A Profile on Bates' Leah Humes ’16: Overcoming Back Surgery at the Start of College, Studying Abroad in Italy, and Life as an Admission Officer and Coach
When did you realize soccer was something you wanted to play collegiately?
My soccer trajectory was pretty standard compared to my teammates: I started playing on a coed team when I was 4-years-old and continued playing through middle and high school. Although soccer is the sport that I have played the longest, I also grew up playing basketball, flag football (very Canadian!), lacrosse, and ran track. Sports in general played a significant role in my life and helped me grow as an individual and leader. Since I was young, I loved the collaborative nature of soccer and always appreciated the friendships I built. It was around the age of 10 when I realized I also enjoyed the competitiveness of athletics rather than just the social scene. I wanted to score goals and win! At that point, I started playing for higher level club teams and kept pushing myself to be better. In 10th grade, I realized soccer was something I wanted to continue playing, both in the States and in college. It was a lengthy process, but I was admitted to prep school, which was the first step towards my goal. In the States, I was introduced to the recruitment process as well and eventually landed at Bates College, where I learned to step outside of my comfort zone, try new things, and engage in collegiate athletics.
How was your transition to Bates?
My experience at Bates started off in a completely unexpected way. After spending the early summer months training for pre-season, I found out I had to have a last minute back surgery at the end of July. Unfortunately, this meant that that I would be watching the women’s soccer team from the sideline. As a result, my first few months of college were shaky since it was the first time in my life that I didn’t have the structure of athletics. My surgery even kept me out of watching practices and my rehab only began in April.
How do you reflect on this rough start and the rest of your time?
I learned how to engage in other aspects of school life and found ways to get involved in soccer, despite limited field time. I learned a lot about myself and how to overcome these obstacles. Finally, after a few months of off-season training, I felt stronger than ever! The team embraced my presence and included me in all of the team bonding activities. I realized how much I missed and loved being a student-athlete, and how big a role athletics played in my life. I had a family in this team and we all supported each other, both on and off the field.
Before I knew it, I was fortunate to be elected co-captain my senior year, which was an incredible experience. I loved encouraging, supporting, and pushing my teammates, while they also pushed me to be better as well. I had to earn a starting position each and every day, which taught me how to work hard and develop a strong work ethic. What I truly appreciated about college soccer is that it takes all 24 girls to work together as a unit in order to find success. We learned to hold each other accountable and work towards a common goal.
What was your biggest challenge as a student athlete and as a team captain?
The biggest challenge I faced as a student-athlete was balancing the rigors of the Bates curriculum, long road trips to away games, and intense in-season training. I learned how to manage my time very well and how to prioritize my commitments. These were important skills that allowed me to find success in the classroom, as well as on the field. It can also be challenging to lead a team of players who have a wide range of personalities and extracurricular commitments. Team bonding and collectively talking about team goals helped bring the team together and identify our priorities as a unit. I also learned how valuable open communication is. I had to navigate conversations with my teammates and coaches, which at times, could be challenging. However, it was crucial for me to be an approachable, reliable, and trustworthy leader.
Talk to us about your transition after college?
Naturally, I feared the transition a little bit. That said, Bates prepared me so well for life after college and I entered an industry with a similar sense of community. Initially, I was sad to think of my athletic career coming to an end, and knew I would miss the team. I miss our team breakfasts, lifts, outings, road trips, and victories. Of course, it was tough to say goodbye. On the flip side, I was excited to jump into a new role and take on new challenges. Having the opportunity to coach soccer at the school that I work at meant that I was still connected to the sport. I continued to go to practice every day at 3:30pm and experienced a great team culture. This aspect of my job made the transition after college much easier and I’m grateful for that.
Did you always know you wanted to be in education?
Although I had no idea I wanted to be in education, I knew I wanted to work with people and/or on a team. I couldn’t be happier with my job and I’m so glad I took this path. I truly enjoy working and collaborating with both students and faculty on a daily basis, and appreciate being part of a close-knit community. I also love that I get to coach, serve as a dorm faculty, as well as an advisor in addition to my main role as an Admissions Officer. I hope to help motivate and inspire students to engage in academics, athletics, and the arts during their high school years.
What about your job is well suited for former collegiate athletes?
First off, I get to be back on a campus and surrounded by students who are eager to grow and step outside of their comfort zone. I have to collaborate with a wide range of individuals as we work towards common goals. Collegiate athletes are well prepared for tasks that involve teamwork, leadership, patience, and accountability. It is also our job as faculty to establish a safe, comfortable, inclusive, and positive setting for our students. It was exciting and easy for me to jump into this industry, since it was a relatively familiar one to Bates. I had confidence in my abilities and was excited to contribute in as many ways as possible.
What advice would you give to your younger self and to current collegiate athletes?
I would encourage collegiate athletes to take advantage of all the opportunities Bates has to offer and enjoy every moment of their time at Bates since it goes by quickly! Sometimes, it’s easy to get wrapped up in athletics and feel as though all your time is dedicated to doing homework, going to class, lifting in the weight room, and practicing. Although sports may be a priority, it’s also imperative to do more. Get to know your peers, support the Lewiston-Auburn community, and explore other great aspects about Bates.
I would also encourage students to take advantage of the fantastic study abroad program at Bates. This was something I was hesitant about doing since it would cut into off-season training. That said, I finally decided to sign up and lived in Florence for 4 months! What an experience. My time in Italy was unbelievable and I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. I truly believe it’s something students should take advantage of, despite worrying about being away during the off-season. As a rising senior and captain, I was still able to train in Florence, while also enjoying and absorbing the beauty of Italy. There is so much to embrace about Bates, and although athletics may be a big one, consider exploring other programs as well.