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More Than a Sport: Learning through Sports and Gaining Confidence

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

My name is Jenna Hartung and I graduated from the University of St. Thomas and played on the women’s ice hockey team. This summer, I have had the amazing opportunity to work for Her Next Play as their Marketing Intern, where I have developed social media content and worked with the Leadership Team to implement and promote career development programs for women and girls.

This fall, I will be a graduate student at Franklin Pierce University. While there, I will use my fifth year of eligibility for hockey and earn a graduate certificate in Sports Management. I have had the opportunity to play college hockey both at the Division III and Division I level. By experiencing competition at both of these levels, I like to think I had the best of both worlds and learned a lot about myself along the way.

Having had a very unique college sports experience, it has taught me a lot about myself, not only as an athlete, but also as an individual. When I committed to going to a Division III school, I had a lot of fun playing and made a ton of amazing memories. It was during my junior year that our whole school transitioned to Division I, which I was very excited about. This was a crazy shift and women’s ice hockey was put in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) with the highest competing teams in the country. We were informed that we were getting a new coaching staff and I remember feeling very excited and nervous for the unknown season ahead.

During my college hockey career, I faced a lot of adversity and often felt like I was on a rollercoaster ride. It caused me to put a lot of pressure on myself as an athlete, which made it difficult to perform at my best. However, this allowed me to grow and transform into a better athlete and person. One of the biggest lessons I’ve taken away from my athletic career at St. Thomas is how to be grateful. It was not until I learned to appreciate the little things that I was able to become more focused and gain more confidence. When I started focusing more on things I could control, I was able to play the way I wanted to play. My best games occurred when I could play freely and trust myself through the process.

College hockey taught me that my mindset is everything. That is, how I talk to myself determines how I perform, and can change everything. When I make a mistake, my mind needs to remain strong. I learned how important it is to have a reset button after a bad shift on the ice. A practical way I applied this was by tapping my shin pads with my stick when I would come to the bench after making a mistake. This meant I had to forget about the mistake and get ready for my next shift, which allowed me to perform at my best.

After my first year playing at the Division I level, I knew that I could come back stronger and faster. I learned that nothing comes easy in college sports and if you want something, you need to work for it. Confidence comes easier knowing that you did all you could, and that you’ve given your best effort every day. I learned that many things happen unexpectedly, and it is our reaction to the situation that determines the outcome. If you are upset about something, you have the power to change your perspective.

A key lesson to remember while growing up in sports is that everyone has their own path. Everyone is going to experience some form of adversity in their lifetime but it is how you respond to that adversity that determines the true outcome. It is important that you do not compare yourself to others, as everything is going to work out the way it should for you! Since I was a little girl, I have dreamt of playing Division I hockey. I would not trade my college hockey experience for the world, as it was full of valuable life lessons and amazing memories that I will never forget.

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