Dec. 4, 2006
Getting a meeting together comprised of some of the individual leaders representing the different student sports-related organizations at Rice University is both one of the easiest and spirit-inducing, motivation-raising tasks to try and accomplish.
The energy and spirit surrounding the student leadership of Rice groups like its new Sports Business Alliance (SBA), its Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) organization and its varsity swim team is high and contagious. Getting leaders together from those different groups at first sounds like it might be kind of hard, because their individual schedules could be as different as the groups themselves. The truth is the scheduling is actually fairly easy because you can reach them all through one person, and only one person, who has a leadership role in each.
Sophomore Natalie Kirchhoff is not only a member of all three Rice groups, she is a leader among the three groups. Kirchhoff juggles her role as the secretary for the SBA, as one of the officers of the FCA and one of the leaders of the Owls' swim team, all around a full-course load in the University's challenging academic curriculum. The fact that Kirchhoff, a go-getter from Columbia, Missouri, is able to thrive in each area sets an example people would do well to emulate.
"People sometimes tell me 'they're bored' and I don't get that," Kirchhoff explains. "I'm never bored."
Between the class and study-time associated with her 16-credit hours and her 20 hours a week training to compete in Division I athletics, Kirchhoff helped organize the SBA as it took on the task of assisting the Rice Athletics Department with one of its recent home events. To get experience sports management (Kirchhoff's major), the SBA worked behind the scenes and ran the operations of a men's basketball game. While the SBA helped market and sell tickets to the contest, complete with prizes and giveaways from the Houston Rockets and MLS champion Dynamo, Kirchhoff arranged for sponsors to arrange for underprivileged youths to attend the game for free. She then worked out to have the kids get the Owls' autographs after the game.
It was valuable experience to be sure, but it paled in comparison to the SBA's banner event from earlier in the semester. Kirchhoff and the SBA helped get two of the city's three professional franchise owners, Les Alexander of the Rockets and Drayton McClain of the Astros, to sit down together and share their advice and insights while fielding questions from Rice students about the business of sports. The Rice event drew national attention.
As her sports management resume grows, Kirchhoff's accomplishments as an Owl swimmer have done the same. A year ago, as just a freshman, she reached the championship final of the Conference USA 200-yard butterfly and she won the consolation final of the 100-butterfly. Kirchhoff was named to the C-USA Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll and she was selected by her Rice coaches as the team's Katie School True Blue Spirit Award for her enthusiasm and positive attitude at meets and during daily practice.
It is her positive attitude and a strong religious faith that help Kirchhoff lead and achieve what she sets her mind to accomplish. Goals like reaching the NCAA Championships and the United States Senior Nationals next March are as high as aspiring to be a leader of the U.S. Olympic Committee itself. It would really be rare if those persons were actually the same person, but not so rare with the right mix of brains, competitive experience in athletics and spirit of character.
Such a person is Rice sophomore swimmer Natalie Kirchhoff, and she is one of Tormorrow's Leaders.