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Profiles of coaches and student athletes

Student-Athlete Profile: Samantha Chao '16

Friday, August 2, 2013

What made you want to come to Carleton?

I chose Carleton because I wanted to go to a liberal arts college. I've always had a wide range of interests, and I was drawn to schools that encouraged interdisciplinary studies. Some people might be turned off by Carleton's small size, but I love it! I know all of my professors on a first-name basis, and if you ask me about a student here, chances are, I'll know them. But it's not so small that I know every single person on campus. I'm still meeting new people!

What have been some of the differences between college and high school sports?

I feel like there is a lot more external pressure to perform and stay in shape in high school. Volleyball consumed all of my spare time, in season and out of season. But Carleton volleyball has been a very different experience for me. While there's still pressure to perform, it's only the pressure I put on myself. Anyone who is playing at the college level is there because they love the sport. My passion is what fuels me to work hard in practice and in games, not the threat of sprints or coaches breathing down my neck. Being a Division III athlete is also very different because our academic endeavors always come first. I'm not playing volleyball year round anymore, so I get a lot of time during the year to focus on more intensive classes and other activities. Plus, I think having a break between seasons is refreshing. I end up missing volleyball more than ever and come back for the fall season with an enthusiasm that I never could have mustered in high school.

How do you balance everything you do at Carleton?

Balancing academics, volleyball, and other activities is just a game of time management. Part of playing that game well is learning how to use time efficiently. Another part of it is learning to prioritize. There will be a lot of things to do and not enough time to do them, so you have to pick and choose what takes top priority. I also think it's important to give yourself a break once in a while. Watch a movie, go on a date, or go bake some cookies - give your body and mind some time to recuperate.

What are some of your team's traditions?

The sophomores on the team will personally design and decorate scrunchies that the freshmen have to wear at every home game. I had just cut my hair into a bob before season, and a scrunchie couldn't hold my hair up. So my teammates made me a lovely headband instead, complete with a set of baby gloves sewn on top. I can't wait to make the freshmen scrunchies this year. I know I'll cherish mine forever. I'll probably hang it over the fireplace.

What are some of your favorite moments playing volleyball at Carleton?

My high school team had a lot of phenomenal players, but we were plagued by a curse of losing in three games to teams we could have easily taken. The problem was whenever we got down - in energy or in points - we stayed down until it was too late to make a difference. One of my favorite moments this past season at Carleton was in a game where we were losing badly to a team we knew we could beat. It looked like we were going to lose the match. During a time out, our captains got us in a huddle in the corner of the gym. It wouldn't be enough to say that their pep talk got us going again. It was the ability of each player in that huddle to change their attitude and focus on the specific things they needed to improve that helped the team. We won the match, and I am still awed by how remarkable my teammates can be in turning a game around when there seemed to be only one outcome.

What is your favorite thing about Carleton?

My favorite thing about Carleton is that I don't feel limited in what I can study or experience. I feel like this is the only school where I'd be able to be a pre-med Chemistry/English double majoring volleyball player who acts and performs slam poetry.

What would you say to a high school student-athlete considering Carleton?

If you come here, you will be a student first and a competitive athlete second. With an open mind and the right initiative, the term "student-athlete" will not define you; you will grow into someone who can be described as so much more.

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