Playing a sport in college is hard. It’s rewarding. It’s fun. It’s stressful.
From the current players and alumni we’ve talked to over the years, playing sports in college is the best time of their lives. The enjoyment of participating at the highest level while making friends for a lifetime is a draw that’s hard to turn down. But the experience is not without its downsides.
You must also learn quickly how to manage your time (of which you have none of), deal with defeat, and persevere through whatever is thrown at you day in and day out.
With The Wire, transparency and education are paramount. We try to teach athletes about the nuanced reality of being a collegiate athlete with everything we do at Signing Day Sports. And who better to convey these realities than a six-year college softball athlete?
Katie Hinkle graduated from Long Island University in 2022 and soon after began working in the athletic department at St. Mary’s College in California. In her conversation with The Wire, she talked about her experience being recruited and memories from her decorated six-year career.
For our readers, there’s always something to take away from these types of interviews. Hinkle’s experiences shine a light on the day-to-day experiences and lives of NCAA athletes. And as a professional in the industry today, she knows better than anybody what it takes to be successful.
Katie Hinkle’s Interview with The Wire
The Wire: How do you look back on your experience being recruited now?
Hinkle: I primarily remember the constant stress. I think anyone who has played softball knows the feeling I’m talking about.
Some days, I truly felt like it just wasn’t going to happen for me. Ironically, it wasn’t my proactivity that helped me get recruited. In one particular game, I just happened to play really well in front of a coach who was actually there to watch an opposing pitcher.
Thinking back to that day, and everything that followed, I feel so lucky. I’ll never forget that day. Immediately after the game, my future coach walked over to our dugout and handed my travel coach a business card and told him to make sure that I give him a call that night.
The Wire: When did you know you wanted to commit to Long Island University?
Hinkle: I pretty much knew I wanted to go to LIU before I even visited the campus. But after seeing the campus and speaking with the coaches, I committed on the spot, I didn’t need any time to think about it.
Hinkle verbally committed to LIU in December of her junior year of high school. In order to officially commit to the school, she needed to earn more academic scholarship money.
One of the most memorable mornings of my life was when I got my SAT results and I had finally gotten the score I needed. I ran all around the house screaming trying to find my parents and eventually my dad came out of his room asking what was wrong. I just collapsed to the ground in tears because it felt like the weight of the world was literally lifted off my shoulders.
When I think back to signing my official NLI, it feels surreal. There was a time when I really wasn’t sure if I would be able to play for LIU. Once I got that piece of paper in the mail, it felt like everything was finally coming together.
The Wire: How was your relationship with your coaches at Long Island University and how did it affect your experience?
Hinkle: When I got to school, it took me some time to get acclimated and feel comfortable. But I eventually developed incredibly strong relationships with all of my coaches. I could talk to them about anything – personal life, academics, softball – they were always there for me.
I could say it a million times, I feel so fortunate for how I was treated when I first arrived. I was placed in the perfect program with the perfect coaching staff.
I went through a serious health scare during my junior and senior seasons along with losing my mom last year, and I’m just not sure how I would’ve made it out of those situations if LIU wasn’t the driving force behind it all. They kept me going and reminded me how much I meant to them and the program.
The Wire: With the knowledge you have now, can you offer any advice to high school athletes who may be in similar positions?
Hinkle: The biggest piece of advice would be to enjoy your life and enjoy the game. Try your best not to get caught up in where your teammates are committing. Everyone’s experience is unique.
It can also be helpful if recruits decide a few things for themselves prior to diving into the recruiting process. What majors or minors are you interested in? What geographic location would you prefer? If you can narrow in on the schools that match your preferences, the entire process can seem less intimidating.
On my unofficial visit to LIU, the coach that luckily saw me play in high school, jokingly said to me, “You better be good, I only saw you play one game.”
But sometimes, that’s all it takes. Sometimes, all it takes is that on one particular day, in one particular game, you play well – and all of a sudden you have a scholarship in your hands.
Lastly, getting the scholarship is not a trophy – it’s actually where the work begins. Playing collegiate softball is challenging and exhausting no matter where you go or what level you play at. You have 6 AM weights and conditioning, a heavy class schedule, homework, practices, intersquads, games – it’s a lot of work.
The Wire: Are all of the sacrifices that you have to make worth it in the end?
Hinkle: For me, I think every sacrifice was worth it. When you’re in the middle of sacrificing things, it may not seem worth it, but I would do anything to have another couple years of eligibility.
Some days are hard. It’s not easy to be away from your family, it’s not easy to maintain grades, and it’s not easy to grind every single day. But if it was easy, everyone would do it.
If you get the opportunity to play sports in college, embrace every moment, every pitch, every swing, every play, every inning. It goes by in a flash. My hope for every young athlete out there is that they find their home. I hope everyone can find a program that loves them, values them, and develops them.
Softball sparked a fire and passion in me that nothing else ever did and I will always be grateful I got to play this sport at one of the highest levels.
The relationships I gained, the personal growth, the new life experiences – those things last a lifetime. Playing college softball at Long Island University was priceless.