Augustana athletes finding inspiration to play the game they love

Jannae Mehaffey

Many athletes play their sport because they love the game. But for most, it is not just themselves they play for. 
For many athletes, there isn’t just one person that inspires them. When some athletes think about their inspiration to play sports, they think of their teammates, coaches, friends and parents. For other athletes, they have just a couple people they keep in mind while playing.
Family has and continues to inspire many Augustana athletes to work hard at their sport. Whether it is siblings or parents, they always have your back and always believe in you. They provide you the opportunity to excel in your sport and play the game that you love. AJ Gonsowski, a senior on the women’s lacrosse team, is inspired by her brother. 
“My younger brother joined lacrosse not long after I did, so it is something we do together 150 miles apart. He continues to inspire me to push harder and try to have better stats than him,” Gonsowski said. 
Having a sibling that plays the same sport has given Gonsowski someone outside of Augustana who not only pushes her to play better, but also understands exactly what she is going through. Even though they are miles apart, Gonsowski said that lacrosse brings them together and inspires her to keep giving it her all at every practice and game. 
Stephanie Melendez, a sophomore on the women’s swim team, and Lizzie Oswalt, a junior in track and field, both found their inspiration to start playing sports from their moms. Not all athletes know what sport they want to play or if they want to play sports at all, so oftentimes parents encouraging them to try is just what they need. 
“I was in between doing sports, and my mom really encouraged me to try something new and to push me out of my comfort zone a little bit, and that’s when I found swimming,” Melendez said.
“My mom inspired me to start track in seventh grade because she had always told me I was fast and should try it,” Oswalt said. 
Teammates play a huge role in inspiring athletes to keep working hard through the ups and downs of sports. Not only are teammates there for you on the field, but also off the field. They are the foundation of a team and are the reason many athletes continue to play their sport. 
“My amazing teammates are my inspiration. They are the reason I show up to practice with a smile on my face every day. I love that we encourage and support one another on a daily basis. They’re the best family I could ask for,” Melendez said. 
For Melendez, her teammates are more than just friends, they are practically family. Having such a strong bond with her teammates she said is what motivates her to show up everyday to practice ready to give it her all not only for herself, but for her teammates as well. 
“When lacrosse gets hard, I immediately look at my teammates. More often than not, they are going through the same hardships as me, so it is nice to relate and go through the same things,” Gonsowski said. 
Coaches often see something in players from the start, and inspire them to do their best.
“I actually signed up to bowl at Augustana when I entered college. I was looking for something more physical and athletic as I had done in highschool. Thankfully, Coach CJ had allowed me the opportunity to come out on the field to try it out and I’ve been here ever since,” Gonsowski said.    
“My coach inspires me by pushing me to be my best, but not just my best athletic self, my best personal self as well,” Oswalt said.