Meet the newest Longhorns: Fall orientation begins for UT student-athletes
AUSTIN, Texas -- Each year, the UT Athletics Department welcomes its new incoming freshmen and transfer student-athletes with a special five-day orientation for student-athletes and families. This special "Longhorn Welcome" to the newest members of the UT Athletics family is second to no other orientation as new students are welcomed to college campuses across the nation at this time of year.
The UT Athletics August orientation session continues to raise the bar when it comes to helping new student-athletes adjust to college life.
The newest Longhorn student-athletes - over 150 of them - officially descended on campus Friday for the beginning of The University of Texas Athletics' annual New Student-Athlete Orientation. These freshmen and transfers, from across all Longhorns sports, gathered on the Austin campus with family and friends to move into their dorms Friday morning. This was the beginning of the five-day orientation session prior to the start of fall classes (on August 31).
For all the newcomers, this is the time filled with great anticipation, excitement, and yes, anxiety and some homesickness, as they get ready to begin their UT careers. In anticipation of all this, the UT Athletics department makes the transition to college life as smooth and painless (and informative) as possible with its highly-informative, highly-organized and fully-detailed Fall Orientation.
With incredible attention to detail and assistance, the UT Athletics Department hosts meetings and seminars for the parents and their children. The Orientation of the new students continues Saturday through Tuesday (Aug. 27-30) with the returning Longhorn athletes joining their new teammates for the final days of orientation on Sunday, Aug. 28.
This annual Fall Orientation is coordinated by Dr. Randa Ryan, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Student Services, and the Academic Services staff.
The annual Fall Orientation began with Friday morning's "move-in" where the Texas coaches and returning student-athletes met the newest Longhorns at the dorms and helped them unload their belongings. Once that heavy work was accomplished, the coaching staffs took their athletes to ID distribution. The parents had opportunities to meet with the athletic staff to get questions answered about insurance, scholarships, medical records, meal plans and compliance issues.
This was followed by lunch and a two-hour "meet and greet" in the Bellmont Hall Centennial Room where all the families and new students went through an inaugural Orientation session with UT administrators, coaches and support staffers Friday afternoon. They were welcomed by words of wisdom and encouragement from DeLoss Dodds, UT Men's Athletics Director; Chris Plonsky, UT Women's Athletics Director and director of external services for men's and women's athletics; Attorney Myra McDaniel, former Texas Secretary of State and long-time supporter of UT Athletics; Alexis Garcia (Texas `05), former Longhorn standout softball player and current UT graduate student who just completed a summer internship at the White House; and Travis May (Texas '90), former UT student-athlete and basketball star who is a Longhorn assistant women's basketball coach.
"This is the most exciting time of the year for us," noted Dodds, who begins his 25th year as men's AD at Texas. "We have great teams, a terrific staff and wonderful coaches. Please take advantage of it all. Get a good, fast start academically. Do your job in the classroom, and listen to your professors, tutors and counselors. Get ahead of the game, not behind. You will be watched, and what you do will be reported on. Remember, you represent yourself, your team, the athletic department, the university, your parents and family. Be the best citizen that you can be."
"We know everyone in the world recruited you, and you made a great choice in coming to The University of Texas," stated Plonsky. "You chose us because we have great coaches and a world-class academic reputation. We have the facilities to help you train and reach your maximum ability. Our community of 430,000 alumni and our supporters here in Austin respect and support you. You've got a surrogate family here of 250 athletic staff members who choose to work in this environment and work with this age group. We are all here to help you grow and be your very best."
McDaniel, Garcia and Mays echoed those thoughts, speaking about the opportunities and responsibilities of being a Longhorn student-athlete and how important it is to buy into the "system of excellence" that The University academic and athletic staff provides.
The parents then met separately with the coaches and administrators while their sons and daughters went off to practice singing "The Eyes of Texas" as a group. As is tradition at the opening Orientation session, the newcomers proudly "wear their Horns" (put on foam burnt orange horns!) as they sing the "Eyes of Texas" and introduce themselves.
The whole move-in process and question-and-answer sessions left many parents quite impressed.
"I have not had to worry about anything since our daughter signed her national letter of intent," noted Dena Gaskin, whose daughter, Kacie, is an incoming freshman softball standout from College Station, Texas. "We had phone calls, emails and mail correspondence which prompted us to do everything. It was so organized, and today we saw the same during the move-in process. Moving Kacie into the dorm was extremely easy. It seemed like all her teammates and coaches were there to help her."
"We feel so welcomed here," noted David Gaskin, Kacie's father. "We are very excited to be here and to have Kacie as a Longhorn. UT's reputation and the atmosphere here is all that it is made up to be - and more."
Another parent, Jan Thomas, whose daughter Shannon is another of the esteemed freshmen class of softball players, traveled from Antioch, California with her daughters (Shannon and her older sister Channelle, a student at San Diego State) to attend UT's athletic orientation.
"This has been a great process for us," noted Thomas. "As a mother, I am not ready for Shannon to be here, but I know she is in great hands. I feel like everyone at UT has helped walk us through everything. The move-in was so easy this morning, and the information we are getting at orientation is invaluable. When we moved Channelle (older daughter) to her college, it took us nearly six hours before we could finish the moving process. Here, it was so easy. Everyone has made us feel welcome. My two daughters even went tubing (in nearby Guadalupe River) with some of the softball players yesterday, and they enjoyed that a lot."
Over the five-day orientation session, the student-athletes will talk about issues in sports medicine and health services with the sports medicine doctors and athletic trainers; will meet with UT administrators from Parking and Transportation Services and UT Housing and Food Services; and will attend a safety-based interactive presentation "Voices Against Violence".
They will meet with their academic advisors and go over their fall schedules and registration; do placement testing in math and writing; go over the student-athlete manual; and purchase their textbooks and supplies. The student-athletes also will get their ID's, shore up their meal plans, and attend special NCAA compliance sessions.
Once all the returning student-athletes arrive on campus later in the weekend, the newcomers will undergo pre-season screening in the training room, have their head shots taken by the UT Athletics photography staff for media relations purposes; and attend team meetings.
It is a jam-packed five days of activities, but there is built-in time for fun and relaxation with their parents and teammates. Friday night, many attended the Texas women's soccer season opener against SMU, while others went to the volleyball scrimmage against UT-San Antonio.
Many of the teams got together to relax as well before an early Saturday morning wakeup call sent them back to Bellmont Hall for an 8:30 a.m. orientation session.
The excitement and anticipation of what lies ahead was aptly summed up by men's tennis freshmen Evan Bridges and Michael Venus.
"I only got here this morning, so I haven't been able to see too much so far, but what I've seen and the people I've met have been really really impressive," noted Bridges, who hails from Tomball, Texas. "I've set high standards for myself and I know you have to work hard to do well here. So far, Texas has been everything I thought it would be."
Venus agreed, as the Orlando, Florida native stated, "Texas is an amazing place, and everything has been really nice. Things are really organized for us here. Everyone is so friendly. The academic people told us to keep a good focus on our academics because this is the kind of place that can open a lot of doors for you later on in life if you take care of your business while you are here."