The Nebraska Volleyball team is known for recruiting and developing exceptional student-athletes. Gina Mancuso, an outside hitter for the Cornhuskers from 2009-2012, is a perfect example of that. Mancuso grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and evolved to become one of the most impactful players for the Huskers. During her four years, the Huskers reached the Elite 8 in the NCAA tournament twice. Her athletic resume is filled with an endless number of prestigious honors and awards. One of her most distinguished honors was her achievement to be recognized as an All-American in 2012. Gina was a Marketing major with minors in Management and Communications and is currently playing professionally in Poland. During the summer, she works as an Administrative Assistant at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate in Omaha, NE.
We thank Gina for taking some time out of her busy day and answering some questions for our FanWord audience. We hope you enjoy reading her insightful words as much as we did.
How did your college sports career prepare you for your post-graduation life?
My college sports career prepared me for many things, such as dealing with pressure, taking responsibility, to play a role, teamwork, punctuality, accountability, the importance of decision-making within the sport and outside of it, putting others before myself, and maybe most importantly, professionalism. Although college is obviously not equal to the professional level, I was truly surprised how much it prepared me for a professional career. I have to even admit that in some of my experiences overseas, my college career was much more professional. I’m very fortunate to have been part of such an incredible program where I was working with some of the best coaches and academic staff in the nation. The quote, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” comes to mind. Yes, cheesy, but it’s really accurate. During my college experience, it was very easy to overlook the little things that we were taught, or were expected of, but now, I’m grateful for each and every little thing. In post-graduation life, it’s just you. No more coaches, no more teammates, no more staff members sending you reminders, setting up meetings, no more tutors, etc. Luckily for me, I was well-trained to hold myself to the highest standards, so that when I was on my own, I had no major problems adjusting. I think the only thing I wasn’t prepared for was living alone in a foreign country! It’s hard to be prepared for “homesickness.”
If you could give one piece of advice to freshmen college athletes, what would it be?
Don’t take things for granted. Time truly flies by and it’s the only thing you can’t get back. Take advantage of all the different outlets of help, such as the academic center and your coaching staff. I know from experience that this can be difficult; coaches can sometimes be the last people you want to talk to, but, in the end, it’s 100% worth it. My weakness has always been that I told myself: “oh, I can do that tomorrow or maybe next week.” Next week comes, and I say: “do I actually really need to look into that?” Then, another week goes by, and I think: “yeah, it’s okay, I’ll be fine.” My advice… DON’T THINK LIKE I DID.
Comment: Kelly Hunter, a two-time national champion with the Huskers, also mentioned the importance of putting in the extra work if you want to achieve greatness.
If you could go back in time and re-start your college sports career, what would you do differently?
I feel very blessed that I was able to pursue a professional career in my sport post-college. I wouldn't trade that for anything, but my body won't keep up one day, and that is the day that I don't feel entirely prepared for as of right now. So, as I have said previously, if I could re-start college, I would actually take advantage of the academic center and staff. I would pay more attention to the simple things, such as how to properly write a resume, or possibly get an internship over the summer. Otherwise, I am very grateful and happy with the college sports career that I have had (other than not winning a National Championship, dangit).
What made you go into the profession you are in today?
Given that I am still playing volleyball professionally, I'd say that just the love of the game is still in my heart. I also have a dream of seeing the world, so doing two things that I love at once is pretty amazing!
Comment: Gina is currently playing in Poland but has also played professionally in Puerto Rico, Azerbaijan, and Germany
What do you miss most about being a college athlete?
I miss many things, but if I had to choose just one thing: community. I can't imagine going through college without that. It was such a fun atmosphere 24/7 and, of course, I am so thankful for all the relationships I have made with fellow athletes, staff members in academics, or security and dining hall personnel. Those are things that will never go away. Plus, it's really fun to watch fellow athletes' professional careers as well.
What was the biggest challenge as a student-athlete?
Obviously, the student comes before athlete, and sometimes that was hard to "maintain". I think the biggest challenge was finding the mental strength to focus, study, and complete school work/readings/exams after spending all your physical strength in a practice, weight training, or match. I think my biggest daily challenge was picking school work over a nap.
What was your most memorable experience as a college athlete? (Positive)
Being honored as a First-Team All American. I remember exactly the moment my coach told me; seven minutes before a final exam. Imagine my focus level during that exam! I couldn't breathe, I had tears in my eyes, and all I wanted to do was dance. Everything had paid off.
What was your most memorable experience as a college athlete? (Negative)
Losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament to a lower-ranked team. That was the year we had the most talent and were truly a great team. The luck was just not in our favor that dreadful evening. Another thing I would say is the effects of social media. I won't go into detail because some things are better left in the past, but it matters what you say to the public, and sometimes, you don't even have to be the one to say it, and yet you still can get in trouble. So, be wise with your words, whether in public or private, and know who is in your circle.
What is the #1 goal in your life?
To live righteously so that when I die, I hear the words "Well done, thy good and faithful servant."
List 3 people you would like to have dinner with (dead or alive) and why?
Moses. He literally could speak with God one on one and not die instantly. The craziness of that just baffles me. I would love to just sit and listen to all he had to say.
Adnan Syed. "Did you do it or not?"
Chris Pratt. I would have six-pack abs afterward because he makes me laugh so much. Plus, he's pretty handsome :)
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