Most college athletes understand the struggles of balancing school and sports. They are used to early morning practices and long weekends. They know that managing good grades and playing a successful season is possible because they have seen it be done by generations of players that came before them. But what happens when you are the pioneers? In its second season at UT, the women’s lacrosse team has blazed its own trail. Because of this, several players have emerged to establish a foundation for leadership and character in the team. Senior midfielder Kirsten Brierley has used her experience and understanding of these stresses to do just that.
Originally a member of the volleyball team during her freshman year at UT, Brierley has been able to share a certain expertise to a team full of players ranging from freshmen to seniors on the difficulties of being a student athlete.
“Off the field I know how hard it is to balance a sport and school and I’ve gone through all the stresses of making up work and having a test the morning after a big game,” Brierley said. “I try and support the girls and let them know that it is possible to get everything done and graduate on time, but you have to manage your time well.”
According to her teammates and coaches, Brierley embodies leadership on the field as well. In order to achieve a successful season, she consistently aims to maintain accountability in both her own and her teammates’ actions.
“Kir is one of the most motivating people on our team and keeps us on the right track,” said freshman attack Natalie Carraway. “When we set goals she is always there to make sure we keep them whether that’s on or off the field.”
Leading by example is something that Brierley is constantly cognizant of in her decisions and actions. A foot injury at the beginning of the season set Brierley back about a month and a half after she had successfully trained in the offseason. Despite the hindrance, she appeared just as capable as her teammates when she was finally cleared to play.
“In one of her first times back on the field she took the draw, got the ball, and ran right down the field and scored a goal,” said head coach Kelly Gallagher. “Kir is the kind of student-athlete who works hard in all aspects of her life.”
As the only senior currently on the team, Brierley knows that her actions have the ability to illustrate the team’s reputation. The young players that the team is comprised of look to her for guidance and she recognizes that this responsibility means her examples now could have an effect on the program’s standing in the future as well.
“Knowing that I only have a handful of games and practices left with my team I’m hoping I can leave a good impression and they know that I always had a strong work ethic, so they can keep setting the same example in the future,” Brierley said.
Although her last season playing college lacrosse is swiftly coming to a close, Brierley’s legacy is surely not. As one of the inaugural players on the UT women’s lacrosse team, she has made her mark as a hard working leader and teammate.
“I truly believe that her legacy to this team and program will be that hard work pays off,” Gallagher said. “Our team always talks about the phrase “on it or with it” which, in Spartan tradition means when a warrior goes to battle they will either die on their shield or they will return home with it. Kir is the embodiment of that tradition in the classroom, on the field at games and practice and in the weight room.”
Tess Sheets can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org