When you’re a student athlete, you’re the face of the university.
While performing and competing, you become a role model to people of all ages. You become a local celebrity that people can be proud of. Fans start to know your name and recognize your face, whether you know who they are or not. Social media outlets give the opportunity for alumni, fans, and students to connect with athletes and their sport.
For 3 years of my college career, I continued to follow my love for dance and earned the title of Saluki Shaker. I became a role model, a face that someone could connect with and look up to. I became one of the many faces of Southern Illinois University Athletics.
Through the challenges, triumphs, and long practice hours, it was gratifying to know that fans and alumni were proud of the hard work I was putting in. Facebook allowed for pictures and stories to be shared to keep everyone “in the social loop” with all things Shaker related. One particular instance greatly impacted my experience. We were getting ready to compete at the 2016 UDA Dance Team Nationals in Orlando, Florida. Upon our arrival, my coach snapped a picture of the team and posted it to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Within minutes of the picture being posted, alumni and Saluki Shaker fans started liking, posting, and sharing. They were letting us know that we were making them proud. That’s when the moment became real. We weren’t just dancing for us; we were dancing to represent the people of Southern Illinois.
Fast forward to the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. DeAnna Price represented the United States by competing in the hammer throw. Little did she know, she also represented everyone associated with the university. She gave the people of Southern Illinois University a voice and a person to be proud of. When the announcement came out across social media platforms, the comments, likes, and shares started rolling in. The outpouring of good wishes and pride was astonishing. The university and the people of Southern Illinois were standing behind her. In a Facebook live video that was posted to SIU’s athletic page, DeAnna expressed her gratitude of the outpouring of love and support from everyone back home. “I’m so lucky and so blessed with all the people here watching and so many people back home, family, friends. I can’t express how much I appreciate it.”
Student athletes are real people. We want to know that the hard work we put into our individual sports is worth it. Whether we are getting ready for a game or competing on global stage, encouragement helps us perform to the best of our abilities. Through platforms like social media, people can share in real time their appreciation for the talent and hard work these young men and women are putting into their sports.
Lynsey Hentrich | Twitter: @LynseyH94 | Instagram: lynsey_hentrich94