For the millions of children and young adults who play sports, many don’t plan for an end to their competitive lives when they reach the beginning of independence and adulthood. The answer for the majority? College athletics.
College athletics is a major stepping stone into a new world of competition, and it’s easy to see why so many set their sites on finding a school that will let them play to the best of their abilities. SUNY athletics offers more than 750 nationally accredited teams that offer competition against the best in the country at various levels. From recruited athletes to walk-ons and transfers, the life of a student athletes at SUNY is truly unique. We’re lucky enough to have met one that is a stand out all on her own.
Born and raised outside of Chicago in Elmhurst, Illinois, student-athlete Simone Bednarik has played hockey since she was nine years old, following in her younger brother’s footsteps. Before she made her home at SUNY Oswego, Bednarik made an overseas pitstop to pursue her hockey career, having been given the chance to play in Slovakia for a year during the pandemic.
Originally, her plan was to play D1 hockey in college. “It was always my goal since I started playing hockey to play at the highest level… My dream was to play Division 1 hockey and I was focusing on only D1 schools for a long time,” shared Bednarik. Yet, after running into some issues with the D1 recruitment process, she expanded her college search and looked into DIII teams that were competitive, and what she found out fit her lifestyle and personality much better.
Making the way to Oswego
The road through recruitment was faced with some setbacks for Simone. “I struggled with recruiting after I broke my ankle right at the beginning of my hockey season during my sophomore year in high school,” Bednarik says. As a result, she spent junior year emailing with a lot of schools but still hadn’t decided on which college she would call home.
During her time overseas, Bednarik eventually landed on SUNY Oswego, after connecting with the women’s hockey coach, Mark Digby. Bednarik recalls, “After taking the virtual tour of the school and looking at pictures online of the facilities, mainly the ice hockey arena, I was very intrigued.” She came to learn that a small school in a hockey hotbed could do wonders for her career. Oswego also had the major she was looking to pursue, with a very good business program. With this in mind as well as connecting with Coach Digby and some of her soon-to-be-teammates, Bednarik wound up feeling very “comfortable and confident” to attend SUNY Oswego.
Building a future from the classroom and ice
Today, Bednarik is a double major studying business administration and global and international studies. At first, it was somewhat challenging to strike a balance between schoolwork and hockey. The first semester proved to be a learning curve, but once she got into a routine, Bednarik found it was becoming easier to balance her two worlds.
Part of this balance comes from Oswego offering different time slots for classes so that Bednarik can craft her academic schedule around practice time for hockey. She also works with her professors, who have been helpful in being flexible and available to meet outside of class time if she can’t make it to office hours.
Outside of the classroom and in the world of hockey, Bednarik has participated in two playoff runs, where Oswego has been eliminated by the same opponent two years in a row. She shares “Next year when we finally beat them and knock them out [of the playoffs], that will be my best moment.” Although Oswego has lost in the playoffs, Bednarik has racked up individual accomplishments, such as being selected for the All-Rookie team her freshman year and the All-conference second team this year.
These accolades are hard earned for Bednarik, “Competing in hockey and getting to play in the NCAA means everything to me. Hockey has been my life since I started playing.” She also shares that her parents are her biggest supporters and have helped her get to where she’s at today, noting “I love making my parents proud and succeeding in my academics and my sport makes them really happy.”
What might her plans be after she completes her time at Oswego? Bednarik is making it her goal to keep playing hockey and hopes to do so overseas while being able to start a career on the side. “I plan on finding a job in the business world that I can do digitally. My experiences at Oswego will help me out a lot with this dream.” Given that she is a global and international studies major, Bednarik is taking several classes that will set her up for success post-graduation as she continues to pursue her hockey career, and her time at SUNY Oswego will certainly make this plan all the more achievable.
For those who may be following in Bednarik’s footsteps, she has this advice to offer “… keep all your options open and don’t be afraid to go somewhere you are unfamiliar with. I had never gone to Upstate New York until I first go to school and I fell in love with it.” She also enjoys the Oswego’s campus size, noting that she has been able to get to know people and familiarize herself with her classmates, but there’s still plenty of new faces to meet and get to know.