Where There's a Will, There's a Way!


Contributors: Thomas Lavenir & Tilbe Yağlıoğlu

Instead of continuing to dance ballet, back when she was in her early teens, Tilbe Yağlıoğlu decided to follow her parents’ footsteps. Both of them were professional volleyball players. Following this path seemed to match her competitive nature a lot better. Her reputation as a great athlete followed her all the way to JMU from Turkey. JMU’s high ranking in volleyball’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) division and her strong interest in what the School of Communication Studies offered are what ultimately compelled her to transfer to JMU.

“When I was recruited to play volleyball in 2015 I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even know that there were different divisions, how there are junior/community colleges and universities or even what the overall student-athlete system consisted of in the US.“

Even though she came from Germany, a country that is often regarded for their discipline, Tilbe quickly realized that she had underestimated the hard work that her domestic peers were putting into their curricular and co-curricular life. This is something that she had to learn and focus on if she wanted to be a successful student-athlete in the US.

During her freshman year, she quickly realized that things were done differently and that she needed to adjust rapidly. Having to face a new education system in a different language came with many challenges. More reading and studying became the norm to keep up the good grades. The multiple choice questions were new and confusing to her and an obstacle which she managed to conquer over the years.

“One major thing I have learned as a student-athlete is time management. If I didn’t do things on time, I would be left behind. There was very little to no time to catch up.”

She also had to learn what it meant to be a student-athlete. Of course, it was training, and being fully active fully active on and off the court, but it also entailed traveling a lot which means missing classes and keeping up with class content. There are no excuses for not turning in one’s paper or homework submitted on time. Moreover, athletes have to keep good grades so as not to lose their eligibility to continue practicing and competing. Constantly planning ahead, studying, taking good notes and maintaining good communication ties with their professors are important aspects of student athletes’ reality.

A normal day for a student-athlete starts at 7 a.m. with a rigorous work out, followed by back to back classes, a quick lunch break, another two and a half hour session of practice, add at least 30 minutes of recovery time, and followed by study hall.

“Plan on being back into your room by 9 p.m. but don’t count on having a lot of energy left… or just enough to get to bed and fall asleep”

By her sophomore year, Tilbe had figured out a student-athlete lifestyle routine that worked for her. Yet balancing matters of the heart, academics and athletic expectations was challenging. Fortunately, her team became her second family and Harrisonburg’s motto “friendly city” did prove to be right.

In hindsight, Tilbe was quick at pointing out the fact that she wouldn’t change the friendships she made over those years of playing for the world!

“We spent so much time together that we learned to like each other when everyone else would have hated us, which made loving each other on our good days that much easier. “

Tilbe would actually do anything to go back in time and re-live every second of the experience if she could. However, she would “complain less and embrace more.” Afterall,

“Representing the school, competing for championship titles and winning them was one of the greatest experiences and I can call myself lucky to had that opportunity here at JMU. “

Outside of class, Tilbe is currently working for UREC as a Member Service Assistant, is interning for The Athletic Communication’s Department, and plans events as an Event Organizing Team member for the Center for Global Engagement.

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Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Last Updated: Friday, October 18, 2019

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