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Hults finds her way

by Matthew Ondesko, Owner/Publisher

Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union

Athletes are a creature of habit. They need to have their routines, or superstitions. It’s just who they are. Without a routine, they can feel lost at times, distant even. It can mess with them mentality. That’s why so many athletes have a hard time when it comes to retiring from a sport. They miss the daily routine, their friends in the locker room.

Now take it a step further with college student-athletes. Having a routine is all they know, it’s all they do. Now have it taken away. That’s what happen to Buffalo State College senior soccer player Alexis Hults.

Hults, like the rest of her teammates, had a lost year when the pandemic happened. They didn’t have soccer, they didn’t have school in person. They basically didn’t have each other. It wasn’t an easy thing to deal with.

Not when you are used to a certain routine everyday. For Hults having her routine taken away from her was jolt to her system, both physically and mentality.

“Having a year off of sports takes a toll on players mentally and physically. I would definitely say it was hard for me not playing for over a year and being away from the field, my teammates, and school,” stated Hults. “As a human being you need that social aspect of life and being surrounded by people, having interactions, and going out to do things. When that is taken away it takes a big toll. I definitely felt that when I wasn’t doing anything and stuck in my home I found myself being very lazy and not as happy as I would’ve been if I was at school.”

It’s been the talk of the world lately, mental health. People thought athletes were always happy. Why not, they had it all - so we think. They are able to play a sport that they love - and earn either money, if you are pro, or a college degree.

What could be better than that?

How about being able to focus on more than just sports. Student-athletes may have it the worse. They are balancing their studies with their athletic obligations. They also have to find time to be able to unwind and have some sort of social life.

For Hults soccer is her escape. When it might be getting to stressful in classroom, she knows she can get out on the pitch and kick the ball around. It’s her second home. Her place where she finds peace.

“I agree, mental health has become such a big topic since the pandemic hit and everyone was forced to stay in their homes and not allowed to do anything,” stated Hults. “I think a big part of what has helped me juggle school and sports, while making time for myself is just enjoying what I do. And soccer is that one thing that I enjoy. It is my escape and second home when school becomes too stressful.”

On the field, it was a different ballgame. After a year off, Hults, and her teammates, came back to the pitch with a new coach in hand. Not only were they trying to get back in the swing of things after time away, they were doing with a new voice.

It wasn’t easy in the beginning, not even close. There was a steep learning curve - and an adjustment period for everyone.

“It was definitely an adjustment getting back on the soccer field and playing after a year off. I tried to make sure I was working out, staying active, and keeping my foot on a ball every chance I could get during Covid, but being in shape is one thing but being in soccer shape is totally different,” stated Hults. “You have to keep your stamina up to be able to play for 90 minutes and maybe some overtime as well because fatigue is a big factor in college sports when you have games back to back in one weekend.”

It was even harder for Hults who was recruited as a striker not to only see her position change. Hults when from scoring goals to hopefully setting up. The coaching staff saw something in her game and made her a midfielder when camp opened up last fall.

Now Hults was tasked with seeing the entire field, picking out the right person to get the ball to. She was tasked with getting back on defense and stopping the other team.

Basically, the Schenevus, NY., was made for the position. She fell in love with the midfield as soon as the coaching staff put her on the pitch.

“When I came into college I was actually recruited to be a forward/striker but this past season I got moved back into the midfield and I became to love it,” state Hults. “The reason I fell I love with that position is because in the midfield you are the support and apart of both the attack and defense. This means you have to be able to defend when the ball is on your side and get it up and out to your forwards or being able to get up the field to create passes and options for your teammates or yourself to potentially score.”

She also became more of a leader on and off the field. Not that Hults already didn’t posses the leadership qualities, but this gave her the extra push she needed. It was a young team, and at times a very struggling team.

It would have been easy of the Bengals to get down on themselves and quit - especially when the beginning of the season consisted of blowout losses. But, Hults, along with the other upperclassmen, were able to keep the team together.

“With having such a young team, the leadership definitely fell to the older girls and I to help guide the younger ones. Since most of us already had a season under our belts we knew what type of work ethic and dedication was expected for practices and games in the SUNYAC division,” stated Hults. “Soccer games in high school and at the college soccer level are two different type of game play. Playing college soccer in the SUNYAC division is very fast paced, aggressive, and you need to be able to react quickly to make decisions. My teammates and I made sure that the younger girls knew that college soccer was not like high school and you need to work ten times harder, have a higher intensity, and a good mentality to win games.”

Hults also made sure she was approachable. She wanted to make sure she didn’t get in anyone’s face - that’s not how she wanted to lead. She wanted to be vocal, but also help her teammates.

Hults wanted to make sure she let her teammates know that they could come to her about anything - just soccer.

“Some steps I took to be a leader on and off the field was when we were on the field staying vocal and helping players decide their next pass or guiding players to spots were they could potentially be an option,” stated Hults. “Being a leader off the field I tried to be someone that anyone can go to whenever they felt upset, needed someone to talk to, or even help with their homework. I think this can go for being a leader both on and off the field but by holding girls accountable and staying positive when times were a little rough.”

Her time at Buffalo State is now coming to end. Hults will graduate this May and move on her life. That includes Russell Sage, which is located in Albany. There Hults will be in their three year program as she looks to obtain her Doctoral in Physical Therapy.

Soccer won’t be too far away, however. Hults will still be playing the sport she loves just for Russell Sage in the fall. Everything she has learned about herself over the past couple of years will serve her just find as she heads off to the next chapter of her life.

A chapter that is filled with promise, hope and aspirations.

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