A Hidden Honor: Thank You to Rebel Nation
By Alison Wiesz, senior
During the first year of college almost every freshman wonders if they chose the right school, if they will be challenged as an individual or if their sport is allowing them to compete at the level they hoped it would. I won’t lie to you, I had a bit of that.
I had success before arriving at Ole Miss and I believe this caused me to question if I had gone to a different school, would it have made a difference in my shooting. But what it really came down to was maybe it would have, maybe it wouldn’t have. There is no way to really know, but I loved Ole Miss too much to let that thought last.
As I enter my final semester of shooting for my university, it has become more and more apparent to me that I could not have made it to this point alone. There are countless individuals who have helped shape not only the shooter, but the person I am today. As I sit here reflecting on the past three and a half years as a Rebel, it is clear that I have not taken the time to thank them like I want to.
Beginning with my roots, it is my parents who made my lifelong dream a reality. Thank you, mom and dad, for letting me go to a place I love 28 hours from home. I grew up 15 minutes from Montana State and I am mindful of how much easier attending that school would have been on my family; instead they allowed me to leave to chase a dream. Thank you, mom and dad for being so understanding with the decision that I made and loving me all the same.
To my baby sisters, Bailey (13) and Hannah (11), thank you for always being there, supporting me, loving what I do, and loving Ole Miss as much as I do. Thank you for maintaining a relationship regardless of the age difference and places we are in our lives. Knowing that they both look up to me keeps me constantly in check, and I am lucky to have them in my life. Thank you, Bailey and Hannah.
When it comes to my shooting, I could never pinpoint one specific person, but when I reflect back on how I am able to be in the position that I am in today, I think about my first step into a range and first shot taken. The man behind this is Chris Winstead. When you’re an eight-year-old kid it is rare that someone is so confident in your ability to not only perform at something, but to do it at the highest level. Chris did this for me. He nicknamed me “little Annie Oakley” and from then on we built a lifelong relationship around shooting. To date, I reach out to him after every match and no words will ever accurately express the amount of gratitude I have for him. Thank you, Chris.
As my collegiate career at Ole Miss began to develop it was Josie Nicholson, sports psychologist, and Drew Clinton, our academic counselor, who served as primary aids. Both of these individuals not only helped to enhance my shooting, but improved me as a person. I believe that I have always had high expectations surrounding me which caused me to only see my worth through shooting and what I could accomplish on the range. I am incredibly thankful for the guidance from both Josie and Drew who forced me to see that my value to this world is so much more than that. If I had a bad day at the range, it doesn’t mean I am a bad person or a crappy shooter; it is just a bad day. Thank you, Josie and Drew.
Rifle is such a mental sport. A lot of it comes down to your attitude and your mentality during the shot. While my mentality was strengthened from both Josie and Drew, it is also strengthened from the advantages the rifle community offers.
In rifle you can get coaching from anywhere, it may not necessarily be your coaching on the line. Whereas in a sport like football, a defensive coordinator is not necessarily going to go to a defensive player on another team and give them pointers, in rifle it does that a lot more. To this day I am thankful for the rifle community’s impact on my career. This approach allowed me to feel comfort and set my mind at ease. The community also brought along great friends. Mindy Miles, who shoots at Texas Christian University, became one of my closest friends when we shot in a summer marksmanship program together. Since, I have bought a gun from her and have had great success with it. I am eternally grateful that the rifle circle allows and welcomes this type of relationship.
Another big influence to this mindset is my new head coach Marsha Beasley. Unfortunately, I only had the pleasure of being her student-athlete for my senior year, but the depth of our relationship could not be measured by time. Marsha brought something I had never witnessed before: a strong desire to better the program and a work ethic that will allow her to do it. I know her love for the sport hit home to all involved and when I saw such a big heart wanting to do so much for my team, it made me feel valued. Thank you, Marsha.
In some ways—even more than my own graduation—the end to this time in my life represents a new beginning to the rifle program. It is an incredible honor to be a part of a program that is being built. Some people may view it as they don’t want to go to a specific school because they are not the top dog in the conference, but to be a part of a program that in the future everyone will want to go to is incredibly humbling. I will know that I was a part of that building process, because you need those people. This program is my hidden honor.
Thank you Rebel Nation for the tremendous support given to my team. We have fans that we see at almost every home match and that means more to me than you will ever know. You all have expected nothing but the best from not only my team, but me as the lone senior with a decorated background. The pressure from the Rebel fan base has pushed each and every athlete in a positive way.
While I embark on my final semester of shooting and beginning the journey of a master’s degree, I want to be remembered as someone who cared about the team and cared about the program enough to not only want to see herself succeed, but everyone else succeed too. I am not ready to be done; I don’t want to be. Even though I have contributed success, there is still a lot I want to do for this program. Rebel Nation is the reason behind this.