Every year, the USA Water Ski Foundation gives out scholarships to outstanding scholars and athletes to show the dedication of USA Water Ski to supporting their collegiate athletes, and encouraging higher education. We talked with the winners to see how skiing has shaped their lives.
Barbara Bolding/Jim Grew Scholarship: $10,000
2017 Recipient: Kristen Dammeyer
Ohio State University
“I started competitively water skiing when I was in the Girls 2 division of AWSA. My dad, brothers and I all competed in the state tournament, regionals, and nationals together and so it really was a family sport. Water ski tournaments were our version of family vacations. I always knew that I was going to go to Ohio State – my parents both went there and my brothers too. I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to ski, but my brothers were both on the team and so I decided to at least try it my freshman year. I’m so glad I did! Both summer skiing and collegiate skiing are incredibly fun, but collegiate skiing was a completely different, awesome experience. Skiers ranged from complete beginner to practically professional, the atmosphere was so exciting, and I got to ski as a part of a team for the first time.
I knew I wanted to be more involved from my first tournament. I’d always been a judge and scorer at tournaments, and at collegiate tournaments it was a great way to meet new people and stay up to date with all the rules and nuances of the sport. Then the summer after my freshmen year, I coached at Coble’s Water Ski School. I learned a ton about coaching and driving there, which became really beneficial when my friends, teammates, and I would coach one another. The rest of it, becoming captain, secretary and VP of the conference, helping with winter conference, and all of the rest, really just came from loving the sport and wanting to keep in contact with it even when I would get busy with school.
I got the scholarship by applying for the yearly USA Water Ski Foundation scholarship this past spring. They choose the recipients based on athletic and academic achievement, extracurricular participation and community service. I was really lucky in that the Barbara Bolding/ Jim Grew scholarship was doubled this year for its 25th anniversary. I plan on using the scholarship money to cover the remainder of tuition and housing costs for my senior year and to pay for my medical school applications and interview travel costs. Hopefully this time next year I will be preparing to enter my first year of medical school. I’m applying broadly across the country, but with any luck there will be a lake nearby!”
Jennifer Odom/David Kammerer Memorial Scholarship: $1,500
2017 Recipient: Kailey Koehler
Concordia University Wisconsin
USA Show ski and Barefoot team member Kailey Koehler is on the Varsity Track team at Concordia University. She says “ Skiing has helped make me the person who I am today and has allowed me to understand that hard work pays off and the importance of commitment and dedication.” While not involved with NCWSA (Track takes up too much time to start a team), Kailey is still spending her summers with the Aquanuts in Twin Lakes, WI sending it.
Tim Olson Memorial Scholarship: $1,500
2017 Recipient: Donica Loney
California Baptist University
Donica started recreational skiing when she was young living in Nevada. 4 years ago she moved to Canyon Lake, CA and found a dedicated water ski community. After seeing all that water skiing offered, and the idea from a neighbor, Donica helped start the only USA Water Ski Affiliated show ski team in California, the Show-Cal Skiers. Through this, she learned the value of dedication and hard work to accomplish a goal. Donica’s past involvement in competitive dance helped her choreograph shows, design costumes, and create an event people will enjoy.
Donica found her true passion in Swivel skiing after her neighbor showed her the ropes. With swivel, Donica found she could challenge herself, and always find a new trick to try. Donica said she plans on coming home from college weekly to ski, so she wants to start a team at her new school to get more students involved in skiing, and hopefully try out 3-event!
Southern Region/Elmer Stailing Scholarship: $2,000
2017 Recipient: Kelley Breeden
Florida Southern College
“This scholarship will help me because I will be able to help my parents save money and not worry so much about where the money for my school is coming from. One of my main goal is to be financially independent and to help my parents save money for later in their lives. That’s how this scholarship will help me.
Waterskiing has taught me so many life lessons I could probably write a book. It’s taught me to be patient, to be strong, to push past the fear, and to not let the last set effect the next one. It’s always helped me relieve stress and taught me to focus on the matters at hand, rather than worrying about others.
In collegiate skiing, I’m really looking forward to having a team. I ran track for my high school, and those girls became my sister’s. I’m excited to have that through waterskiing. I’m excited to go to tournaments and support the team, and not be just an individual.”
Western Region/Big Al Wagner Scholarship: $1,500
2017 Recipient: Alexis Keller
Pacific Union College
“Skiing has had an incredible impact on my life. It has been an outlet for me when life is getting a bit too stressful or overwhelming, I can always look forward to enjoying a challenge out on the water to take my mind off things. Water skiing has also taught me a lot about sportsmanship and perseverance. I enjoy competitions and the challenge of beating the other girls in my division, but we still always wish each other luck before we ski and congratulate one another afterwards, no matter how we might have skied personally. These experiences have positively influenced how I interact with my peers in social situations as well as other sports I have participated in. As well as good sportsmanship, water skiing has taught be about the power of a positive mindset and perseverance. It is surprising how much farther I can get in a pass when I begin with a mindset focused on success and not giving up, instead of thinking I have too much slack in the rope and can’t get to the next buoy. This mindset has pushed me towards success in other areas of my life as well.
The plan is to definitely keep skiing in college! I will be working with my school to start a ski team so that I can compete Collegiately as an independent. Water skiing is such an important part of my life that I can’t possibly see myself not doing it for the next four years!
I was so excited to learn that I was a recipient of Western Region/Big Al Wagner Scholarship because it not only recognizes the importance of obtaining a higher education, but brings me one step closer to achieving my goal of attending Pacific Union College to become a Nurse.”
Jean Downes Scholarship: $1,500
2017 Recipient: Andrew Shea
Ohio State University
“Water skiing has impacted my life since I learned to ski when I was 5 years old. I have made countless lifelong friends throughout the 15 years that I have been involved in the sport. Having a team of best friends that share my passion for water skiing has had a huge positive influence on my college experience. It is awesome to be able to smile after a fall on my opener or first trick, things I have spent hundreds of hours practicing, because 20 of my teammates came to get me out of the water.
The collegiate skiing community has been a great place to meet people, learn new things, and develop as a skier and person. The welcoming atmosphere and willingness that the collegiate ski community has to help new skiers has taught me a lot about paying it forward and helping others. I have learned how far a few coaching tips, a ride to the lake, a set, a gathering after a day of skiing, or just a few kind words after someone falls can go.
Outside of the friendships that skiing has brought me I have also learned a lot about work ethic and persistence. Running a college team is a lot of work and I was lucky enough to learn from some great former team leaders, Radar and Ben. It also takes a lot to improve in water skiing. Learning to dedicate the time and effort, lay the foundation, and learn the habits and form to improve at skiing has taught me a lot about improving in other parts of my life. The methodical approach that other skiers have introduced me to carries over well to academics, work, relationships, and other pursuits.
Water skiing has made college an awesome time. I have gotten to go on trips and learn things I never thought I would in my life. I have made friends that I will be close with for the rest of my life. And I owe a lot of that to skiing.”
George Blair Ambassador Scholarship: $2,200
2017 Recipient: Erika Lang
The final scholarship recipient was unavailable for comment, but it looks like she’s keeping busy on the water!
Congrats to all the winners! We look forward to seeing great things from each of you!