Kari Naerdemann: Not the typical college student-athlete

Kari Naerdemann: Not the typical college student-athlete

By Adam Parks, TTU Sports Information Intern

The typical college student-athlete must adjust to many things as they make the transition to the collegiate stage. They have to learn to adjust to school, living alone and a much higher level of competition.

Kari Naerdemann is not the typical college student-athlete.

Along with all the challenging tasks of adjusting to playing college sports, Naerdemann also had to settle in to a new country, and learn the ropes as quickly as possible.

Naerdemann made the move to Cookeville, Tenn. from her homeland of Herne, Germany in 2015. At this point in her life, she had to learn to adjust not only socially, but on the pitch as well. 

"I think the main difference is that in Germany we don't play as physical as we do here." Naerdemann said, "We also try to play out more in Germany, which is something that we are working on as a team here."

Naerdemann could've attended multiple different colleges in America, but she graciously chose Tennessee Tech.

"I came here because I really liked the coaching staff." Kari said, "I almost chose a school up north, but the weather in Tennessee is pretty close to what I'm used to, so it seemed like a good fit."

Upon Naerdemann's arrival in Cookeville, she was named the starting goalkeeper as a freshman, where she would go on to start every game that season. Her first home game was against the University of Alabama, a game in which the Golden Eagles achieved their goal of starting off the season with a win over a Southeastern Conference team.

"After the game, everybody went crazy," Naerdemann said. "I just assumed that was the way to celebrate a win in America, until eventually I realized how big of a deal it was for us to beat a team in the SEC."

Naerdemann didn't miss a single minute of gameplay as a freshman, and by the end of the season, was awarded Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, team MVP, and All OVC first team honors.

It might seem like she just had a standout freshman year, which is true, but she's just that good at what she does.

Naerdemann was awarded All-OVC first team honors and the OVC Defensive Player of the Year award for both her sophomore and junior seasons as well. She was also named Tech's Female Athlete of the Year for her hard work in the 2016 season.

Naerdemann was the first player in history to win three OVC Defensive Player of the Year awards in-a-row.

This season, Naerdemann's senior year, she has had to adjust her leadership role due to losing three players from her back line to graduation.

"I've had to become more organized and more vocal because all of the girls on defense are either new or transitioning," Naerdemann said, "I really think this season has been good for them and I think they will be really good next year."

Naerdemann attributes her success to her heroes: her brothers and her father. They helped her become tough and taught her how to work hard for the things that she wants to achieve.

In the future Naerdemann plans to continue her soccer career at the professional level.

"I'm beginning to email teams about playing for them," Naerdemann said, "I would really like to play in Sweden. I want to see more of the world while I have this opportunity."

During her stint as a Tech student-athlete, Naerdemann has all but earned her place as a future member of the Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame. She is very excited and thankful for the honor of even being considered one day.

"I think that is a really proud moment for me," Naerdemann said, "It's something that I will always keep with me."

Naerdemann is one of the best athletes to ever play at Tennessee Tech. She is hardworking, humble and grateful for every opportunity she is given. She has worked hard to overcome language barriers and adjust to living in a new country, while also breaking records and making history.

Kari Naerdemann is not the typical college student-athlete.

Photo by Thomas Corhern