Senior Spotlight: Kristen Pickens
JACKSON, Tenn. — 2020 was a year to look forward for the Union University softball program. The Lady Bulldogs were coming off a historic season in 2019, winning their first ever tournament game in the Gulf South Conference, with hopes of taking it a step further.
“We proved that we could do it, and we proved to the GSC that we were here to compete. So I think we were just really excited to keep proving ourselves and to make it as far as we knew that we could,” said senior catcher Kristen Pickens.
However no one predicted that they would not get the opportunity to do so.
“We went to the field house, and I cried with some of my teammates, and you know obviously we could feel it coming, and I think just the initial hit, it was tough to take in just so suddenly,” said Pickens.
As a senior leader for the Lady Bulldogs, Pickens understands the competitive drive that fuels every athlete, yet knows it’s just a small part of a bigger picture.
“I think it’s challenging, you know, when you have a sport that is your passion, and you know it’s your driving energy force, and your adrenaline and your excitement, and when all of that gets taken away in an instant, I think it’s important that your trust and your hope is found in something else. And I’m thankful that my faith has been something I can fall back on,” said Pickens.
In an attempt to shine light in a dark situation, Pickens and other Union student athletes decided to focus on a young tradition, the Top Dawg Awards.
“We have an organization at Union called the student athletic advisory committee, which I have the honor of being the president of. So, last year we kind of created this from scratch, and we created an athletic banquet that we got to go to in person, and we had a dinner for the athletes, and they got to dress up and senior invited their parents, and we were just able to honor them and their accomplishments and celebrate what they had done with their seasons,” said Pickens.
And given the circumstances from the recent pandemic, the wheels of creativity began to turn.
“So we wanted to create something like a SportsCenter. So we created an online awards show, and we announced all the awards, and we created videos, just to highlight what this year was and to celebrate all the accomplishments that were made,” said Pickens.
So on the night of April 28, a community of Union athletes came together in support of each other.
“I think it made it so special because that was the night of unison and strength, and I’ve never seen our Bulldog community so together like that,” said Pickens. “I think that’s what it’s about, it’s about creating a moment of significance for people that deserve it, and the athletes definitely deserved it.”
While many seniors saw the final chapter of their collegiate athletic careers vanish in a day, Pickens voiced a word of encouragement, reflecting on the past, while looking ahead to the future.
“Through sports, you’re able to learn talents and gifts like teamwork and character development, and you know determination and perseverance, and you can take that to any aspect in life no matter if it’s sports or if it’s not,” said Pickens.