I sit here today writing what I would consider to be, for lack of a better term, my “official bio” so I can give you the run-down on who I am, where I come from, what I do and how I do it. It’s a little different than what I’m used to. If you think about it, having been an athlete nearly my whole life, minus the time it took to learn how to walk, my bio has always been written for me.
That being said, my name is Nicole Harnisch. I am a 24 year old retired athlete from Chicago, Illinois, with a Master’s degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology and a lifetime full of athletic experiences. My early years were spent competing with my older brother and sister, mostly for attention, but also shooting hoops in the driveway, playing wiffle ball in the front yard, roller skate races down the street, or (Mom’s favorite) who could clean their rooms the fastest. You name it, we competed for it.
You could say I was just kind of born into a competitive family. My dad and his brothers have been playing football since they could crawl. Dad played both Division I and Division II football, and would have played professionally if not for a career ending injury (professional career ending injury, since he somehow finished his collegiate career after a total knee blow out in 1979). His twin brothers both played Division I football and baseball, and my grandfather was an All-American DIII tackle.
My earlier aspirations were pretty focused on basketball and softball, although I developed into a multi-sport athlete competing in volleyball, basketball, track and field, and softball throughout middle and high school. Eventually I let softball go after sophomore year of high school to focus on the remaining sports, year-round.
Going into my senior year of high school, I was being recruited for all three of those sports. At the start of it, I snuffed off volleyball and track, truly thinking my one and only love always has been and always will be basketball. After an incredibly stressful senior season, I found myself relieved to enjoy the inconsistencies of Iowa weather (we moved from Chicago to Iowa when I was 10, but that’s a whole different story) and compete in my final (or so I thought) season of track and field.
At this time, I was still enduring the recruiting process for basketball and track (I really did shut volleyball down), all the while my older sister (who was throwing for Grand View University) was in my ear telling me how much I would love throwing in college. I didn’t even believe that I was good enough to throw in college until I experienced this massive amount of growth that last season, breaking my high school records in shot put and discus, placing 6th at the Drake relays in shot put, and placing 6th in shot put and discus at the state meet. In combination with my love for weightlifting, I had realized what a perfect fit I was to throw collegiately.
Northwest Missouri State offered me the perfect combination of academic and athletic opportunities. After one quick visit right before graduation, I knew this was the place for me to continue to grow as a student athlete. Although my collegiate experience was not exactly smooth sailing, 5 years and 6 orthopedic surgeries later – I finished my career on the All Time Top Ten list at Northwest in Hammer, Discus, and Weight Throw.
Throughout my time at Northwest, my love for sport continued to grow alongside my interest in psychology and human behavior. As I finished my last year of track and field during my first year of graduate school, I began to pave my way towards a career in Sport and Exercise Psychology. In combination with the valuable research experience and mentorship I have aquired, I’ve worked with football, baseball, softball, volleyball, track and field, powerlifting and exercisers – from high school to the collegiate level. I have also spent the last two years working for a juvenile youth home for at-risk and delinquent youth.
I am always striving to learn about new people from diverse backgrounds and am passionate about helping others. I listen and I care about athletes as people, not just athletes. I came to Northwest with some big time goals and definitely did not reach them all, but by the time I finished my career and overcame some serious barriers, I realized that I was walking away with so much more. I have experienced the ups and the downs, I understand the pain but I also feel the joy that is sport. I have been through it, I get it, and I am here for you.