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  • Matt Ondesko

Finding success

By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Brockport Athletics

What defines success?

That’s a question that is not easily defined. It depends on the individual. Success can defined in so many different ways. It could be achieving a good test score in school, or having the ability to make the team as a freshman.

Or, maybe, it is just being a role player and doing whatever is asked of you by the coaches and your teammates. Success depends on the person. To be successful is to have a piece of mind that you did your best in the classroom, in the community and on the field. Success is based on the work that you, as an individual, put in.

So what defines success?

For Brockport College junior field hockey player Katie Ziemba success might have been able to play as many games as she did her freshman year.Coming from West Seneca West, the junior didn’t know what to expect and she didn’t come into camp in the best shape.

Ziemba will admit that when she stepped on campus that she though she would be able to do the same things as in high school. After all, she was a dominating player for WSW and in the Western New York field hockey scene.

What Ziemba learned was that if she wanted to make an impact during her four years she needed to buckle down and do the things that would make her successful.

“To be honest, I did not come to preseason in shape my freshman year. I thought I could wing it and be okay like high school. Yes, I was grated a starting position since game one of my first year but looking back at it, I did not deserve it. I did not work as hard as others over that summer. Sophomore year, I did do some workouts over the summer but I was not motivated to push myself. I do not like to run, at all. I don’t find it fun, relaxing or enjoyable by any means. That being said, it is very challenging for me to be motivated to condition by myself out of season. But my coach needed me to come to preseason my junior year in better shape than the past two,” explained Ziemba. “I changed my mindset and told myself that I wanted to pass the fitness test the first day of preseason and I held myself to that. I have a younger brother who is currently a senior in high school and is very athletic like I am. I had him push me all summer long. He went to the gym with me four days a week and went to the turf six days a week. I really enjoy lifting so that was always a fun workout with him. When it came to running, depending on the run of the day, I would have him run with me, but be a couple of strides behind. This pushed me to make sure he never passed or finished before me. His dedication to me this summer is what got me in shape for this past season. I also started to like running over the summer. I had a set routine everyday to get it over with early in the morning so I didn’t have to worry about it the rest of the day. This sounds simple but I also listened to music every time I ran. It kept my mind off of the fact that I was dead tired and could barely breathe haha. Then coming to campus in August and after and after hearing comments from teammates and coaches about how much I improved my fitness levels over the summer, I used that as fuel for this season and this off season.

Fitness aside, it’s not Ziemba was a slouch on the field. She was able to come in during her freshman season and grab a starting spot on the team. In the beginning, her field hockey IQ may have outweighed her fitness on the field.

Most freshman have a hard enough time finding their way around campus let alone grab a starting spot on a college team. Ziemba showed that she had the drive to be a very good player. The playing time she earned during her freshman campaign allowed her to springboard her next two years.

“I did not think I’d get much, if any playing time my freshman year. I was not as physically fit or as fast as other girls and I was a freshman so I assumed I wouldn't see the field at all that year. I am very grateful that I was given playing time right from the beginning. It gave me more time to adjust and find my style of play at this level,” stated Ziemba. “Finding playing time so early in my career granted me with so many opportunities and learning lessons. Following my freshman season, I was offered to travel to Australia to play field hockey against Australian club teams. I did not pass up on that opportunity and had the time of my life exploring a different country. I learned so much from girls I traveled with and the teams I played against. My early playing time also allowed me to improve on specific skills I needed to work on sooner rather than later. I am very thankful and proud of myself for holding a starting position since freshman year.”

Ziemba is also proud of the fact that she has become a leader on the team. Coming in freshman year, Ziemba didn’t know what to expect from her college experience. She was afforded the opportunity to go to Australia to play the game she loves and even grow as a person more.

This allowed her to grow into a role each year she was on the team, including this seasons where Ziemba became more of a leader. No more sitting in the background, Ziemba was looked upon to lead a very young Brockport squad.

“The team is very young. My sophomore year, everyone was either a freshman or sophomore besides three seniors. This year, my junior year, there are four juniors and everyone else are underclassmen. That being said, roles must be filled no matter your year. I was given the opportunity to be a co-captain with the three seniors my sophomore year and it was a huge learning process for me individually,” stated Ziemba. “The responsibility given to me as a young captain seemed to be overwhelming and I struggled with it. But I am very grateful for that experience because I now know what I had to improve on to be a better leader and teammate. I also think working with the seniors all season helped me grow as well. They obviously had more experience at the college level than I did so I absorbed all the knowledge and insight they gave me to help form the player I am today. This year, I was voted captain again along with a fellow junior, Emily Hall. My coach and I have seen myself improve a lot as a leader of this team over the past year. I am very proud of myself for changing my mindset to better the team this season. I am a strong believer that being named captain is not just for the band you wear during every game. You represent the team, take responsibility, are approachable for anything that may come about, value the importance of being a team player and set examples on and off the field. The role of being a captain never gets easier as years go on but the experiences and life lessons are worth it.”

Ziemba just hasn’t found success on the field over the past three seasons, the West Seneca resident has also seen success in the classroom. It’s never easy transitioning from high school to college whether you play a sport or not.

College courses, and professors, are a lot different then high school. In high school, teachers make sure they are on top of you to get your homework done and to make sure you show up for class.

In college it’s all on the individual. The classes that are being taken are a lot harder then in high school. Add in the fact that now you are a student-athlete on the college level and things can become a lot more difficult.

“It can be very challenging to balance school work and everything that goes along with being a student-athlete but I need that challenge. When I am in season, my grades are always higher than when I am in off season. Being in season creates a schedule that I need to follow otherwise I will be behind in classes and on the field,” stated Ziemba. “Between practices, games, lifts, film sessions, all other team responsibilities and classes, I am not left with an excessive amount of free time. Being a student-athlete helps tremendously with your time management skills. I often do most of my class work between classes so I can study or relax when I get home after practice or a game. When I am out of season, I have a lot of free time, compared to being in season, and I never know what to do with it so that’s when I slip up with my grades. I need a schedule and time frame to get my work done otherwise I will slack off. The challenge of balancing student and athlete responsibilities is difficult but well worth the lessons learned and memories made.”

Finding the right balance is key for any student in college. Whether they are playing sports, or in drama or music, trying to find that time to have free time is extremely important.

Being focused is one thing, being focused to the point that you are always in your dorm room studding in another. Ziemba tries to do her best to be college student as well as being an athlete. It’s a balance she feels is important and one that is needed.

“It is very important that you don’t allow your sport to take over your life. You are just as much a student as you are an athlete; hence “student-athlete”. The balance between all three can and will be hard to manage, but I think it is very important to not lean on one part too much than another. School is the first concern. Student athletes will always be a student before an athlete because education is more important in college, especially at the Division lll level,” explained Ziemba. “Adding a sport to the already busy and stressful student life is a demanding life style. I’ll go from 6 a.m. practice straight to classes all day, a possible added lift or team meeting and then having to find time to do class work, shower, eat and breathe. Then, I still have to add my social life into the mess. I can’t have school and field hockey control my life, I need a break and time away from both of those parts of my life. The field hockey team is my family away from home and I love being part of it; I have made so many great relationships with girls on my team. But there are times when time away from the team can be good for personal health. Also, when it gets later in the semester, classes become harder and more work is due, so having a mental break from classwork is just as important as having time away from the team. It is very important to not allow your social life, classes and/or your sport take over your life. Having an equal balance of all will grant you a more enjoyable life and stable mental health.”

On the field, Ziemba is the ultimate teammate. In a culture where athletes are becoming more about me, me, me, Ziemba is the opposite. Sure, she would like to score as many goals as possible and be the big fish in a little pond.

Ziemba, however, is all about the team. She isn’t self-centered. She will do whatever it takes to make sure the team has team success over individual success. If that means she needs to go out and score as many goals as possible fine that’s what she will do. If she needs to rack up the assist, that’s fine too.

Ziemba has turned into a very good well-rounded player, and that team has benefitted from it.

“Being part of a team sport, you can’t be self centered. The team must always come first no matter what; on and off the field. I’ve been part of a team since I was 3 years old, so this concept has been part of my character my whole life. It doesn't matter if you score three goals in a game because if your opponent scores four, you lose and your teams outcome is more (or should be more) important than your own,” stated Ziemba. “I have been fortunate enough to stand in a key play maker position the past two seasons. I have been playing center mid which is crucial through the defense to offense (and visa versa) transfer up the field. Coming from only playing forward in high school to playing a very important center mid position in college is a huge step for me. I have developed into a very well-rounded, team player, on the field. My position does not allow me to carry the ball by myself and be selfish. I need to help my teammates, be an open passing option, communicate and be supportive the entire game. This isn't the only position that holds this amount of responsibility though. I believe every position on the field should hold this accountability to ensure no teammate is left out to dry with no support.”

The question was asked earlier, what define success?

I think by looking at Katie Ziemba she has answered that question.


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