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The Finish Line: Harriet Ottewill-Soulsby

May 18, 2017

"Don't wait until your senior year to achieve your goals. At Lafayette, you are given all the tools to go out and be the best version of yourself. Embrace it and enjoy the process!"

By Harriet Ottewill-Soulsby '17, Lafayette Women's Basketball

 The Finish Line

  The Finish Line, a special section of The Real Deal, is a series of first-person stories written by recently graduated student-athletes, reflecting on their Lafayette experience.

It's 6.15 and my alarm won't. stop. ringing.

I have just enough time to get changed and grab a snack before I head down to the track. On my way, I hear myself groan. My eyes are heavy and my legs are still sore from yesterday's pre-season workout. Only my mind is moving quickly as I frantically wonder what challenges Coach will have in store today.

I check my phone one last time, just in case I might have missed a text saying conditioning is cancelled. As I do, I am instead greeted by Coach CK's peppy voice wishing me a good morning and telling me to "Shine On" as she sips her six shots of espresso over ice. Meanwhile, Coach Ross (nowhere near as peppy) is standing nearby, stopwatch at the ready.

Just like that, the whistle is blown and we're off! No time for contemplation, we're down to business.

Almost before we know it, we are heading back up the hill, drained but accomplished. Time now to get ready for our challenges in the classroom (while also trying to find time for a nap).

At this point, I counted down the days for the season to arrive. I couldn't wait for these workouts to be done and for my senior season of basketball to begin.

Now, as I stare anxiously at two empty suitcases, which I have only just pulled out from under my bed, I realize I would be glad to return to the pre-season workout period.

I would give anything to be back on that track, dripping in sweat, with my teammates patting me on the back and cheering me on until that finish line was no longer looming in the distance, but had been crossed and conquered.

Then it finally hits me: in a week I will be boarding a plane home, back to Europe with no return ticket and no idea when I will next be back.

I can still vividly recall my first day at Lafayette.

I had spent the summer representing Great Britain and, because of our Championships, I had to miss orientation as well as the first week of classes. Here I was, showing up late, a tall girl with a funny accent. I had no phone, owned nothing in leopard print, couldn't pronounce "Oechsle" and didn't know that Lehigh was the enemy.

Fortunately, I soon got into the swing of things. Slowly my accent became Americanized, I began referring to "football" as "soccer" and I didn't get as mad when my laptop autocorrected words like "colour" to "color".

Now four years later, I face the daunting task of fitting my life at Lafayette into two 50-pound suitcases.

As much as I try, I know I won't be able to pack everything. Most importantly, I won't be able take my friends, my teammates or my coaches with me. Nor can I pack up my favorite spot on the Quad or Lower's hard wok noodles.

All I can hold onto are memories like these:

That feeling of both excitement and nerves when you come out of the team huddle as the referee blows the whistle for the game to begin.

That time we surprised everyone but ourselves and became the first 10 seed to advance to the second round of the Patriot League.

Those much needed late night runs to McDonald's after the games that didn't quite go as we'd hoped. And after the games when they did!  

Looking back now, I can smile as I reminisce and see that I don't have many regrets. There are not many moments when I would shake the younger version of myself (who had a much finer English accent back then).

But I would leave her with some advice:

1. Time flies quickly - Enjoy it!

Senior year comes around fast.

That test you took freshman year second semester? The one you thought you bombed?  It doesn't matter now.  

Those clubs you wanted to join freshman year but didn't think you had time. You do.

Don't wait until your senior year to achieve your goals. At Lafayette, you are given all the tools to go out and be the best version of yourself. Embrace it and enjoy the process!

2. Call your parents more!!

College is a time of great independence, but no matter how old you are, your parents remain your rock.

My parents were never athletes. They didn't take me out to the ballpark; they didn't rebound for me until I could no longer feel my arms.

Instead they taught me lessons that transcended into every aspect of my life.

My parents taught me how to be resilient. They taught me how to be self-confident and how to overcome adversity. They instilled in me the belief that I can achieve anything and that the world is out there waiting for me to make my mark on it.

Of course there have been, and will continue to be, moments of frustration (for example, when they tell me after a game how well I played, even though I disagree) or moments when we don't see eye to eye, but that goes with the territory.

My parents might not have told me how to improve my jump shot, but they drove me to practice, showed up to every game they could (traveling all over Europe and flying 3000 miles on multiple occasions) and encouraged me to pursue my dreams of playing basketball in America.


For more first-person accounts from Lafayette student-athletes, check out the Finish Line stories in The Real Deal.

For full coverage of this past weekend's graduation ceremonies, visit the Commencement home page.

3. You are never alone.

At Lafayette, no matter where you call home, your professors are ready to become your wise aunts and uncles. 

Your coaches become your temporary second parents.

Your teammates become the sisters you never had. You might not be the best of friends, but no one else has shared the same experiences. No one else was there at those morning workouts. No one else was stuck on that nine-hour bus ride back from American. No one else has shared your locker room history.

Looking back now, no matter how much we can get on each other's nerves (sorry guys!), I know I have companions for life.

It's 6.15.

I've been woken not by an alarm, but by sounds outside on the street.

I close my eyes and think to myself as I roll over that there are some advantages to no longer being an athlete. This extra hour of beauty sleep is nice.

Strangely, though, I know exactly what I would rather be doing right now!