Greek athletes find family in teams

Greek life and NCAA athletics are common on most American college campuses and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is no different. At a school where Husker football is a religion and Greek chapters are prominent, both are hard to miss and the two are connected.

While these two entities may not be obviously similar, they are very alike. Both bring groups of people together who share the same passions.

There are many student athletes at Nebraska who take pride in being involved in Greek chapters. While they all joined for a number of reasons, the thing they enjoy the most is pretty similar: the people.

Senior midfielder for Nebraska women’s soccer Alli Peterson said she wanted to join the Greek system after seeing how close her mom and her sorority sisters stayed years after college.

“I wanted to have the same experience that my mom did,” the advertising and public relations major said.

After coming to UNL in the fall of 2014, Peterson took the opportunity to join a sorority to try and meet as many people as she could. She said over her four years in Alpha Phi, she’s built solid friendships that will last a lifetime. Though Peterson has her team, she said having non-student athlete friends helps take her mind off the pressure of being a collegiate athlete.

“I am constantly thinking about soccer, as are the rest of the girls on the team, so we always just end up talking about soccer,” she said. “It’s nice to have a break and time away from the sport to talk about other things.”

However, soccer also gave Peterson a bond similar to her sorority in the form of the "soccer sorority" the women’s team started years ago.

It’s an ongoing joke the team bonds over from year to year. While the “soccer sorority” doesn’t have structured events or a real purpose, it is something that brings the team together.

“We call it the NEBS, and a team a long time ago started it, and we just kept it going,” Peterson said. “But it’s very similar because it is a group of women who are super passionate and push each other to do better. It’s the same things I get from Alpha Phi.”

Sophomore guard men’s basketball player Johnny Trueblood also found a brotherhood similar to the basketball team in his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

“I feel like everyone has each other’s backs and you want to see your brothers do well,” the accounting major said. “It is the same thing for both the team and the brothers.”

Trueblood said one of his favorite things about being in both a fraternity and playing on a team is the variety of people he gets to interact with. He knows athletes in other sports and people in other Greek chapters. He said the social aspect Greek life brings gives him a different college experience than most athletes.

“I can introduce my basketball friends to my fraternity friends and everyone will sometimes hang out together,” Trueblood said. “Each side has a unique set of people.”

Peterson also said she feels more involved with the community at UNL because of the people she’s met through her sorority. Since athletes spend so much time studying and eating at Memorial Stadium, she said she thinks they can sometimes get stuck in an all-athlete world and have a harder time connecting with other students. Peterson’s Alpha Phi sisters helped her with that.

“My sisters introduced me to other people outside of the athletes, so I know more people all across campus and see more familiar faces,” she said.

“I feel like everyone has each other’s backs and you want to see your brothers do well. It is the same thing for both the team and the brothers.”

- Johnny Trueblood, sophomore men’s basketball player and Sigma Alpha Epsilon member.

Kiara Kearney, a sophomore jumper on the track team, said she found more than just the social benefits to Greek life. She found her passion through the leadership opportunities it brought her.

Kearney, a marketing major, went through recruitment twice before finding her home in Alpha Omicron Pi and said she is grateful for the opportunities of involvement. Now, she said she wants to take her involvement to the next level.

“I am currently on the recruitment committee, but I want to hold the recruitment position in the near future,” Kearney said. “I would have run this year, but it was my first year in the chapter.”

Husker women's sophomore high jumper Kiara Kearney poses for a portrait outside Weir Track on March 11, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kearney also said the university encourages student athletes to get involved on campus as a way to meet more people. Kearney said she believes Greek life is an easy way to do that.

Peterson also finds it important to stay involved. After balancing different clubs and sports in high school, she said it would have been odd to not have much to do in college aside from soccer. Peterson said she often finds herself running from one thing to the next, but she likes it that way.

“I am an extremely busy person, and I always have been,” she said. “Very little of my day has any free time, but I learned time management and how to prioritize things and that is how I do it all.”

However, balancing multiple activities such as a Division I sport and Greek life isn’t always the best of both worlds. Athletes involved in sororities or fraternities miss out on plenty of events that cater to the normal “Greek life experience” because they have commitments elsewhere.

Because sports are a top priority for student athletes, it is hard for them to get out of sports commitments to go to a chapter function. Kearney said that is one of the hardest things about being involved in two things that both have time numerous commitments.

“The hardest thing is when you had to miss out on an event that you really wanted to go to, but couldn’t because of a meet,” she said. “But you also get to do something not a lot of them get to do.”

Trueblood has been in similar situations. During basketball season, he misses out on chapter meetings because they are during practice. When traveling to Illinois with the basketball team in February, he missed a brotherhood event he said he wished he could have gone to.

Despite missing Greek events for basketball commitments, Trueblood said his brothers have always been supportive of him. He said they understand his situation and don’t give him a hard time about missing out.

“All of the guys are really good about it,” Trueblood said. “It’s nice having people who aren’t uptight about you missing events.”

The athletes who joined found the friends and community they were looking for, and Peterson said she couldn’t be more thankful.

“I couldn’t live without it,” Peterson said.