After graduating from Bishop Brady in 2010, Leslie obtained her bachelor's degree from St. Lawrence University. Before continuing on to graduate school at the University of Connecticut, Leslie followed her passion for softball overseas to Sweden to play with the National Team for a year. We caught up with Leslie in June 2014; here's what she had to say.
BBHS: In summer of 2013 you interned with US Senator Kelly Ayotte in Washington, DC. How awesome! What was your role as an intern? What was it like living in DC for the summer?
LS: Indeed it was such an awesome experience! As an intern, I worked in the legislative office, giving support/supporting legislative assistants with their duties such as attending hearings and briefings as well as doing research. I also was a tour guide for the Capitol Building, giving tours to visiting constituents. Additionally, I assisted with constituent communication. Above all, I gained and left with a positive experience through learning from my mentors and as well as Senator Ayotte. It didn’t feel like I was an intern since I was so involved.
These were some of the highlights of my experience: interacting with politicians such as Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. John McCain, and Sen. Ted Cruz; I met new astronaut candidates, recently announced by NASA; I had the chance to see amazing speakers such as Colin Powell, Stephen Colbert, and John Mather, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics; I attended hearings on the Boston Bombings and Juvenile Diabetes; and I was in CSPAN clips. Although these people I mentioned are highly profiled, my favorite part of my internship was giving tours of the Capitol Building to New Hampshire constituents that came to visit DC. Just like myself, the majority came from a small town in NH; we immediately had something in common and my conversations with them made for some of the best memories of my time on the Hill. As a psychology nerd/enthusiast, I loved interacting with so many interesting people. Ironically and epically, another fellow intern in Senator Ayotte’s office was JT Burger who graduated in 2010 with me (shout out to JT!).
Living in DC was outrageously cool. Having studied abroad in London, I was used to a big city atmosphere which really helped for navigation purposes as well as getting used to the overall vibe. Though I learned the vibe is indeed a bit different than London, living in DC is like having the best playground you can find. With the abundance of museums, markets, and food you drool over (no shame), there is always something to explore. I always went running around the monuments at night since they were close to where I lived. At night, the monuments are breathtaking. I even got to play a little bit of slow pitch softball down on the National Mall. That was rad!
We’ve heard you are a Swedish citizen, and are playing for the Swedish National Softball Team. That’s so cool! Are you originally from Sweden? For how long will you be there playing with the team?
Thanks so much! I was not born in Sweden but have visited over 20 times including many stays for long periods. My mom was born and raised in Sweden and immigrated to the United States at the age of 18. Having relatives abroad is so much fun and gives me a unique culture to connect with and another place to call home. I am beyond thankful to be able to say that. Traveling is also a passion of mine, so it all seems to make sense. Already sports, academics, and family has brought me to four continents.
Because my mom is from Sweden, I have citizenship in the United States and in Sweden. My Swedish citizenship also allows me to be a part of the European Union. I have indefinitely fallen in love with Europe, from my stays in Sweden as well as studying abroad in London and various other travels. Even though I was born in the US and my dad is from there, I posses qualities that have so clearly come from Europe through my mother and the ample periods of time I have spent there. This is a huge reason as to why I was so interested in psychology and even government; I have been a witness to interactions among cultures since the day I was born or at three months old when I first left the country. Now, softball has allowed me to witness European culture even more and has merged two aspects of my life I care about immensely.
I will be in Sweden until late July playing with the team! The European Championships for softball happens every two years with the top teams qualifying for International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championships which happen in the between years. Last year, Sweden was seventh at the European Championships and we are looking to build this year for the next. This year, we are playing all sorts of European teams from Denmark, Czech Republic, Croatia, Austria, Germany, and many others.
While I am here playing for the national team, I am also playing with a team in the Swedish Softball League called the Skovde Saints. They have won the Swedish championship the last seven of eight years and have been great to be a part of. This also has allowed me to coach youth teams in addition to umpiring in the town of Skovde which was been extremely rewarding to see the love the kids have for the game. Softball and other sports for the matter are amazing in that aspect; you generally all have this common passion and goals no matter where you are from, or what your background may be.
How exactly did you become part of the National Team/ how did this all unfold? Were you recruited?
Good question! It happened in a bit of a crazy way. At St. Lawrence, we got a new softball coach my junior year. Having learned I was Swedish, she approached me during pre-season asking if I had tried to prior or if I would want to play for Sweden. In the midst of my face turning red due to her acknowledgement of my skill and passion towards the game, she told me she thought I was good enough and she would try to make it happen. This was extremely flattering since she hadn’t seen me play ball for too long and we had met only a couple months before (I was abroad in London that fall). She had seen the Swedish team around having briefly been with the Puerto Rican National Team during her career at George Washington University in DC.
Nonetheless, she got in contact with my Swedish coach and started sending videos of me playing to him. She asked me if I had any other fun facts that may help my cause so I ended up writing her a list as a joke. This list included that I could accurately impersonate the sound a lawn mower and that I could lasso/herd a reindeer (some of my relatives do it for a living in Sweden). I think that's [what] got him... just kidding.
I started exchanging emails with the Swedish coach and he expressed interest. He actually called me and offered me a spot on the team for the summer of 2013 the same day I found out I got my internship with Sen. Ayotte. That day was so ridiculously epic, I'll never forget it.
After long discussions with my Swedish coach and his assurance of the fact the offer stood for the summer of 2014 as well, I chose the internship since it was an incredible opportunity and something I had always wanted to do. When my internship concluded that summer, I ended up flying over to Sweden to meet with the coach and play a bit so he knew what I was like in person. It was amazing how much we had to talk about, how softball brings people together. We talked and played softball for hours. He ended up coming to some of my spring games in Florida in March and now, I am here. To say it has been a dream come true would be an understatement. I want to continue to play as long as I can. I love the sport and how it has the potential to shape lives, including mine.
We understand that upon returning from Sweden you will enter UConn in Fall 2015 for the Sport Management Master’s Program. Do you have an ultimate career goal? Do you plan on keeping involved with softball specifically, or are you interested in other sports as well?
I have an immense passion for sport and I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I realized and continue to realize that through my experiences, sport related or not. Whether I enjoy these experiences or not, I have definitively decided I couldn't live without athletics.
I am interested in sports as a way of building [not only] an athlete but also a person. The first sport I loved wasn't actually softball, it was ski racing. I raced at Brady my freshman year and then decided to attend an academy to take it more seriously. My sophomore through senior year involved me going away from Brady for five months to Waterville Valley Academy in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We traveled all over the world.
I always tell people I have repeatedly discovered what I wanted to do for my the rest of my life on top of a snowy mountain dressed in a full body spandex suit. It was my first love and gave me the feeling of being alive, of being "home." I decided it would be my goal to seek out other things, sports, places, people that had the same effect. That was defining and helped me find softball as well as other places, like Europe, that allow me that same feeling. I owe so much to ski racing.
Ultimately, I have a couple of career goals but overall, I just want to keep learning. I love knowledge and gaining diverse perspectives that allow me to create my own. With that, I want to give back to athletics as much as it have given me; I would consider that the greatest success. I hope to do this through coaching which is something I am extremely devoted to. I also hope to do this through looking at/ pursuing athletics at the international level through my studies at UConn. I am looking to potentially continue on to get my PhD.
Was it a difficult decision to defer your grad school acceptance for a year to move abroad?
At first, deferment wasn't the clear option and I probably would have laughed if you had suggested it! I was pretty set on trying to make everything I wanted to do work all at once. I was humbled and so honored to get accepted into four schools which made everything more rewarding and also more difficult. Months of heavy thought brought me to deferment at UConn; I have always loved that school, the atmosphere, and the learning environment. When I thought about deferring, it was the first time I felt happy with a decision and happiness was what I was striving for. Sometimes I wish I would have deferred a year from St. Lawrence after going to Brady to continue to ski. It gives me freedom to explore even further, especially while in Europe, what I want to do and how I want to do it to my best capacity. Now I can do everything I want as I mentioned before, just not at once! The fact that at first deferment seemed like something I wouldn't do, I believe is why it is the right decision.
Before matriculating at UConn you will spend the season assistant coaching softball back at St. Lawrence? Are you looking forward to returning to your undergraduate home?
I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to go back to St. Lawrence. I love everything it stands for and I knew that since the first day I stepped foot on campus. I applied early decision to St. Lawrence and I am so proud to now to be an alum. It is truly a special place that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend.
Going back to coach at St. Lawrence is unique because I have a chance to impact the program not only as a player but now also as a coach. I know the facilities, whats to be expected, how each player operates, and they also know how I operate. The senior class next year is incredibly talented. If I can have just a bit of an influence on the team’s success, it means just as much if not more than doing so when I was a player at St. Lawrence. As I mentioned before, my old coach who I will be working with is exceptional. She has impacted me on the field, off the field especially with the Swedish team, and has been a mentor. I am ecstatic and so thankful for the opportunity to coach with and learn from her.