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Feature Friday: Michael (Faulkner) Catanese

Hey hey it's Feature Friday!! This week the spotlight is on Michael Catanese, former volleyball player at Wake Forest University. Michael was a 4-year letter winner at Wake Forest, and team captain her senior year. She also was voted one of the top 6 athletes for community service by the entire athletic department. Michael was a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was a Student-Athlete Mentor as well. She earned a B.A. in Communications and Studio Art, and now works as a Senior Client Associate at a Wealth Management firm. Michael has some truly incredible words of wisdom, so take notes!

Photo courtesy of LinkedIn

GamePlan: If you could sum up your college athletic experience in one word, what would it be? Michael: Enduring

GamePlan: What are some lessons you learned while playing college athletics?


- You can do hard things. - Initiate the tough conversations with others as an opportunity to grow and better yourself. Listen to hear. Take responsibility for what you can control, and when you mess up. - Balance/ Time management - Discipline - An appreciation for health and fitness - A positive attitude is everything. Look for the good. - It's not about the wins. It's about the people.

GamePlan: 🙌Nailed it!!

GamePlan: What is one of the hardest moments you had to get through while playing college sports?


- Dealing with the transition of being a "star" in HS to a college team where everyone was a star. Learning how to step back and let others lead when I was used to leading. - Having the coach who recruited me leave after my freshman season. - The social struggle off the court of dealing with the new "freedom" of college.

GamePlan: What is one of the hardest moments you had to get through while going through the recruiting process?


- At the time, I didn't feel that it was difficult. I found a school that I believed I was meant to be at early in my junior year of HS after an official visit. Looking back, it's crazy to think of how young I was and how much I had to learn (still have to learn). But, in the end, it really was where I was meant to be - even through all the tough times - it put me on the path to meet my husband. - There is definitely high pressure to specialize and commit early, which I think is a disservice to kids who should be able to focus on being kids.

GamePlan: I totally agree. Luckily for those student-athletes who don't want to commit early, there are some programs that have a later recruiting process. For example smaller, academically-focused DI, DII and DIII schools.

GamePlan: What is your favorite memory from playing college sports?


- The moments with my teammates (on and off the court) who are still some of my best friends today. - I don't remember most of the matches, if we won or lost, I remember pre-game in the locker room, the bus rides, hanging out and getting ready in our dorm - and the free shoes that I still hate having to buy now. I remember the people that I loved. The people who helped get me through the hard stuff.

GamePlan: What advice do you have for student-athletes who are trying to play at the collegiate level?


- Look at the big picture. Try to narrow it down to a few ideas of what you would be interested in doing after college and make sure the school has majors/ opportunities that align with your interests. - Take advantage of study hall, tutors, recruiting services, student-athlete volunteer groups. The extra curricular groups that you have access to as an athlete. - Go to class, always. Even at 8am. - Always make sure you meet the current team at your visits, before you commit. The coaches may change, but most of the team will be there with you for a few years and you need to make sure you can see yourself liking each other. - Be extremely cautious and selective with social media. - Your reputation on and off the court affects your entire team. Be careful with it.

GamePlan: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything? If so, what would you do differently?


- Focus on my relationships with my teammates over playing time. Be a better teammate instead of trying too hard to be a leader. - Go directly to a teammate with an issue and talk it out one on one. - Take advantage of the fact that I was being "paid" to train and workout. Eat better. - Be disciplined and balance school/sport - but know when it is time to be a kid and have fun. And know when it is time to take a nap.

GamePlan: What are you up to now?

Michael: I am back in my hometown of Austin, Texas with my husband and our two kids. I work full time at Venturi Wealth Management where I help our clients and coordinate special events. In my off time, I love working out with my coach at Central Athlete and taking the kids on adventures around Austin either to Town Lake or to find a really great chocolate chip cookie.

GamePlan: What role did athletics play in helping you get to where you are now?

Michael: My mom was a volleyball coach, so I was raised in the gym. Volleyball was my life, always, until I graduated college and had to figure out who I was without my sport. I use the lessons team sports taught me everyday. Respecting others, competing for what you want, controlling what you can and letting go of the rest, being an encourager and supporter, being grateful for what my body can do and trying to stay healthy, prioritizing my time and being disciplined about getting the important things done first... it's endless. I can't imagine my life without having played volleyball.

GamePlan: Anything else you’d like to share?

Michael: If you're having a hard time deciding whether you should play in college or not, remember that nothing is permanent. Try it, see what it's like. It can open so many doors that would not otherwise be open. If it's not for you, you can always change your mind.

GamePlan: Preach.

Thank you, Michael!! I love and appreciate her perspective on the values and disciplines learned from athletics that carry into our adult lives. It can be difficult to figure out what to do post-sport, but being able to rely on the skills learned from being a teammate and in a competitive environment will help you find your way! Tune in next week! ✌️


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