Stew's Side of Things: Getting to Know Our Student-Athletes
Written by Josh Stewart, Sports Information Director and Men's Lacrosse Coach
WILMORE, Ky. - Starting in a new job in a new state at a new institution isn’t exactly something I’ve had the chance to do before I came to Asbury. So where exactly do I start learning this new job or about the hundreds of athletes that I will be covering throughout the season as the Sports Information Director?
One way to get to know the athletes at Asbury is just to ask. And that’s just what I did... but that’s also when everything got pretty weird.
Did you know women’s basketball player Attia Beeler was once pulled over for driving too slow? Or that freshman soccer player Hudson Ensz was bitten by a piranha while in Brazil?
Or what about the fact that cross country runner Kale Bandy’s parents named him before knowing kale was actually a leafy green vegetable?
And the best part about these bits of information? I got to know these things even if it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I wanted to get to know all of them.
You also may be wondering why exactly I know these things at all. At the beginning of the year I sent out an in-depth questionnaire to each of the student-athletes. The general purpose is to be sure I have enough information to produce our new gameday flyers and to write freshmen bios on the Web site.
The questionnaire includes your typical questionnaire information such as hometown, high school, major and full name, but in reality, the interesting parts aren’t found until you read the line that says “Little-Known Fact About Yourself.”
Swimmer Sara Henderson can make her tongue into a clover shape. Cross country runner Madison Gaither is a black belt in karate. Volleyball’s Catherine Wolter can play the Ukulele. Baseball’s Taylor Diehl has been stung by a scorpion.
Now before someone yells “foul” for sharing this information each student was fully aware of the possibilities of this information. They were informed that the information provided on the questionnaire was suitable for print and/or publication at one time or another.
The fact that the information could be printed kept few from being brutally honest.
Nick Grounds wrote — and I quote — “The steering wheel in my car is my drum set.”
Of course I had to have “Brosef,” as he is often called, into my office for a demonstration. If you get a chance to do so, ask him and he will have to show you. Quite the demonstration.
Now, Sarah Sterling of the volleyball team may be our most interesting athlete at Asbury, or at least the one with the biggest creative mind. Her favorite quote or so she says — I kid you not — is “You've cat to be kitten me right meow” and apparently she can and will complete any YouTube challenge.
Her latest completed challenge? “I mimicked Acrodunk from America’s Got Talent.” I’ve come to find out these are some acrobatic, basketball playing guys that were on the show.
I don’t know if I believe her, but, nonetheless, she made me laugh when I asked her about it.
Something else I’ve come to realize while looking through all of the questionnaires is there are a lot peculiar body parts around the Luce Center.
Basketballer Amber Lewis has weird thumbs. Rebecca Landry from the swim team can wiggle her ears. Freshman volleyball player Hillarie Dyck can lick her elbow. Swimmer William Duncan has a crooked second toe. David Salyers, on the baseball team, has four toes on one foot. Billy Congleton of the soccer team has two different colored eyes.
As I rattle off all of these little tidbits of information I realize that not everyone enjoyed the questionnaires as much as I did and a few even seemed to think they have no interesting facts as they painstakingly filled their form out.
Jared Payton of the baseball team wrote “nothing” for his little known fact.
When asked about his answer, Jared simply replied, “I’m just your average guy, there’s nothing too interesting about me.” I went into this knowing with high certainty that everyone has something that is little known about them, but I guess we’ll let him leave it at that.
Of course I’ve taken some useful pieces of information from this questionnaire, as well. For example, if I need a picture for my daughter to color, Sam Burr from the basketball team is reportedly really good at drawing Disney characters. Swimmer Alex Armstrong is allergic to peanuts — so if I wanted to give him something for his birthday I’d know not to bring him peanut butter cookies. And if I need someone to spend time with, Deionta Perkins of the baseball team claims to be “pretty cool to hang out with.”
These “little-known facts” comes in all different shapes and sizes. Jeremy West of the baseball team unfortunately lost his left index finger at the age of four. Abbie Bowling, who plays on the volleyball and softball teams, is deathly afraid of the dark and baseball player Landon Skaggs hates spiders. Kayley Valentein twitches occasionally and soccer player Mark Fitch “fell through a ceiling when [he] was eight.” Lizzie Hoffa of the women’s soccer and basketball teams is obsessed with Pop-Tarts.
The most intriguing fact that I read? Heather Wantland has no aunts or uncles. Now, that, to me, is something that is little-known and something that I couldn’t tell by looking at her. (Imagine if that were possible- “Oh see that girl, you can tell by looking at her that she doesn’t have any aunts or uncles…”)
Sitting back and reflecting on all I’ve learned about the athletes here at Asbury, I’m not sure if I should be scared for, laugh at, or simply shake my head at the athletes I’ll be covering this year. Time will only tell.