Adapting to the Green Wave ways: high school to college athletics

Chandler Daddario, Associate Sports Editor Susan Fanelli

Adjusting to college is known to be a difficult process. The shifts in both social and academic lifestyles alone can sometimes be too much to take.  Add a position on a Division I athletic team to all of that and most would think it’s impossible.   

Freshman punter/kicker Zachary Block and freshman middle blocker Dayna Kern have experienced this transition this semester. Between balancing classes, new friendships and a rigorous schedule of practice and games, Block and Kern have had a lot to manage in their start to college. 

From Clermont, Florida, Block was a three-year letterman at East Ridge High and committed to Tulane last January.

Kern, from Vancouver, British Columbia, who led her team to a U18 Canadian National Championship, had another level of transition coming to a new country and leaving her loved ones behind. Both have experienced what it is to be a successful on and off the field or court and they hoped their success would transition to Tulane.   

Freshmen college athletes go into their Division 1 schools as the youngest and least experienced athletes and are then given the opportunity to play among the best of the best.  

Block was shocked when he was given the green light to start after just four games.  

“At first I struggled a little bit,” Block said. “I was a little scared having 22-year-olds coming at me while I’m only 18 and I am a freshman. There is quite a big age difference coming at me, so I was a little scared at first.”

For Block, the transition has been more than he expected simply because the amount of schoolwork and level of play has increased from high school.  

“It is definitely a lot harder than balancing high school football,” Block said. “College is a lot harder than high school and is more than I expected.” 

For Kern, the transition has been easier due to the support of both her fellow freshmen and her upperclassmen teammates, some also hailing from Canada and providing a sense of home. 

“I think everybody understands the pressure and everybody’s still going through it,” Kern said. “People understand that you haven’t been here and you don’t know anyone. They understand how hard it is.” 

The feelings of community between new freshman is not restricted to separate teams. According to Kern, the experience of starting at a new school as a freshman athlete was universal. 

“I got to know a bunch of freshman athletes when I came early, and I think when you’re all put in the same boat, you really connect with each other,” Kern said.  

Given the status a college athlete carries, there is a lot of weight and sense of importance placed on a student, especially at an institution of higher learning. Block and Kern understand the value of being a college athlete and hold similar views on the meaning. 

“I think it very prestigious to be an athlete at Tulane,” Block said. “You kind of want to get a really good GPA your freshman year and balancing that when you’re an athlete is pretty hard so I think you are looked at as pretty high here.”

Along with Block, Kern holds a positive outlook on the transition into college athletics. 

“I think as a freshman athlete, you’re coming in with a fresh mind, a new perspective,” Kern said. “Your job is to contribute to the team in whatever way you can, whether you play or don’t play. It’s just coming in with a fresh attitude, being ready to do what you need to do to help the team.”