Hey y’all! My name is Hayley Bingham, I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas in a little town called Rockwall. I started playing golf when I was 13 years old and realized right away it was going to take me far. I played competitively and found myself in the position to play college golf so I started the process the summer after my junior year. I went on countless visits and met with players and coaches all trying to get me to their school. My last recruitment visit was to the University of Montana about three weeks before early signing. It was my last chance to really find what I was looking for and I did. Three weeks later I signed my National Letter of Intent and started calling myself a grizzly.
Throughout my four years of being a Griz, I found that being involved in a sport and trying to play at the next level takes courage and discipline. I had to make sacrifices when it came to friends, family, school and a social life. I found myself using my sport as an excuse to get out of going out with friends or taking 8AM classes, but I also realized that it was the reason I had missed out on a lot of things. This was only the beginning, my four years at UM taught me a lot of things about the kind of person I wanted to be, the kinds of people I wanted to surround myself with, and what hard work and dedication really got me.
So here are the 8 ways being a student-athlete has changed my life:
On my visit and all throughout my collegiate career, all of my advisors and coaches stressed that I was a student before I was an athlete. But there were times when I found myself having to pick one or the other just like everything else. At the end of the day, my time and energy went into my sport and everything that comes with being a student-athlete. This is just the way it goes, I had to find a way to balance school and golf. I can remember always having to do homework after 36 hole days and wondering how any of the information stayed in my head. To this day, I am still convinced that it didn’t!
Becoming a college athlete was one of this best moments of my life but nothing had prepared me for the road I was starting down. 6 AM workouts, 4:30 AM wake up calls to make it to the airport, traveling all day long, waking up to compete and then waking up to compete again. Doing all of these things while trying to stay up on school work and have a social life eventually starts to wear on your mindset and your body. I remember thinking nothing could get worse than high school athletics but I was wrong. It was a whole other ball game in college.
A couple times during my four years I thought about quitting or transferring. Things do get hard and sometimes when it seems like nothing is going your way this can seem like the easy way out. I had a coaching change after my freshman year and I thought about transferring but I was glad I stayed. My sophomore year I got injured in the second tournament of the season, ultimately stepping in a hole breaking my foot. I had a long recovery and got depressed and felt like I battled through it all on my own. There were times during my injury that I thought about quitting but I was really glad I didn’t! After my junior year I had another coaching change and wondered what else could happen? I was glad that I stayed for my senior year at UM because it was probably one of the best experiences of my life. So, I argue that anyone who is looking to step away or transfer should remember that they picked this university for a reason. Yes, things do get hard and everyone goes through slumps during their time as a college athlete but preserver through and it will be worth it.
I believe that no matter where you go to school, if you are an athlete you are known. I found this out very quickly once I got to UM. I would go get dinner with some of my teammates and people would point at our poster and then point back at us. It was so awkward but people knew who we were. Even if they didn’t know us by name they recognized us and that made me think about the way that I carried myself.
For me, I can think of many times where I would miss up to two weeks of classes at a time. I can remember a specific time where I was in class one day and the professor didn’t call my name on the roll. I remember thinking it was bizarre but just waited until after class to bring it up. Once class was over, I went down to the professor and told her that she skipped me on the roll. Her response to me was that she just assumed that I had dropped the class because I hadn’t been there in almost two weeks. Everything got cleared up but it was one of the weirdest things that has ever happened to me.
No matter what, my team will always be a part of me and I consider them to be family. We went through so much together: wins, losses, losing and gaining teammates, losing and gaining coaches… the list goes on and on. No matter what we were there for each other and because of that we have a bond that can never be broken.
I have made some of the best friends from college golf. We get to go to so many places and meet so many different people that I have met people from all over the world. I am beyond thankful that college golf is the reason these people were brought into my life. If I could give anyone advice, it would be to cherish these relationships and make the best of this experience.
College golf is over in the blink of an eye, it doesn’t always seem like it but it is. If there is one thing I have realized, it is that you have to give it your all, all of the time. Once you make that last putt on the last day of that tournament your collegiate career is over! I didn’t completely realize this until after the conference tournament was over and I was on the plane back to Missoula, Montana for the last time.
At the end of the day, college golf is probably one of the hardest things I have ever done, but if I had to go back and change it I would do it all the same. The experience was unlike anything I have ever been a part of and I will always cherish the memories I have made here. Thank you UM and thank you to all of my family, friends, coaches and teammates who put up with my crazy self along the way.
Fun loving, golf playing, sweet tea drinking southern girl
I sit here writing this after a long weekend of class, ironically listening to Paramore’s song “Pressure”, trying to wrap my brain around everything that has been going on in my life thus far. I’m about to graduate in two months, and the question that not only gets asked everyday, but haunts my dreams, is what do I want to do when I graduate.
Let’s back track six years ago to my first day at the University of Montana. I had declared a vocal performance major due to a scholarship I had received through the School of Music. Not necessarily knowing if I wanted to go the performance route, I knew I had to pursue something in music. About two years into the program I didn’t feel like performing opera was going to do it for me as a career. Don’t get me wrong, singing in different languages at ungodly high notes was rad, but if I wasn’t going to perform or teach what was I going to do.
I had heard some students talk about the Entertainment Management program through the School of Business, so with curiosity I took the Entertainment Management 101 class. Fast forward to today. Two months to graduation. And all because of that one class I will be graduating with a degree in Marketing, minor in Music, and certificate in Entertainment Management. Through the University of Montana I have been able to do marketing for huge tours, run VIP events, and learn from industry professionals. But I have also been to conferences, music festivals, and met people who have taught me more than I have learned just sitting in a classroom.
I have had numerous conversations with my peers, students of different majors, and people who have sat at my bar rail at Buffalo Wild Wings who have straight up laughed at the fact that I want to make music a career. I have been asked how would you make a living doing that? How will you ever have a family with a schedule like that? Why aren’t you wanting a career in something a little more practical, that has some job security?
After trying to explain my reasoning a million times, the only answer I have left, is it’s my passion, it’s what drives me, it’s what makes me a better person, and to be honest at times it’s what has kept me alive.
If you were to ask your favorite artist what made them want to be in music, someone promoting shows in your local area, someone who created a festival from the ground up, or a band who travels in a van touring around the country why they are pursing music, could probably give you a similar answer.
For some people they have found success in music not going to college, which is honestly so inspiring. College isn’t for everyone, and to be honest, that degree I am about to receive in two months is something that millions of people all over the world may have. It doesn’t make me better than anyone else, but it’s something I felt like I had to complete in order to start the next chapter in my life.
One thing I do know is what my passion is, and that’s music. Music has been what has brought me to school, and you bet your ass it’s what I will be doing the rest of my life. It has to be. Ever since I was little sitting in front of my parents stereo, doing some weird rendition of the chicken dance, music has been a part of me. It’s what I turn on when I wake up, and what I’m listening to when I go to sleep. For me a life or career without some facet of music isn’t a fulfilling life for me.
Below is one of my favorite lyrics that has always resonated with me, and is a constant reminder of why I do what I love, and fuck anyone who tells me different.
“Someday I hope to make it clear to you that success is not determined by leather bound books and ink on paper, but rather the passion that I have found out of heartbreak and anger. I know that happiness is stability, but stability is not a desk job. And I refuse to sacrifice my aspirations for an income and security.”
-“Nineteen” by Movements
Blog by: Chanelle Paakkonen
Photo by: Chanelle Paakkonen
Why are you here?
Everyone approaches college differently. Some people come to college for the social aspect, others for the academic enrichment, some for the life experience, and then there’s always a few folks who have no idea what they’re doing. Regardless of which category you fall into, there are plenty of decisions that must be made in order to shape your college experience.
What is success?
I’ve noticed a pretty common theme over the course of my time at the University of Montana. There’s a constant stigma surrounding what success is as a college student. How many meetings you have a week, how many clubs you’re in, how many credits you’re taking, if you have an internship, blah blah blahhh, the list goes on forever! Basically, it’s a competition to see how busy everyone else is and you’re the winner if you get the least amount of sleep. And let me tell you, that’s not a fun game to be playing! The reality is though, if you want to get the most out of your college experience, there’s not a whole lot of time to block in for things like eating and sleeping, let alone time to yourself, especially for those students that want that 4.0 GPA.
Does GPA really matter?
Basically, you have to make sacrifices in one area or another unless you want to be in school for 10 years, so it’s important to focus in on what matters. I’ve decided that through my experiences over the past two and a half years in school, GPA is most definitely not everything. I’ve had multiple internships and jobs throughout my college career in order to gain hands-on experience and gain on-the-job skills, and to be honest, my employers couldn’t care less about my GPA. And it’s not like my GPA is bad, or even below average, but it’s definitely not perfect!
When discussing GPA with business professionals and company owners, their responses have been shockingly consistent across the board: if you passed your classes and learned from them, GPA really doesn’t pull as much weight as one might think. Shocking, I know. To most employers your personality, interview and overall experience is what gets you a job, not a high GPA. A high grade point average is definitely a bonus and if you have it, you should flaunt it, but it’s not the end of the world if you can’t maintain an A average all 4 years.
Focus on real life experiences.
Personally, I’ve chosen to use my time in college to involve myself in activities that will help me grow as a person and become a more well-rounded individual. Not only do these extracurricular activities look great on a resume, but more than anything, the experiences I’ve gained through my involvement will help me in an interview and with on-the-job situations.
I feel as though I’ve learned more through my membership and leadership roles in organizations such as student senate, my sorority, marketing clubs, internships, and many others, than I possibly could have learned by solely sitting in a classroom. I can’t emphasize enough how beneficial these outside activities have been on both a personal and professional level. In order to take advantage of these leadership and developmental opportunities it is impossible for me to achieve a 4.0 while maintaining membership in these clubs and working two jobs. This is the sacrifice I’ve chosen to make. For those of you that can manage such a feat, more power to you! But personally, I feel that I’ve gained so much more by choosing to participate in as much as possible than I ever would have choosing to spend that time reading a text book.
This tactic definitely doesn’t work for every major or every job field, but if you think about it, a 4.0 only goes so far if you can’t communicate with people or understand how to effectively problem solve.
Find your passion and do what makes you happy.
The point is, do what you’re passionate about. College is a time to explore and figure out what matters to you on a personal level. Don’t waste this opportunity by not going to class, but on the flip side, don’t waste it by choosing to study 24 hours a day either. Join clubs, find a fun job, hang out with new people, and just involve yourself. You get out of college what you choose to put into it, so take advantage of the opportunities presented to you.
Have fun and think about the things that truly benefit your future and make you happy.
I’d love to hear your feedback and opinions on the subject of GPA and extracurriculars. Comment below and share some stories about your college experience!