It’s that time of year again, when thousands of students flood the Keene State College campus. For some, it’s an easier transition than others, but for student athletes, it is all the more daunting. Not only do they have to stay on top of grades, but they also have to perform at the college level.

Student athletes who used to be leaders in high school are first-years once again and have dropped back to the bottom of the totem pole. They may have been at the bottom before, but not at the college level. College sports are a whole new ball game for star high school athletes. The speed and intensity of the game has been elevated.

KSC first-year volleyball player Hannah Syzmanski said that college sports are much different than high school sports. “In college, you have to prepare yourself more for conditioning, lifting and really pushing yourself to strive not only as a student, but as an athlete.”

She continued, “Coaches, for sure, have higher expectations for their players. Personally, I love a challenge and a coach who can get in my face and tell me when I’m doing bad and need to push myself, but also a coach who can provide support when everything goes well. That’s exactly what Coach Weiner does for us,” Syzmanski said.

Robert Weiner is the head volleyball coach at KSC. Weiner says the first-years, as a group, are doing “very well”.

“They all played high-level club volleyball, so this type of intensity is nothing new to them. Of course, a couple of them have had bouts of home-sickness already, but being an early fall sport keeps them busy enough so they don’t think about it,” Weiner said.

Tim Smith/ Photo editor

Tim Smith/ Photo editor

KSC first-year and women’s soccer player Nicole De Almeida said she agrees with Syzmanski when it comes to the coaches having higher expectations.

“Coaches in college definitely expect a lot more from their athletes than coaches did in high school. You are expected to come into the season in shape if you want to be on the team and play, where in high school it was easier to catch up. In college, you’re fighting for playing time and a spot on the team, whereas in high school it sometimes is more equal to try to give everyone a chance,” De Almeida said.

Being a first time college athlete can lead to some struggles. “First of all, these athletes were all the best player on their team in high school. Now, they are confronted with the fact that everybody is as talented and hardworking and committed as they are. It’s a shock, and it always leads to playing time issues. They’ve always played, and now they might have players in front of them who are not only older, but flat out better. That is also a shock,” Weiner said.

Another issue that might occur is the fact that they might not have been coached. “By that I mean their skill-set has never been questioned, because they got by with what they’ve always done. It might not be good enough for the college level, and coaches are going to want them to change things. That’s another shock,” Weiner said.

Syzmanski and De Almeida said they really haven’t come across any challenges thus far. “I am actually adjusting really well! Coming from Colorado, I really expected to get homesick very easily, but I have adjusted well. Waking up in the morning and looking out my windows to see mountains helps too because it makes me feel like I’m still home in Colorado,” Syzmanski said.

She continued, “I have yet to come across any challenges thus far here at Keene. If I did come across a problem, I have learned that Keene provides exceptional help whether it is with my academics [or] my body for either health reasons or the athletic trainers to help with even the smallest stretching techniques before practices or games.”

De Almeida said she’s always been a busy person. “Coming to college I knew how to manage my time well and make sure to be on top of things,” she said.

Weiner said the first-year student athletes bring energy, excitement, athleticism and competition to the team.

Being an Owl is something both girls said they take pride in. Syzmanski said that her favorite part about being an athlete at Keene State College is just being a part of the athlete community.

“You get to know everyone else on sports teams and I feel as if we are a unit and can come together as a family. I am thankful that this school treats us as individuals with responsibilities, but also treats us as a unit of athletes and supports us all equally,” Syzmanski said.

De -Almeida said, “I would say my favorite part about being a student athlete is being involved in something that I love to do and representing our school while creating friendships and making great memories along the way. It’s a great way to be connected to the school and experience things that not many people get to.”

Shelby Iava can be contacted at

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