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My Time as a Charger

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My Time as a Charger

Photo Courtesy of Charger Athletics

Photo Courtesy of Charger Athletics

Photo Courtesy of Charger Athletics

Photo Courtesy of Charger Athletics

Michael Kandolin, Men's Track and Field

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When I was approached  to write about my four years as a student-athlete here at the University of New Haven I was both surprised and at a loss for words. The task to me was monumental. I had to figure out how to put the best four years of my life, so far, into words. A challenge that I was happy to accept. So here is my best attempt at trying to give respect to the years that have shaped me tremendously.

Four years ago I was invited on a recruiting trip down to New Haven. I was sitting in my English class telling my teacher how I didn’t think I even wanted to take it. After not getting into my dream school I had come to peace with going to a sister campus for a year and trying to transfer to the larger campus the next. Her words were

“Michael, you don’t know if you will like it or not. Worse case, you get to go on an official visit.”

So I took the visit. In hindsight, it was one of the best decisions I have made over the course of my short 21 years.

Campus, in the beginning, was in my eyes huge. To think I thought walking from Westside to Bartels was a hike makes me laugh today. The freshman version of myself was an overwhelmed kid who had never been away from home for any long period of time so coming to college was a big step. The culture of the school helped me get settled quickly. I always noticed that everyone on campus was friendly. From professors to students, if you need something everyone seemed like they would drop everything to help a fellow human out. It felt like they actually cared about one another, something that is sadly uncommon in today’s society.

The family-like atmosphere here for me has been one of the largest reasons I believe I have been able to make the most out of these past couple of years. At the University of New Haven, I have felt like a person and not just another student. My professors have opened my mind to ideas and thoughts which would have never occurred if I had not been pushed to think deeper about issues and expand my worldview. Conversations with professors that begin with “How are you doing?” rather than “How can I help you?” are a testament to the type of people that teach here. This subtle difference is why I have loved school so much. This care has been the driving force behind the strong relationships I have been able to build with them, to me they are not just my professors, they are mentors.

When it comes to athletics, track and field is an interesting sport because it is all on you. There is no one to blame for under performance other than yourself. For someone who has come from a multi-sport background, with an emphasis on team sports, competing on a high level, let alone successfully perform, in a single person sport was a large mountain to climb. Coach Givan was the perfect person to come into my life and made a razor-sharp sword out of an ugly and stubborn slab of steel.

I think I can speak for all single sport coaches when I say it is not building the physical ability of someone that is challenging. It is building the unshakable confidence that presents the biggest challenges.  This type of coaching takes a lot of patience and love for your athletes. The first year I was a timid kid with low self-confidence and Coach Givan built me into a man that believes there is no ceiling for what I can accomplish. She took a kid with little talent but a burning fire to improve and made him a champion. Both in the circle and in my mind. Something I never thought was possible. For this, I will forever be grateful. I can only hope to impact the lives of others the way my Coaches have impacted mine.

Take away everything, grades, championships, and any accomplishment. The life lessons that my professors and coaches have taught me will stay with me forever. They say it takes a village to raise a child and every member of my New Haven family has impacted me in  little ways. They have empowered me to take on all life has in store for me with confidence and a smile. I can’t take credit for any of my accomplishments, they are merely the product of having faith and trust in all of the great things New Haven was willing to offer me.

The biggest blessing in my life was not getting into my “dream” school. It was heartbreaking at the time but now, sitting here four years later, If I could go back I would not change a single thing. the University of New Haven is and has been the school of my dreams. It will be a sad moment for me when I walk across that stage and say goodbye to the place that has been so good to me. But to paraphrase Winnie the Pooh:

“How lucky am I to have had something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Thank you New Haven, it’s been one heck of a ride.

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