The Impact of Sports

Just who is on the Cover of the Impact of Sports Issue.

| 2017 Q3 | story and photos by Steven Hertzog
 Sports Impact

Left to Right: Sara Sidebottom, Jeff Long, Willie Amison, Natalia Bartnovskaya Price , James Naismith, Candace Dunback, José Muñoz

You may not have heard of all six of the former University of Kansas student athletes gracing the cover of the Lawrence Business Magazine’s Impact of Sports issue. However, their stories about the significance sports have played in their lives are but a few of the hundreds that impact our community.

These half-dozen are a small cross-section representing the diverse group of KU student athletes. As we are inundated with sports news and a 24/7 news cycle, it’s easy to become jaded about the realities facing student athletes. The focus is more on the “famous” athlete whose name is consistently in the news or on talk radio: the athlete who is the ‘star’ on the team, the All American or the athlete who opted to go pro after a year of college and sign that million-dollar contract.

At the Lawrence Business Magazine, we would like to point out that for every headline star, there are hundreds of four-year student athletes who juggle academic and social demands with the challenges of competing on the collegiate level. They use their talents to graduate smarter and stronger, then go into the world and take on challenges and make a positive impact on our community.

Candace (Mason) Dunback

Candace (Mason) Dunback is the Senior Director of K Club and Traditions in the University of Kansas athletic department. As a student-athlete at KU, she was a five-time All-American and five-time conference champion in track and field, as well as an Academic All-American. Dunback still holds the Kansas school records in the heptathlon and pentathlon. She graduated from KU in 1999 and received her master’s degree in 2002. Dunback and her husband, Chris (also a Kansas track and field alum), have two boys, Conor and Caden.

While a student athlete, Candace Dunback says she learned that there is “power in achieving goals with others — you don’t have to do it alone. Pushing yourself through the boundaries you perceive opens a multitude of possibilities.”

Dunback is forever reminding young athletes about the importance of putting back into the community. She tells students that no one has gotten to where they are in life alone. Adopting a mindset of gratitude for your blessings is contagious to others. It should be shared.

A lifelong lesson Dunback learned from her experience as a student athlete and working with others from diverse backgrounds is that “people can change if they open their hearts to it — physically, mentally, emotionally and scholastically.”

Dunback spends her life working with student athletes and has sage advice for them. “Embrace the journey. The destination will come. Be competitive in all aspects of life — it carries over to your sport. For example, if you procrastinate in studying for an exam, that carries over to your mental state in the starting blocks. If you leave room for insecurity and doubt in other aspects of life, it will seep into your confidence always. Choose to study. Choose to show up on time. Choose to do an extra rep.”

Willie Amison

Willie Amison is a former KU football player and school principal. He is currently an educational consultant at KU’s Equal Opportunities Center as well as the president of Amison Consulting and the organizer of Lawrence’s “Can We Talk?” program.

Amison’s main takeaways from playing team sports were learning to work as a team and building quality, lasting relationships.

“I am only as good as my ability to work with others, as people cannot solve problems in isolation. An individual has to gain a good understanding of true collaboration and teamwork,” Amison says. He feels that on the playing field of both sports and in life, if you work with a dedicated team approach and utilize the many talents you have on your team, it will ensure a more positive outcome.

Amison believes strongly that the impact of becoming a young adult and learning from other team members, coaches, instructors and other adults played a major part in his development. “My early college years with my new friends and teammates would turn out to be a major formative point in my life.”

His advice to future college student athletes is straightforward: “It is important to work at all aspects of your improvement as a student athlete and a human being. Take time to truly see what is being asked of you and how it will make things better in other areas of your life. More students hopefully are entering college with hopes of getting a degree, but if this is not your first thought or focus, it certainly should be. As one attends classes and interacts with others, it becomes abundantly clear you have an opportunity to enhance your life.”

Jeff Long

Jeff Long, a former member of the KU baseball and football teams, is Director of Aviation Services for the University of Kansas.

Long says he learned many things while competing in sports, but if he had to select one lesson, it would be “don’t give up.” He reminds us that in sports, we are taught that the game is not over until the whistle blows, the buzzer sounds or the fat lady sings.

Long still remembers a number of games where his team was able to put that lesson into action and pull out a last-minute victory. “This lesson transferred to my military career as an officer, leader and bomber pilot, allowing completion of a project or mission when others would have hung it up.”

Long thinks it’s important to give back to your community. He feels that those who have the chance to compete at the college level have a real opportunity impact others in a positive way. Acknowledging and being grateful for this should manifest itself in giving back to others who do not have that opportunity.

His advice to today’s athletes is to “work hard and be grateful — one never knows when the talent might be taken away by injury or accident. Be humble and kind. It is very easy to set yourself apart as a college athlete if you will be truly humble and kind.”

Natalia Bartnovskaya Price

Natalia Bartnovskaya Price was born in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, where she was raised in an athletic family and dedicated herself to track and field. In 2010, she came to the United States on a full track and field scholarship to Vincennes University in Indiana. After winning five individual national championships, setting an NJCAA record in pole vaulting and earning an Interior Design degree, Bartnovskaya Price was recruited on an athletic scholarship by the University of Kansas. As a Jayhawk, she became a three-time All-American and two-time National Champion.

Bartnovskaya Price says that she “learned to be competitive not only during competitions, but also during every practice. Challenging teammates and myself at practice helped to push my limits and be comfortable outside of my comfort zone. I learned to carry a competitive yet supportive attitude in every aspect of my life, which helps me to grow as a person.”

Bartnovskaya Price credits discipline and consistency as the key elements that helped her to stay organized and succeed in both academics and athletics.

Her advice to student athletes is this: “Sometimes the fear of failure gets in the way of success. Therefore, I would advise setting high goals and be fearless and confident working towards them.”

José Muñoz

José Muñoz is from Rio Rico, Arizona. Muñoz aspires to become an athletic director and an agent of change. While at Kansas, Muñoz competed in cross country as a Jayhawk for three years before an injury cut short his career. He continued to be involved with the track and field program as team manager in 2013-2014.

Muñoz is a Coordinator of Student-Athlete Development/Director of Operations (Row). Muñoz earned his master’s degree at the University of Kansas from the Higher Education Administration program. The University of Kansas awarded his undergraduate degree in Sports Management.

“As a student-athlete, I learned how to deal with failure and disappointment,” Muñoz says. “My collegiate career was full of ups and downs — each one was a teachable moment, depending on how you look at it. Not only can you overcome any obstacle that life throws your way, but also, the knowledge that you don’t have to do it alone.”

Muñoz has coordinated community outreach programs for student-athletes aimed at changing lives by empowering the Lawrence community to realize its fullest potential through physical activity, education and leadership.

His advice to young student athletes? “Have fun in the process. Pursue things that matter to you, sharing your unique gifts with the world and continually seeking to improve yourselves. Help make the world a better place, foster meaningful relationships, treat time as a most valuable resource and be grateful every day.”

Sara Sidebottom

Sara Sidebottom was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, and attended nearby Buhler High School. She played softball at KU before graduating in 2008. She says that believing in herself was a major takeaway from time spent as a student-athlete at Kansas. “Coming in as a walk-on, I felt a lot of pressure to prove myself and show not only the coaching staff, but those already on the team, that I was willing to work hard and earn a spot on the roster.”

One of Sidebottom’s main lessons from being a competitive student athlete was time management — learning to balance practice and competition schedules with a full class load every semester.

Some of her fondest memories as a KU student athlete were when the team was “out helping, whether it be serving food at the shelter or working with Habitat for Humanity. It shows the community that you are thankful for the opportunity to be here as well as thankful to those who support the athletic programs.”

Sidebottom says her advice to student athletes who are about to dive into the realm of college athletics is to find a balance. “Being a student-athlete can be time and life consuming between practice, competition and schooling, but you have to be able to enjoy your time as a college student while remembering not to underestimate the importance of sleep!”

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