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Brianna Kiesel Talks Summertime in Pittsburgh

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June 16, 2012

Members of the Pitt women’s basketball team had a short break after the spring semester ended before returning to Pittsburgh for the summer. Rising sophomore Brianna Kiesel accounts what summer at Pitt has been like so far – before the team welcomes the incoming freshmen this weekend.

It’s hard to believe the month of June is here and we have already been at the first summer session at Pitt for almost six weeks – ahhh, the life as a college athlete. People may wonder what exactly do student-athletes do during the summer – but I’m here to tell you the work does not stop. No, it’s not all work – there’s a little play, but the goal is to improve my game- mentally and physically. The summer is – like it is for so many – a time to reevaluate and refocus. I am so ready for my sophomore season (already).

An average day for me is a 7:45 a.m. wake-up and walk up the hill to the Petersen Events Center. A quick trip to the locker room and then over to Fitzgerald Field House to work out. Workouts for student-athletes are all voluntary. Pitt women’s basketball has an amazing strength coach, Mrs. (Kim) King. She works us very hard, pushing us to get stronger and better. I lift (weights) from 9 to about 10:30 four days a week (that is until the second summer session!!) with my teammates.

Then it’s back to one of the courts at the Petersen Events Center to work on my game! Basketball, to me, is fun and exciting. It’s hard to believe I have been doing something I love so much for 10 years!

The other part of summer school for a college athlete is of course, attending classes (no that does not stop!). Coach (Agnus) Berenato will tell you that one of the greatest accomplishments she has had in life (besides her five children) are to have had every single player graduate. She instills in us the power of learning.

I attended second semester school last year (before entering Pitt) and it was very much different. You come in as a freshman and it’s a bit confusing because you don’t know where anything is: classes, buildings, places to eat. You feel as if you have to rely on your teammates and don’t want to ask too many questions – this year is so much better. It’s funny how with one year comes a different comfort-level and the things you feared last summer, you can now tackle with ease.

I love living with my fellow freshmen, Lo Briggs and Cora McManus. The summer is a different (living-wise) than the regular semester. We have a place off-campus with a real kitchen. That means, Lo can cook for us (and I can attest, Lo can really cook!). 

A few weekends ago, a few of my teammates (Ashlee Anderson, Loliya Briggs) attended the Pitt Life Skills summer retreat at Pitt Johnston.

Members of our Life Skills staff loaded us onto a bus from the PEC and it was great to meet athletes from other sports, laughing and joking the entire way there. When we get so busy during the ‘normal season’, it is tough to meet other athletes. I was able to talk to swimming, gymnastics and soccer team members that I honestly never knew attended Pitt.

Once we arrived, got signed in and settled into our rooms we were off to dinner. That was the first of team bonding experiences - as we are walking it began to downpour and we got a little lost (well our guide did, but I love Penny so I won’t go there as he is a Utica guy!) It was pretty comical, a group of 60+ athletes plus facilitators all running trying to find this place. When we finally found it, we were all soaked and cold – strangely it was fun. We met with Jeff Jensen who instructed us through activities how to be a better. We were given pieces of paper and you had to mark numbers - start with say ‘17’ and then find the numbers in order that followed. The catch was the numbers were scrambled on the piece of paper. People would try and through our focus off while we were trying to find the numbers - very much like if you are on the road in a tight game and the crowd is yelling, you have to focus on the task at hand.

On Saturday, we had a host of activities. We had to stand on a plastic pipe and shuffle so you didn’t fall off. Another thing we had to do – we were divided into teams and mine was the green team – was stand on a blanket and while we were on it, we had to maneuver the blanket. The goal was to flip it without stepping on the floor. We struggled the first time we did it, but my group - Brandon Ifill (football), Jon Lierley (swimming and diving), Monica Wignot (volleyball), Haley  Bodenheimer (gymnastics) and swimmers Tatyanna Sarjeant, Renee Deschenes and Kate Dunseith - pushed through and got the task completed. We finished the two-day retreat with a skit (pretty good acting!) and in my opinion, we should have won – but came in second.

It was a great learning experience, teaching us different skills to become a better leaders - not just in the now (on our team) but also in the future.