Aug. 23, 2008
Christine Noteware, Texas Media Relations
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It's that time again back to school -- but this time around, a lot more than new clothes and new teachers are changing for incoming student-athletes.
On Friday, the new Longhorns student-athletes and their families took the next step on their path of change when they met with UT administrators, coaches and staff members at the UT Athletics "New Student-Athlete and Parent Reception." The athletic orientation encompasses five days, but Friday, the opening day, provided an opportunity for parents to say hello to the Longhorns family and temporarily say goodbye to their children.
"We consider this the day that our freshmen become Longhorns," said Dr. Randa Ryan, senior associate athletics director for student services. "Orientation presents a chance for parents to come to campus, and for the students to meet the academic staff and be with their coaches and get a chance to transition and learn what Texas is all about."
Friday's orientation featured a variety of speakers, including Men's Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds; Women's Athletics Director Chris Plonsky; University of Texas President William Powers and head women's track and field coach Bev Kearney.
The overall themes from the speakers were family and pride.
"No one is more important than family," Plonsky noted. "We have a saying here at UT, 'We're Texas,' but what you should really hear is, 'We're family,' and we're all here to help you."
The student-athlete and parents reception kicked off an opening day of UT Athletics Orientation in which freshmen and transfers were able to move into their dormitories as well as visit offices and staffs such as sports medicine, business, financial aid, university health services and compliance.
"We do it right at Texas," UT men's tennis head coach Michael Center said. "gives all the athletes a chance to meet all the academic people and put names and faces together. Its important to let them know where they can go if they need help or support and this is a great way to start implementing that."
Despite the first day jitters, athletes are happy to finally begin their next stage in life.
"Being on campus finally is awesome." Freshman tennis player Maya Zein-El-Abdin said. "It's so huge I've already gotten lost a couple of times. Today was fun, though, and it was really nice meeting all of the other athletes."
For baseball mom Mary McKirahan, orientation was the realization of two dreams.
"I am thrilled that Andrew is coming to Texas to play baseball," she said. "It is especially fun because I am a Longhorn, too."
Of the fear of sending her son off to college. McKirahan said, "It won't be too hard because we are not very far away in Georgetown, and we're really looking forward to be able to attend all of the sports."
By the end of the day's festivities, one general theme had been espoused by students, parents, staff and coaches pride. Nearly every freshman that introduced themselves to the assembled crowd finished by adding, "I'm proud to be a Longhorn." The parents echoed the theme.
"Although it is going to be tough leaving Mia, we're very, very pleased that she is coming to Texas," said Doug Baum, father of women's track and field newcomer Mia Baum.
Before the event was closed in traditional Longhorn fashion with the freshman serenading their parents and coaches with "The Eyes of Texas," DeLoss Dodds had one important piece of advice to impart to the newcomers.
"Everywhere you go from now on you represent yourself, your teammates, your home town and this university. That is a big responsibility do it with pride."