Friday, September 6, 2013

Kristin Scharkey Steps Into Justin's World

Will the stardom never cease? Let me tell you, when I got in touch with today's feature to set up an interview, despite being a huge star and being in the middle of WEDDING PLANNING and a thousand other things, she was incredibly kind and gracious... it's Kristin Scharkey Jensen!

Scharkey should be a household name for Big Ten softball fans, and among fans active online and on social media. I first became aware of her Schark Bytes blog a couple of years ago, and I was very impressed by her writing skills. I began to take notice of her on-field play after that, and was impressed all over again. A four-year starter, she was a fixture in center field for the Cats and a team leader.

In addition to her stellar on-field play, Scharkey was a most excellent student, evident by her three Academic All-Big Ten selections. In 2012, her junior year, Scharkey was also an NFCA All-America Scholar Athlete.

She's an awesome writer, so you know this is gonna be a good one! Be sure you're following Scharkey through her website and on Facebook and Twitter @kristin__jensen

Why #3?

I always wore #9 when I played any sport because my dad wore it when he played baseball at Pepperdine. Once I got to high school, I decided I wanted to choose my own number and went with #3!
Why did you choose to study and play ball at Northwestern?

On my recruiting visits, Northwestern had a very special, very unique family atmosphere that I didn't feel at other schools. I was completely won over by the combination of loyalty and hard work that I felt from the girls and the coaches. Kate and Caryl are two women who not only push you to be your best as an athlete, but off the field as well. In their program, they develop young women and prepare all of us for life after college, and that was exactly what I wanted out of my college experience. Plus, I knew I wanted to study journalism, and Medill is the best journalism school in the nation.

For you what was [or is] the best part of being a Wildcat?

I don't know if I can pick just one! Being a Wildcat has allowed me to meet people that I wouldn't have met otherwise- people who have shaped me into the person I am today. From the staff on campus to our alumni network, the Northwestern circle is full of unique individuals who are all extremely passionate about their success and the success of the graduates that are coming behind them. I'm so grateful to have had the chance to develop relationships with people like Christine Brennan and Doug Meffley, for instance, who have not only supported me on the softball diamond, but fostered the growth of my writing as well. (I'm a journalism undergrad and creative non-fiction graduate student.) I also love that Kate and Caryl recruit an extremely diverse group of women and cultivate a team culture in which everyone is expected to celebrate the team's differences. Being a part of their program has allowed me to mature into a better version of myself. Every day, I got to learn from teammates who come from a completely different place than me-- and I now I get to be a part of that Wildcat network that molded me as a student.

What was it like after the last out was recorded in your final game, to realize there is no next game or next season and you can’t “get them next time”?

This year, it was difficult because we were on the bubble for the NCAA tournament after our second-round loss in the Big Ten Tournament. There was about a 50/50 chance that my last at-bat against Wisconsin could've been my last. So it was a difficult span of emotion to know it might possibly be the last time I stepped on a field and played the game I've played since I was a little girl. At the same time, though, I still had hope that we'd make it to post-season. When we didn't, we were all crushed. For me and my classmates especially, it was tough to know that our careers were over. It wasn't the way we wanted to go out.

If you could relive or redo one moment from your career, what would it be?

I would relive our post-season run in the Austin regional last year over and over and over again. It's a week I'll never forget-- from the night our entire team packed into the softball house to watch the selection show (and screamed so loud that it started shaking) to each of those games in Texas. The combination of playing on such a big stage, the do-or-die competitive atmosphere and the enormous amount of support we received from Northwestern fans was incredible.

Do you have hopes or plans to be involved with the game, perhaps on a coaching or mentoring level, in the future?

My dream and passion has always been to be a writer. That is what I'm going to pursue, but I'll definitely still be involved in the game on some level! Let's be honest, I'm much too competitive of a person to just watch sports for the rest of my life. My teammate, Emily Allard and I have joked that we're going to secretly enter a slow pitch softball league once she's done with her fifth year!

Talk about your plans and dreams for the future now that your playing career is done.

Like I said, writing is my passion. I earned my undergraduate degree in journalism and I'm currently pursuing my MFA in creative non-fiction from Northwestern. My goal is to get a book published sometime down the road. I also feel very strongly called by God to serve overseas-- in what capacity, however, I don't know yet! I got to spend the summer last year in Rwanda, volunteering in local schools. It was life changing, and it's an experience that I definitely see being repeated in the near future.

Was playing pro ball something you considered?

Playing pro ball this summer would've conflicted with another huge event in my life- I'm getting married to my best friend, Northwestern football player Mike Jensen, in July!

I know you’re also a very dedicated Christian. How does your relationship with Christ affect your on-field play?

In our sport, we can fail 70% of the time and still be considered an All-American. Yet because that failure is so prevalent, it takes a lot of mental toughness to be able to put strike outs/errors/etc behind you and keep moving on. It's a constant ladder to climb. For a long time, I took that mentality into my relationship with Christ and in my approach to life. I'm a serious perfectionist. It was easy to think that I had to earn God's love in the same way that I earned success on the softball diamond. I also had to work really hard to deal with failure in a positive, productive way. Thankfully, God grabbed ahold of my heart in college and showed me that His love is actually the opposite. His grace is limitless and His mercies are new every morning; now I'm motivated to bring Him glory out of my understanding and awe of His forgiveness instead of fear of failure or perfectionism. That has translated into my on-field play. In my last couple years, it was easier to give myself grace and simply move on after failure. And especially after several injuries and an eye-opening trip to Rwanda, I really just felt extremely blessed to be out there playing the sport that I loved. There are thousands of gifts from God every day-- if we just look for them-- and it still makes me smile thinking about the HUGE one He gave me in the opportunity to play college softball.

Let’s say you were stranded on a deserted island and could take three items with you. What would you carry along?

My Bible, Redeeming Love by Francis Rivers, a journal

Who would you pick to play you in a movie about your life?

Emma Stone! (Just because she's my favorite)

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