Balancing Dreams: Kirsten's first-year experience as a Student-Athlete

By Kirsten Evans on August, 8 2023

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Hi! I'm Kirsten Evans, a freshman at Fort Hays State University. I am majoring in Marketing with a minor in Tourism and Hospitality Management, in hopes of getting into Sports Media when I graduate. I'm minoring in Tourism and Hospitality Management because I have always had a passion for traveling and wanted to learn more about the industry. I currently work for the University Marketing Department where I am a student content creator. Managing academics and athletics my first year was challenging, but was manageable and rewarding.

On the volleyball team, I am number 22. 22 is a special number to me because it is my cousin's and I’s number from when we’ve played each other in sports in the past, and it was our high school graduation year. The number 22 is tattooed on my left wrist. I have had this tattoo for a little over a year now and it became my number when I got here this year as a freshman on the volleyball team. It was just a coincidence, considering we didn’t get to pick our numbers, but I was very happy with it because it meant something to me. People may think having a “favorite” number is silly, but to me, it represents a dedication to your sport, a sign of a competitor, and someone who walks with dignity.

When I came in this year, I truly had no idea what to expect, I was flying blind. Having lived at home and taken care of by my parents, becoming self-sufficient was an adjustment for me. One of the main adjustments was learning how to manage my time - a necessary skill for a student-athlete. I was managing hours of volleyball practices, weights, bus rides, games, etc., while also managing my classes, sleep, homework, and the occasional social time. Adjusting to campus life was a struggle, since we were in season right when we got to campus, I wasn’t able to meet many people outside of the volleyball team or even other student-athletes due to my busy schedule.

The volleyball team was required to be here about two weeks before everyone else, so I got here on July 29. The day after, we started having two practices and weights every day for two weeks. Then, we jumped right into the season and had two or three games every week. Looking back, it all went so fast for me, there wasn’t much time to adjust, or to think about other things. It seemed like I was just here and playing volleyball. Our first games were during the first week of classes and when we traveled we would miss Thursday and Friday of classes. Which meant I had to catch up on my classes and homework I missed. During volleyball season, I was advised to take a lighter class load. Although manageable, it was still challenging to make up everything I missed. The professors at FHSU are very understanding and accommodating, which really helped me out a lot.

Going from high school to collegiate athletics was a very large jump for me. In high school, I was a four-sport athlete, so I was always doing something. When I got to college, it felt like all of those sports were combined into one, but for just volleyball. With everything that was going on, there was a lot going through my head throughout the semester. I was expected to play at the highest level that I could, while also getting enough sleep, worrying about fueling myself correctly, questioning my worth, getting schoolwork done and still taking time for myself. There’s a lot I had going through my head, which was difficult at times, but very worth it in the end.

At the beginning of the season, I didn’t get much playing time. So, I was stressed about my performance as anyone, especially a competitive athlete, would be. But then, I got the opportunity to play halfway through the season, which I was very excited about. Typically, freshmen don’t play consistently, but I, as well as a few others, earned the opportunity this year. My whole life I’ve dreamed of being a student-athlete, and when you finally achieve that, it’s a great feeling. It was such an accomplishment for me because it’s what I’ve been working towards since I was a little girl. I was fortunate to get the opportunity and it was very fulfilling. At the end of the season, I received the Most Improved Player award. Some players might not want this award because of the stereotypical mentality that “they’re the worst on the team.” But when I received it, it felt like an accomplishment to me. I had so much growth throughout the year that I truly took to heart what it meant. I also received the changing award. Because of the different roles I took on this year, including setting, passing, or serving in games.

When spring came around, we would lift about three to four times a week and have individual practices. It was slower-paced than the fall, but I was still putting in the same amount of work. With things slowing down, I decided to take a few more classes and get a job. So, I decided to apply for a job with the University Marketing Department. At  University Marketing, I help create social media content for the Fort Hays State University accounts. This is a perfect fit for me since I'm a Marketing major and it relates to what I want to do in the future. With volleyball, classes, and my job things got pretty busy once again. There weren't many days where I would have nothing going on and was able to just take a moment to chill. At first, this was stressful, but like many other things, you get used to the routine.

Being a student-athlete is definitely a full-time job, you really have to commit all of your time and effort to both academics and athletics, but in the end, that’s why I’m here. It’s very rewarding and what I’ve always dreamed of doing. I really enjoy playing the sport I love and I’m very glad I chose to be a student-athlete, especially at FHSU.

Kirsten Evans


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