Well, this post is long overdue. I am slightly embarrassed for making my comedic debut and then hiding behind schoolwork and summer for the past few months. The good news for you is that I have lived through another quick summer to bring you my second post. Unfortunately, this won’t redeem me for my claims of incredible comedic relief as I have been meaning to put my thoughts and feelings into words for some time now, and I guess they could more accurately be described as reflections.
I am beginning my senior year here at the great University of Kansas. The spring semester really got me thinking about life and my future, and my experiences this summer continued that trend. These next few paragraphs are my thoughts from May through now (September), and are different events that influenced me in some way.
This year I had a wonderful opportunity to serve on the committee that chose the recipient of the Del Shankel Teaching Excellence Award. The award is the highest honor a student-athlete can give a teacher at KU. Students nominate their teachers and then a committee comprised of student-athletes interview the candidates and deliberate until they can finally come to a decision for the winner.
We had some very inspiring candidates this year and each one motivated me in some way or another. Just talking to these teachers made me want to immediately go sit and listen to one of their lectures, even though it was Friday afternoon of Easter weekend. I am an accounting and finance major, and none of the nominees taught a business course. They were intellectually stimulating even in an interview setting with nothing specifically academic in our questions—we just wanted to get to know them better. I could have sat there all day listening to each one about their respective subject and enjoyed every minute of it. They absolutely loved their job and enjoyed creating relationships with students even if there were several hundred in the class. I was extremely impressed with how much effort a teacher went to just so he would be able to say a student’s name to his face in a 300-person lecture. Sometimes students think their teachers don’t care and have no idea who they are, especially at a large university like Kansas. These teachers didn’t just set the bar, they exceeded it. Heck, after interviewing them, I was tempted to switch majors and become a teacher because they had such passion for it. Most of them never even planned on teaching at a university, but yet they are obviously very good at it for a student-athlete to nominate them.
Every year the athletics department hosts a Senior & Scholar Athlete Banquet and this is the occasion where we honor the nominees and award the winner. Other than the fact my heel was stuck between the cracks on stage, it went smoothly and I was so excited to present the award. It was a time, though, when I wanted to be cliché and give them all the winning plaque because it was a tough decision and I felt each deserved it in a different way.
Another reason the department holds the banquet is to honor the seniors for putting in 4 (sometimes 5) years of hard work to make Kansas Athletics great. This year was more emotional for me because a larger number of my friends were moving on to the next chapter in their lives. Also, it’s the last time I will look up at the stage and say, "well, it’s not me yet," which definitely makes you think about things. I’m an extremely organized person and always have everything planned—I’ve had my school schedule planned out by class since the beginning of my sophomore year. Seeing my friends and teammates up there this year just made me wonder if I’ve accomplished what I want during my years in college (I’m blaming all this contemplating on our Del Shankel nominees stimulating my thought process). It made me wonder if I have any regrets. It definitely solidified me in my decision over three years ago to come to KU. Looking at all the accomplishments of my fellow student-athletes made me so proud of what they’ve done while they were here and how much they added to my experience. It was surreal when I ran down Massachusetts Street to celebrate winning the National Championship. I was in awe as our football program had such a great season in 2007 and even though we lost some key players, came back and had another good season with a bowl win. I had chills during the Missouri game this year (and I was at home, warm, instead of freezing like I was last year) when somehow our guys gutted it out, buckled down, and made one of the most thrilling games into more than just a game, but a breathtaking win (plus the pictures looked really cool with the snow falling). Our women’s basketball team had a season to remember as they made it to the WNIT Championship game and had the honor of hosting it in the hallowed Allen Fieldhouse. I had never even been to a swim meet in my life until I came here to cheer on the girls who lived on my floor freshman year. Sometimes on our way to or from a run, we see the rowing team on the Kansas River and the way they glide just mesmerizes me. One of my favorite components of my participation in KU Athletics is SAAC and the incredible events I have experienced with some of the most creative, caring, energetic, and friendly people. I will truly cherish every memory I have from here.
As I am re-reading what I just wrote, it kind of sounds like I am the one graduating. Fortunately, I have another year, plus my masters (well that isn’t entirely bad because who really wants to have to go into the "real world"). I guess I need to clarify. I basically just want to thank the Class of 2009 for everything they have done for Kansas Athletics, their teammates, and for any small way they impacted me and wish them good luck in their next endeavors. You will be missed, but not forgotten.
As for the Class of 2010, we have our work cut out for us as we embark on our final year(s) here in Lawrence. For some, our seasons are just beginning and the air is filled with goals and dreams. For others, their time is coming and we all know preparation is key. We have gone through countless hours of hard work and sweat and this is our time. Our time to prove to the college football world that we are serious contenders for the Big 12 title; that we are passionate enough and willing to do everything possible to get to the NCAA Cross Country meet; that we have the drive to stay focused and make a run for the National Championship in men's basketball; that we can repeat in the NCAA Soccer Tournament; that our women’s basketball team will dominate in the NCAA tournament just like they did in the WNIT last year; our time to show the rest of the country what it means to be a Jayhawk. Wear your uniform proudly because we have a rich history out here in Kansas, but we should attempt to make it not just a rich history, but a rich present.
--Kaitlyn Coen (Cross Country/Track & Field)