When catcher Emily Preble arrived on campus in 2016, the Student-Athlete Mentors served a significant role in her adjustment to college life and the Lehigh softball program. Looking toward the end of her senior year, things have come full circle.
Now the head of the the Student-Athlete Mentors, or SAM, Preble originally wanted to join the program because of her positive experience as a freshman.
“(My) mentors were a huge part in getting acclimated to becoming a student-athlete on campus,” she said. Preble said she wanted to provide a similar experience for first-years.
As student-athletes, members of SAM meet with peer advisors, health, counseling and academic centers, with Preble acting as a liaison between the administration and students.
Preble said her most memorable experiences come from one-on-one meetings, where she gets to connect with first-years in a smaller setting and channels their individual personalities to help them succeed.
Preble said her experiences as a SAM helped her become a better teammate on the softball team.
“It is awesome to be a part of a team where I get to be in a leadership position as captain, because I get to use my skills and lessons learned to improve in both softball, and as a student-athlete mentor,” Preble said.
Preble said she is interested in journalism and graphic design, and wants to work where she can connect with others and create something that makes an impact.
Preble’s teammate Carley Barjaktarovich, a sophomore infielder, said the entire softball program supported her when she arrived at Lehigh.
“(The team) took me under their wing and made it feel like a family,” Barjaktarovich said.
But her teammates and coaches were not Barjaktarovich’s only mentors.
Not knowing what to expect, Barjaktarovich said her transition to college softball was smooth because having her SAMs made it easier. She said she was able to go to them with any issues.
Barjaktarovich is now partnered with another upperclassman athlete, and together they lead a group of 12 first-year athletes once a week. Within this group, they help with the first-year transition and answer questions.
Like Preble, Barjaktarovich wanted to become a SAM because she strived to use the program to help others as much as the program helped her.
Erin Matyus, the assistant director for athletics leaderships, is tasked with advising the student athletic engagement groups. She oversees the SAM program and connects students like Barjaktarovich to mentors like Preble to help them feel prepared, confident and capable to help the new class’s transition into college life.
“The growth and learning that happens within our student-athletes about themselves, and how they can better connect with their teammates and their community,” Matyus said, is the most rewarding part of her position.
Matyus wants to make sure student-athletes have the opportunity to reflect, process and interact with their peers across campus — one of Preble’s most notable takeaways.
Preble said one of the biggest lessons she learned was that there are many different ways to be a resource to someone.
“I think this a lesson that will serve me well wherever I go in life, with how to connect with people and make meaningful relationships in a way that helps both parties succeed,” she said.
The softball team opens its season on Feb. 14 in the Citrus Blossom tournament in Kissimmee, Florida.