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Saint Francis University’s Olivia Walczak on Team Culture

**Athlete Interviews are posted every Thursday for recruiting advice, what to look for, and more.

Olivia Walczak is a Freshman at Saint Francis University, where she is an outside hitter for the women’s volleyball team. Olivia is a nursing major and plans to graduate in 2025. Throughout  this interview, we talk about what it’s like to be a freshman at a DI school after COVID and the transition from high school to collegiate athletics. 

  1. What was the most challenging part about your recruiting process?

One of the most challenging parts of the recruiting process was getting my name out to coaches and getting exposure in person as well. The in-person recruiting was definitely extra challenging for me due to COVID and the travel restrictions. It made it much tougher to get on campuses or go to tournaments to get that initial exposure.

Related: 6 Tips to Get Recruited for Division I Volleyball

  1. How was your high school to college transition?

The transition was initially rough coming right into preseason and having 2-3 practices a day. It was a big adjustment from summer to a strict schedule. After about 2 weeks of this routine, it became pretty much normal and was much easier to manage. Once classes started, I only had practice once a day, which felt like nothing. But, after the first 2 weeks I got into a routine and no longer struggle with being so busy; I actually enjoy it!

  1. What is something that you were not expecting coming into college and your season? 

I was not expecting all the girls on my team to care so much about me as a person. It is truly amazing to have a support system configured of 18 sisters. There is always someone available to talk if needed and everyone really cares about your life and how you are doing. 

Related: What I Didn’t Expect as a College Team Captain

  1. How difficult was it to figure out time management for school and volleyball?

It wasn’t a horrible adjustment since we are required to have at least 4 hours of study table a week, which in a way forced me to sit down and do my work. In addition to that, on the weekends we are traveling I have learned to take advantage of the long bus rides and the study tables our coaches have in the morning.

Related: 4 Tips on Time Management for College Athletes

  1. What is your favorite part about being on this team?

My favorite part of this team is our culture and energy when in the gym. It’s truly amazing to be around so many others that love volleyball as much as I do. It makes the bond between me and my teammates stronger and even helps us on the court.

  1. Is there anything that you would change about your recruiting process?

Personally, I would not change anything. I am so grateful for where I chose to go to school and for everyone who helped me get there.

  1. Do you think that COVID affected your choice in schools at all?

Definitely, I think it limited my choices and ability to be seen by coaches. I think being able to visit more campuses could have altered my decision as well. There were multiple dead periods during the time of COVID, meaning communication with Division I coaches was not possible for a while. 

Related: Are Disparities of Recruiting During Covid-19 Affecting Athletes?

  1. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from your coach?

The best thing my coach has ever said to me was that our goal in the gym was to make progress not to be perfect. This statement definitely stuck with me and I think about it daily.

Related: Work Together Forever

  1. What recruiting advice would you give to high school athletes?

Get your name out there! Almost to the point where you are blowing up the coaches inbox. It is important to be yourself when having phone conversations with coaches and be very outgoing. And most importantly when having a phone call with a coach, ASK QUESTIONS!

Related: NC State Volleyball Coach Linda Hampton-Keith Offers Recruiting Advice

  1. What is your favorite memory from this season?

My favorite memory so far this season is when we had a team dinner at our seniors’ house. The rest of the team convinced the freshman that the team normally dresses up for dinner. So clueless as can be, me and the other freshman all got ready only to be greeted by the entire team still in their practice gear. It was a major bonding moment for everyone and overall a good laugh. 

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