Photo credit: Todd Drexler/North Florida Athletics.
Kayla Fessler spent four seasons as a student-athlete at the University of North Florida. She helped solidify the Ospreys’ defensive line while also representing the Atlantic Sun Student-Athlete Advisory Committee late in her career. In her blog, she shares takeaways from being a teammate, how to balance schoolwork and how playing a college sport shaped her.
Last month Fessler accepted a Wellness position at the Flagler YMCA. She provides a unique perspective to River City Rogue. Find her on Twitter @kayla_fess.
River City Rogue: What will you remember most from your playing days with UNF volleyball?
Kayla Fessler: Definitely the people I have met and the relationships I have made. From the coaches, to the teammates, to everyone in the Athletics Department, I have met so many people who have impacted my life for the better and have inspired me in one way or another. Playing volleyball at UNF has exposed me to so many people I never would have met as a regular student, and I’m so grateful for the connections I have made and people I know I will be able to rely on for years to come.
RCR: How did being a student-athlete help you develop life skills?
Kayla: I kind of laughed when I read this question because I was like, how did it NOT help me?! It helped me work well with others, manage my time, take direction, lead, network, speak publicly, give back to the community, persevere and so much more. I would say athletics has impacted almost every part of my life for the better.
RCR: Was there a volleyball highlight from your career you think about when you get asked?
Kayla: A moment I’m pretty sure I will never forget was getting to play against FGCU in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Tournament my freshman year. It was the first time we had ever beaten FGCU in UNF history and when I went in I had a pretty good dig from one of their outside hitters so it was a really special moment. It also allowed us to move onto the finals of the ASUN tournament, which is the farthest we have ever gotten in the Division One era.
RCR: How did you learn to balance schoolwork and athletics?
Kayla: This question is kind of hard for me because I feel like I have been doing it for so long, just like any other college athlete has. I guess the main thing that helped me balance schoolwork and volleyball was to wake up early and get my work done. I was always too tired to get work done after a day of classes and practice, and I feel like I am most productive in the morning. Plus, seeing one bad grade at the beginning of the semester usually reminded me that studying is important!
RCR: Do you have any advice on how girls could pursue playing a sport for a university?
Kayla: My best advice would be don’t be afraid to contact a lot of coaches about the possibility of you playing at that school. They might say you aren’t at their level and that’s okay, there are a ton of universities and a ton of coaches. When a coach does come to watch you, how well you’re playing isn’t everything. Show them how coachable you are, how good of a teammate you can be and how hard you would work for them.
RCR: What did you take away from being a teammate?
Kayla: I think my major takeaway was that your personality isn’t going to mesh with every single person’s personality, but as a teammate you can learn how to work together to accomplish a goal that you cannot do as individuals. It takes work to learn how to be a teammate to each person on the team because each one needs something a little bit different.
RCR: Is there one overwhelmingly gratifying aspect of participating in college athletics?
Kayla: There is no better feeling than a coach believing in you and your abilities. They are putting their livelihood on the line every time they recruit a new player, put in a new line-up or try new plays. At the end of the day, the way you perform as an athlete has an immense effect on whether that coach keeps their job or not. It is extremely gratifying to have someone who believes in you and trusts that you will perform for them and the university you represent.