to the next level would be that it’s easy to complain and be negative when things don’t go your way,” Keck said. “Regardless of how things are going, you are still doing something that not many people get to do.”
Grossius, who made his first sale this past month, said that there are three important tidbits of advice he would give to graduating athletes who are looking for a different career path.
“Explore all of your options, feel yourself out, and take time to look back at what you’ve achieved,” Grossius said. “Don’t run to a job because you feel rushed to get one, rather take your time and work for the job you want to get.”
- Athletes make choices as they enter and leave college (11/15/23)
- Bryce Norman: From the Real Life ‘Friday Night Lights’ to Saturdays at SEMO (11/14/23)
- Maneuvering the fifth year: Five lessons I’ve learned from an extra year of college (11/15/23)
- A FNAF review, animatronics coming at you (11/21/23)
- The sky could be the limit for SEMO outside hitter Lucy Ardnt (12/2/23)