By Lindsey Simon
Every Christmas break, Kate Nowak puts away her volleyball shoes, straps on the skis and hits the slopes. No sport could ever take away Nowak’s love of volleyball. Or so she thought.
Nowak first began skiing at the age of four. Her parents encouraged her to attend ski school every weekend to learn how to properly attack the slopes.
“I hated skiing,” Nowak said. “My parents would drop me off, and I would sit there and cry. I just wanted to go home.”
Her parents, Janie and Bob, had a passion for skiing and wanted their kids to get involved, too. They would take trips up to Wisconsin to visit Janie’s parents, and go to their favorite ski spots. Nowak’s brother, Greg, was two years older and already a master at the sport. This defeated Nowak’s confidence. Nowak even refused to go on vacation a few times to visit her grandparents because she didn’t want to ski.
But since the Nowak’s went to Wisconsin every year during Christmas break, over the years Nowak’s skiing talent began to increase. So did her love for the sport.
“When I finally got the hang of it in 6th grade, I actually enjoyed skiing,” Nowak said. “I realized why my parents made us ski, and I now see why they loved it.”
Nowak was already a stellar athlete, playing basketball and volleyball. She started playing volleyball in 6th grade and knew she was meant to be on the court. Nowak continued her volleyball career through high school, while quitting basketball after her freshman year. Nowak was the starting setter and captain all four years.
When it came to deciding where to attend college, St. Ambrose seemed like the perfect fit.
“SAU was one of the nicer NAIA schools that I visited,” Nowak said. “They made me feel at home. The campus was really pretty and I was offered a scholarship to play volleyball.”
Nowak has been on the women’s varsity volleyball team all four years and is the now the Queen Bee’s starting setter and captain. Nowak says volleyball is still her favorite sport but skiing comes in a close second.
Along with those two, snowboarding is another sport Nowak decided to take up. However, unlike taking ski school lessons, Nowak had to teach herself how to snowboard.
“I really just wanted to learn both,” Nowak said. “I would always see people snowboarding, and I wanted to try it. When I did I really liked it.”
Picking up a snowboard for the first time, Nowak was a natural. From the many years of hitting the slopes skiing, snowboarding came like second nature.
“This one time while we were in the upper peninsula of Michigan, my mom and I were riding the ski lift,” Nowak said. “They typically have different spots to get off at, and my mom said we can wait for the next stop. There was no second stop. We started going around this huge turn until the lift stopped, and we were told to jump off.”
This was the only wipe out Nowak ever had, minus the first few years of her skiing career, but she doesn’t count those. Nowak went skiing with her friends last year over Christmas break and didn’t fall once. She can be spotted riding her very own Roxy snowboard down the black diamonds.
“Skiing really brings my family closer together,” Nowak said. “It’s a great way for us to spend quality time together and enjoy the fresh air.”
While her mom, Janie, has retired from skiing, Nowak’s brother and dad always enjoy tree-skiing and the moguls. Nowak and her family are looking forward to their upcoming trip to Wisconsin. Skiing will fill the void when Nowak’s final volleyball season as a Queen Bee approaches next year.