Every star athlete remembers that moment when a coach or teacher impacts their life in such a way that it changes the way they think about sports. Coaching mentors have a way of doing that – they can shift the gears in an athlete’s mind with a few timely and inspirational words.
Some college athletes use those motivational moments to achieve in-game glory, while others stretch the meaning and apply it to life after school.
Andrea Slavin knew what she wanted to do with her life long before her days as a soccer star at Queens College began winding to a close. Slavin, 22, saw her future in physical education as an elementary school student.
“My life has always been about giving myself to people and helping them,” said the Queens College senior. “There is no feeling better than the feeling when someone learns something because of you. If I’m a teacher and the kids leave better than they were when they started, that’s all I can ask for.”
Slavin has a way of altering situations for the better. When she graduates from Queens College, the Floral Park resident will own the school’s scoring record in women’s soccer with 42 goals in 52 games played.
“Whenever I get the ball, my first thought is to score because that’s my job,” she said. “When the ball is at my feet, if I know that I can score, then there is no other option. I don’t even think about it. And after I score, it’s just a big sigh of relief.”
Amazingly, the record belongs to Slavin even though she has never played a full season for the Knights as a result of injury.
She was always able to play through pain, only missing a couple of games here and there. But last season, Slavin suffered a torn meniscus, and for the first time, an entire season was taken away from her.
“That was the last thing I wanted to hear. When that season was taken away, it was one of the most devastating things I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “With every other injury I was always able to push through, but I just got to a point where I just couldn’t play.”
Not playing that season was a difficult decision for Slavin. Skipping that year meant that she would have to register for an extra semester at Queens College and miss out on finishing her college career with the girls she started with.
But sometimes the most difficult moments in life turn out to be the ones that shape us the most. It was that experience of sitting on the bench and keeping her teammates’ spirits high that helped to solidify her talents as a coach and motivator.
“The girls said it was important to hear my voice and that I was there with them,” she said. “They were hurt too that I couldn’t play with them.”
Slavin was able to come back from that injury and eventually break the record. She did it without fanfare – only telling her parents after she got home – because she didn’t want her teammates to think she was only playing for personal glory.
The soccer forward now moves on to coaching in an attempt to inspire a new generation of athletes. Slavin was recently chosen to coach soccer in a program focusing on positive youth development through sports. Up2Us, a national nonprofit coalition, plucked Slavin from the soccer field to serve as a Coach Across America at America SCORES NY in Summer 2012.
“I’ve never volunteered before and I’m nervous, but I couldn’t be more excited,” she said. “The rest of my life I’m going to work with kids and be a role model and improve their skills – so this worked out great.”
Sports were always a way for Slavin to let go and relieve stress – now she wants to give others that same opportunity. She also wants to be that coach, the one to flip the switch in a young athlete’s mind.
“For children who don’t have a great home life, I hope I can make a difference,” she said. “Hopefully I can be someone they would remember.”