By: Sara Douglass – News Editor
When Vera Blazevska, a senior on the William Paterson swim team, heads to practice she knows that she is guaranteed two hours where her head will be under water and the only person she’ll have to focus on is herself.
Blazevska began swimming when she was four years old and says she doesn’t know what it would be like to not be a swimmer.
“I don’t know how to live without swimming since it’s been such a huge part of my life since I was four,” Blazevska said. “I don’t know what it’s like to wake up and not have practice.”
This Women’s History Month, several WPU female athletes sat down and reflected on their decision to continue an athletic career throughout college. Most of them agreed that they weren’t ready to give it up, but they also discussed how being an athlete has made them the women they are today.
Females make up nearly 60 percent of the college student population but only about 40 percent of college athletes. There is the argument that alone a football team’s roster can be upwards of 90 players and that they account for a majority of male athletes, but some WPU female athletes think confidence plays a role as well.
“I guess girls don’t see the opportunity that comes at them when they ask for it,” said Diana Perez, a junior on the soccer team. “I guess when they finally see it and they don’t take it, it’s like that was your one shot to continue with what you want to do but they’re kind of afraid of how they might be treated differently.”
However, if you ask Blazevska, she’ll tell you it doesn’t matter what other people think.
“I never really cared what others thought,” Blazevska said. “I fell in love with the sport and when you’re in the sport you realize that none of what others say is true and you don’t do it for others you do it for yourself.”
Female athletes at WPU feel blessed to have had the opportunity to continue their athletic career because none of them were ready to give up the sport they love and the sport that made them who they are.
Another thing all the girls can agree on is that they are grateful for their teammates and the newfound family being part of a team has given them.
“It’s so nice to have a group of girls that you can relate to and who know what it’s like to be a student athlete,” said Brittany LaBruna, a two-time All-American tennis player. “You have these girls who just get it and that’s really nice.”
The family and bond these athletes have created is what they’ll remember most and what a lot of them consider to be their greatest success in their athletic career.
“You can ask me my times, I probably don’t remember them but I can tell you who was there, who was cheering me on and what they said to me afterwards,” Blazevska. “So I think that’s the biggest success for me.”
As softball player Rachel Wasilak will say that even though women in sports are accepted a lot more today than they used to be, they still don’t get the support or attention that men do. Luckily these females had plenty of role models to look up to and keep them inspired. Like them, their role models come from a variety of athletic backgrounds such as Missy Franklin (swimmer), Nastia Liukin (gymnast), Becky Hammon (basketball) and Misty Copeland (dancer).
“I’m not sure that I have just one role model but I do respect and appreciate all the people who led the pathway for me to be able to play sports now,” said Nikole Williams, a senior guard on the basketball team.
Although these WPU female athletes may not consider themselves role models just yet, they have accomplished plenty to inspire, both in athletics and academics. Some of our female athletes have personal athletic records, like Courtney Lawler who holds the WPU record for the one-meter synchronized dive, but many have also been recognized for their academics landing them a spot on the Academic All-NJAC Honorable Mention list. And these athletes credit their sports for their academic success.
“I like being on a strict, structured schedule, making sure my day’s planned out, my week’s planned out,” said senior field hockey player Courtney Allen. “I feel like the only way I am successful is when I am doing as much as possible.”
As for what comes next for these athletes after they graduate, once again they all agree that they will find any way possible to keep their passion for their sports alive, whether it’s through coaching, becoming a ref or athletic training.
“I definitely want to be able to give back to my team, my coach and just to the whole William Paterson community because I am so, so, so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to swim here and go to this school,” said Blazevska.