Each fall, the Department of Athletics and the Admissions Office sponsor an event for prospective student-athletes called Focus on Athletics. The coaches invite their top recruits to this event to showcase Mount Holyoke College. Hannah Yee, the two-year captain of the soccer team, spoke to the participants during her senior year. She explained what makes the athletics experience at Mount Holyoke so unique.
"My name is Hannah Yee, I am a senior, and I’m one of three captains on the soccer team. Here is a little of my story, and, more importantly, some of the things that make Mount Holyoke so special to me.
I went to a local high school, 15 minutes up the road in Amherst. My mom works in the Admission Office, my grandmother was a Mount Holyoke student, and my grandfather was a professor here. Despite all this, I honestly never imagined that I would end up on this campus. I was not seeking a women’s college, and I was very reluctant to go to school so close to home. But after touring 15 other schools all over the country, something kept drawing me back to Mount Holyoke.
I realized what I wanted was a college with a deep sense of community, rich in tradition, with unparalleled academics, and an equally strong athletics experience. What I discovered when I got here, was that I could have even more.
Every step along the way, I’ve felt that my professors, the athletic staff, my coaches, and my teammates were thinking of my interests and my goals and helping me find opportunities to get to the next level.
For example, during the spring of my junior year I began an independent study examining the benefits of belonging to an athletic team in college. With the help of several faculty, my academic advisor, the Associate Athletic Director, and Coach Kanae (Haneishi), I was able to complete a semester’s worth of research and land a related summer internship in Boston, fully funded by Mount Holyoke. Along the way I was offered a chance to present my research at a women’s sports conference in Finland, and to further my study in Japan. After all this, I entered my senior year with a body of research and wealth of experience substantial enough to continue my independent work throughout my senior year. Before I knew it, I’d signed on to write a senior thesis on my findings. Yikes! Really, I could never have done all this without the symbiotic support of my athletic and academic mentors.
My soccer experience at Mount Holyoke has been absolutely phenomenal. I realize this sounds cliché, but belonging to the soccer team has been central to my college experience. It gave me community from the very start, teammates whom I love like family, and I’ve been treated as though my total well-being is a top priority. I’ve been coached in a constructive and thoughtful way that has allowed me to grow as an athlete, and I can confidently say that my coach knows me and cares about me like she would her own daughter. I had the good fortune to be able to serve on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as a sophomore, and as a junior I was lucky enough to be selected to represent Mount Holyoke at the NCAA Student Leadership Forum in Providence, RI. These experiences led to the incredible honor of serving as a co-captain for two seasons, and I know all these leadership opportunities are preparing me fully for whatever I end up doing after graduation.
On top of all this, soccer has brought me around the world. Four teammates and I traveled to Kosovo the summer after our first year on a federal government-funded grant to promote the development of women’s sports in that country. This trip was nothing I’d ever imagine myself doing my first year of college. Along with meeting remarkable people and hearing their stories, we participated in press conferences, collaborated with government officials, were featured on national news, and helped to train aspiring coaches. Last winter the entire soccer team took a ten-day training trip to Japan, where we participated in cultural activities, played against top Japanese collegiate and club teams, and were hosted by our coach’s alma mater, which was extremely special. I look back on these trips as being some of the most fun and transformative experiences I’ve had.
You may think that opportunities like these are unique, but at Mount Holyoke they are commonplace - soccer goes to Japan every four years. In the time I’ve been here, the field hockey team has gone to South Africa and China, and the basketball team went to Puerto Rico last winter. These kinds of experiences are not unusual at Mount Holyoke, and they’re made so much richer when you’re traveling with your very best friends.
Picking the most extraordinary thing about Mount Holyoke is nearly impossible, but the inspiration I encounter every minute of every day is certainly at the top of my list. By choosing Mount Holyoke I chose to be at a place where I’m constantly amazed and motivated by my friends, my professors, my coach, and my teammates. The other day I walked past two girls sitting on a bench outside the campus center having a casual conversation about whether or not babies were born with any hatred. Eight in the morning was a liiiiittle too early for me to have a weighty conversation like that, but nonetheless I thought to myself, “Huh, that’s a really great question.” That kind of thing happens all the time here.
It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience to be constantly surrounded by classmates, faculty, staff, and teammates who hold themselves to the highest standard, who embrace challenges with grace and poise, and who care enough to help you have the confidence to be the best and most ambitious version of yourself.
Ultimately, what Mount Holyoke gave, and continues to give me is opportunity. I have had the opportunity to travel the world, to push myself, to find my limits and blow past them. I feel comfortable taking risks in a way I never have before, and I know it is because I’m in a space that cares about me, supports me, and expects me to be the best I can be.
Regardless of where you end up, college is a time rich in opportunity. My advice to you is to take those opportunities and run with them, however intimidating they may be. You will have times in the next few months and years when your options will make you nervous, but remember to embrace those moments instead of shying away from them. Nervousness is a good thing -- it means you care. Mount Holyoke has taught me that and so much more.
I hope you choose Mount Holyoke because I want you to have what I’ve been lucky enough to have. Mount Holyoke elevated me, and I promise it will elevate you too."