Star athletes form new identities at UNC

Given that UNC is often referred to as the University of National Champions, it’s no surprise that much of its student body is sports fans or have previously been sports stars themselves in their high school careers.

Like Adam Cosgrove, a junior communications major, who was a two-time all-state soccer player at the Community School of Davidson. Or Anamay Viswanathan, a junior political science major from the United Kingdom, who chose coming to UNC over pursuing a professional cricket contract. 

Viswanathan had played cricket since he was 9 years old, and played for the under-17 national team in the UK. But his university choices in the UK were a bit too close to home, and a desire to buck expectations led him to UNC.

“It felt very much like I was having my decisions dictated to me,” he said. “You know, this is where you have to go, this is where you play cricket, this is what your future looks like. And so I guess it was me being a little bit rebellious.”

Cosgrove received offers from division one and division two schools to play varsity soccer, but decided he would rather receive a degree from UNC and try out for the club soccer team. He’s now a player on and brand manager of the UNC club soccer team, and though it was tough to leave behind his varsity hopes, he’s happy with his position on the club team and playing pick-up soccer on campus.

“It’s not a direct replacement for varsity, and I didn’t expect it would be, but I’m playing with a bunch of guys who have similar goals, we all want to win,” he said. “It’s good to be back with a group of like-minded guys like that.”

Robert DeGolian, a junior advertising major from Atlanta, Georgia, received eight offers from division one schools to play baseball, including one from Georgia Tech of the ACC. In high school, he played for the 6-4-3 DP Athletics travel baseball team, and though some of his teammates went on to play at Alabama or South Carolina or Notre Dame, he won the offensive MVP award on the team. But he decided to end his baseball career to attend UNC.

“Early on, in my high school career, there was the lure of getting recruited and going to play,” he said. “But once I got closer to it, I had to sit down and think, 'Is this what I want to do with my college experience?'"

DeGolian ultimately decided that he wanted to do things that he couldn’t otherwise do while playing a varsity sport. He ended up joining a fraternity and the Clef Hangers.

Sarah Calire, a senior communications major and social and economic justice minor from Long Island, New York, was on her way to playing varsity soccer at a division three school, but decided two weeks before going away for preseason that she didn’t want to play the sport anymore.

“It wasn’t going to be fun for me,” she said. “It was going to be a job, an obligation, something that I had to do, not something that I wanted to do.”

For most of these athletes, the decision to not play a varsity sport and the realization that they had more free time was both a liberating and a difficult adjustment. Viswanathan volunteered on Bradley Opere’s 2016 student body president campaign, worked on a start-up with a friend and teaches cooking classes at the Community Empowerment Fund.

“I was really taken with a lot of the activism on campus and so this is where I thought I was really going to develop as a person, rather than playing cricket in the UK,” he said.

Cosgrove recently started an internship working in social media for soccer.com. The internship is something he said would have been more difficult to do if he had decided to play at the varsity level.

“It was a tough decision, but I’ve come to terms with it and it’s not bad, I like what I do now,” he said. “And especially with being a board member on the club team and working for soccer.com, it gives me an avenue for my passion other than just playing the highest level of soccer that I can.”

DeGolian now plays intramural sports, but said he still misses baseball, especially when he goes to watch UNC’s team play. He’s even seen a former player from his high school travel league on a smaller school’s team playing against UNC. He remembered outperforming that player at a camp, and realized that that could have been himself out there on the field.

“There’s definitely a little bit of regret, a little bit of nostalgia like what could have happened, where could I be,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I’ve had a great time at Carolina. It’s an incredible experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There’s just that kind of mystery of what could have panned out.”

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