SPUSA 20 years

Get to Know the Study & Play USA Team

For our November blog we wanted to take a different approach to give our readers a deeper insight into our passionate and dedicated team. Read below to see our responses to a series of fun and personal questions:

If you could attend college in any US state, where would you choose and why? What would your college colours be?

LEAH: Colorado. I love to hike! I also like to experience all four seasons in the year, so this location really appeals to me. My college colours would be green and white.
ALEXIA: South Carolina. I just LOVE the south – the food, the culture, the history, the architecture. I am not sure if my colours will be well-received by all, but I would go with a bright pink and aqua.

If you could be an elite athlete in any sport (other than your own), which sport would it be and why?

CHRIS: Golf. I enjoy the outdoors, travelling, and it’s a sport that I could play for many years.
KARLEE: Basketball, because the atmosphere at games is always electric.
LEAH: I would be a distance runner. I love the mental freedom you find in long runs, zoning out, and listening to my favourite music or podcast.

What do you enjoy most about your role at SPUSA?

CLAIRE: Three things – learning about US college priorities for each student and family we work with; chatting to college coaches each day; and working with a great SPUSA team in Brisbane.
ALEXIA: Those who know me know that I love a chat! The part I love most about my role is talking to students and families. These conversations take various forms. Families can be stressed, overwhelmed, or excited and I love being able to help talk them through a solution, calm their worries, or share in their excitement. Life is about connection with others, and I love that my job allows me to connect with different types of people every day.
CHRIS: Outcomes, outcomes, outcomes – happy coaches in the US and happy student- athletes who have found their right fit. I also enjoy mentoring our young athletes through their high school years where there can be many challenges to overcome.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

LEAH: Being outside either riding, hiking, or at the beach.
CHRIS: I love playing golf, fishing with my family, and generally being by the water. I am also an unabashed Brisbane Broncos and Hawthorn Hawks fan!
CLAIRE: Traveling, being outside in nature, and staying active.
KARLEE: I like going for coffee or walks with my friends. I also love summer when I can get to the beach.
ALEXIA: With a 13-year-old sport-mad son, a lot of my interests involve watching him play sport on a weekend. I also enjoy going for a walk and a coffee with my girlfriends, traveling, and going to live sporting events.

You’re heading to the US for a month-long trip. Which five cities/towns are you visiting?

CHRIS: Fly into Boston, onto Washington, DC, down to Nashville for a country music fix, over to Charleston (South Carolina), and I can never visit the US without a trip to Stillwater
CLAIRE: Lake Tahoe (one of my favourite places in the entire country – I get homesick for
Lake Tahoe), Yosemite National Park, Zion National Park, Miami, Charleston.
KARLEE: New York, Nashville, New Orleans, California and Hawaii.

Where is the first place you are going to eat when you get off the plane?

LEAH: In-N-Out Burger.
CHRIS: Any Mexican or BBQ restaurant.
KARLEE: Olive Garden, just to see what all the fuss is about.
CLAIRE: An authentic Mexican restaurant in my hometown.
ALEXIA: Chick-fil-A.

Who is your favourite athlete and why?

CLAIRE: Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball in 1947, for his bravery in the face of adversity and monumental contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the US.
ALEXIA: I can’t ever go past Evonne Goolagong. Not only was she an extremely talented tennis player, but I have also had the privilege of meeting her many times through SPUSA. What she and the Evonne Goolagong Foundation does for indigenous communities across Australia is incredible.

What is your message to young Australian athletes who might be considering the US college pathway?

CHRIS: Do it! Embrace and trust the process because it is a privilege to be recruited as a student-athlete. Regardless of the athletic and academic outcomes of your experience, for most these are four of the best years of your life.
LEAH: Have a sit down with the SPUSA team. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Knowledge is power and an epic US college journey could await.
KARLEE: Give it a go; you do not need to be the best at your sport to be considered for a scholarship and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Nowhere in the world incorporates and supports education and sport like the US college system. The worst that can happen is you decide it’s not for you and come home.
CLAIRE: College is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it will change the trajectory of your life in such a positive way. For athletes already on the pathway: pretend you are going through the recruiting process in a cave with internet access but nobody around you. Ask yourself reflective questions. Watch YouTube clips about the sporting teams and do virtual tours of different campuses. Outside noise can take away from what is truly important to you when going through this pathway.
ALEXIA: Ask the team and they will tell you that my motto is “Anything that is worthwhile generally requires effort.  So, give it your all! I have the benefit of 19 years in this industry and seeing what the US College pathway has done for so many student-athletes. Not just academically or athletically either. The experiences, travel, opportunities, and lifelong friendships are incredible and worth the effort!

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An Aussie's Transformative
US College Journey

By Study & Play Director, Chris Bates