WVU athletes ‘Speak Out’ about life lessons, experiences
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 07:10
In a room full of coaches, teammates and administrators, a group of six West Virginia student-athletes gave speeches based on their lives and experiences in the Jerry West Mountaineer Room at the Coliseum Tuesday.
Part of a program called "Student-Athletes Speak Out," Tuesday’s event was one of the final projects for the athletes in their speech pathology and audiology course taught by Carolyn Atkins. Atkins has been teaching the course for WVU student-athletes since 1990.
"It’s great to see them progress throughout the semester," Atkins said. "When we first tell them that they’re going to be speaking for all these people, they’re not typically happy about it. But they get it, and they rise to the occasion, and they get a lot of great feedback."
Among the athletes speaking Tuesday were men’s basketball freshmen Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, junior cornerback Brodrick Jenkins from the football team and Caroline Szwed, Mallory Smith and Annalika Steyn from the women’s soccer team.
Harris was the first to speak, followed by Smith whose speech, titled "Dreams with Deadlines," centered around believing in oneself in order to accomplish one’s goals.
In her speech, Smith talked about the role WVU head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown has played in making her better on and off the field.
"I remember running on the track one day. It was the first day of preseason (when she was a freshman). It was a two-mile run that we had to finish in 14 minutes, and I was on my last 200 meters," Smith said. "I wasn’t sure that I was going to make it. Then all of a sudden, I see Coach (Izzo-Brown) flying out of nowhere across the track and literally start to chase me. She didn’t want me to fail.
"I learned that I had a coach who believed in me; therefore I needed to believe in myself."
Jenkins and Szwed closed with two of the more emotional speeches of the day.
In his speech, "A Way Out," Jenkins talked about how football gave him an outlet to stay away from drugs and violence he experienced growing up in his hometown of Fort Myers, Fla.
With the final speech of the event, Szwed talked about her father’s journey from Poland to give her and her family a better life in Canada and how it proved to the junior that "impossible is nothing."
"When I find myself going through tough times, I hear my dad – the most inspirational person in my life – saying, ‘The harder it is now, the easier it is later," Szwed said. "And I begin to think about what he’s overcome. I know that because of him and what he was able to achieve, impossible really is nothing."
In addition to Tuesday’s speech, the student-athletes have gone around Morgantown to local schools, sharing their stories with students at Morgantown High School and South Middle School.
This gives the students a great opportunity to share their stories with kids who might be dealing with similar struggles in their lives.
But it also lets the athletes find out that, although they play different sports and came from different backgrounds, they are all alike and have had to face some hard times in order to find success.
Henderson, who spoke about a family friend who was diagnosed with HIV and how he allowed it to lead him further down a dangerous path with drugs, said he related to Jenkins’ story.
"At a certain age, you realize that you’re not going to always have your family there for you, and that’s when I took it upon myself to do other things differently than my friends were," Henderson said. "I knew that they were doing the wrong stuff, and I couldn’t be a part of that.
"Yeah, I wanted to be cool and seem hip, but at the end of the day, the reason I’m here now is because I didn’t make those choices."