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What’s It Like To Be A College Athlete? – McKenna Kelly’s Edition

  • 12 January 2022

Every athlete in North America dreams of playing collegiate sport. The opportunity to play in front of thousands of fans, representing your school at a high level, the accumulation and satisfaction of all your hard work paying off, is a dream for so many. For very few, this dream ends up turning into a reality, but what is it really like? What does it truly mean to be a varsity athlete? On this installment of THE BLOG we talk with a former NLU student athlete who is competing at the next level. She has gone through the trials and tribulations of earning an athletic scholarship and sheds some light on what it truly means to be a varsity athlete.

Mckenna Kelly is a second-year student athlete at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. Kelly, a pitcher on the varsity women’s softball team pitched in eleven games her freshman year, starting two of those contests. The Guelph, Ontario native says her experience playing at an NCAA Division I program has been a blast so far.

“My college experience has been a lot of fun so far! I’ve met so many new people, have created new memories and have improved my skills so much. On top of all that, everyday I get to live in and explore one of the most beautiful cities in the USA!”

Kelly says that although she is really enjoying the process of being a varsity athlete, she notes that it can be demanding at times. Balancing school, practices, and a social life is a new challenge at the next level.

“A typical week during season, I would have class in the mornings, then go to lift then practice for about 3 hours in the afternoon. I would then have the rest of the night to relax or do homework. On the weekends I’ll usually be at practice or travelling to play games.”

Although some days may be tougher than others, Kelly says she would do it all over again if it means being able to compete at the highest level in North America. When asked what it means to play NCAA Division I softball, Kelly humbly replied that it was satisfying to see her hard work pay off.

“To me, being a D1 athlete means being able to compete at the highest level and work extremely hard to earn a spot at the top. I feel extremely privileged to be able to compete against teams that I have always admired and watched. The environment is mentally, emotionally and physically demanding and takes an extreme amount of effort to achieve success at this level, but I love the grind and the ability to get keep getting better to support my team’s goals.”

Kelly went through her recruitment process with our team here at NLU. She talked to lots of coaches throughout the process before making the decision to join the Cougars. Reflecting back on her recruitment process, she says learning to talk to coaches with confidence is something she would advise the next waves of hopeful student athletes.

“I wish I had understood that I did not have to be afraid to talk to coaches and have genuine conversations with them! They want to hear who you truly are and not a scripted version that you are telling every other coach. Make a connection with them and keep that connection going!” 


While Kelly is still undecided about her degree, she feels that once her career is over in Charleston that she will work in a research field of some sort, continuing to improve on her problem-solving skills. McKenna is off to a fantastic start to her student athlete career, and we expect big things from her on the field, in the classroom, and in the community in the years to come.