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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Cummings

Lehigh's Kenzie Kramer Is Now Happy Doing More

Someone observing Kenzie Kramer from the outside might say she had everything she ever wanted. Her collegiate basketball career took off with a fine first season in 2020-2021; she excelled academically at an acclaimed university; and she found a nurturing team led by Sue Troyan, a coach with 32 years of experience.

Yet Kramer struggled to feel fulfilled.

This feeling started when Kramer first arrived at Lehigh University from her hometown of St. Michael, Minnesota. She felt overwhelmed and out of place in a rural area of the East Coast, as the world became more isolated and unknown than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Everything around her was unfamiliar. Kramer did not feel a sense of purpose. Instead, she had the nagging feeling that she “could be doing more.”

“Doing more," especially in basketball, was deeply ingrained. She started playing basketball at the young age of three, usually against children twice her age. Maybe her love for the sport came from her mother, who played basketball growing up. Maybe it came from having to avoid body slams from her older, WWE-loving brothers.

Whatever it was, she was hooked. By eighth grade, she had been playing AAU for three years with some of the most talented players in Minnesota, including current UConn star Paige Buekers. She developed further to break several high school records and earn a slew of awards. Although she enjoyed the success, it intensified her expectations

And these expectations only intensified her struggle her first year at Lehigh.

Kramer, who prides herself of being “goofy, insightful, and caring” knew that she could not continue to live so lost and unhappily. To cope, she began documenting her feelings on a private blog. It served as a personal journal to grapple with the changes and challenges she faced.

In her first entry, Kramer wrote, “I may never make this site public, but if I do, I simply want others to join me on the journey of life. I do not need comments or reader validation. I simply aim to express myself in a fun and healthy way.” And so she did.

In an early post, she wrote to herself, “Change is hard. . . . New school, new state, new team, and new people . . . A whole lot of ‘new’ for someone who historically thrives on routine[.]”

She reflected on the lifelong pressure she put on herself to perform well, to honor sacrifices her loved ones made for her with substantial tangible results, not just incremental progress. Without these successes, she wrote, she did not feel worthy.

Kramer showed a sense of maturity in that post, explaining to herself she had to change her expectations or she would “never truly enjoy the process” of achieving a goal. She knew she had to reframe her whole outlook on life.

In another post, Kramer addressed her fear she was always “overthinking.” She flipped that perspective too, turning a flaw to an asset especially on the court: “[W]e watch hours of film to better analyze and break down aspects of our game. After all, most sports come down to seconds and angles.” Her overthinking, she realized, could make her great.

The blog had begun to serve its purpose: helping her get out of the “fog” of losing her confidence in her basketball skills and in herself.

She continued to document her journey privately through the fall of her sophomore year until she had some eye-opening heart-to-hearts with some of the first-year students on her team. Kramer’s teammate and close friend Ella Stemmer noted that she has a unique “ability to be vulnerable to connect with her teammates.”

After forming a relationship of trust and respect, the first-year players confided in Kramer with some of their struggles. They shocked Kramer with the similarities in their experiences to her own. Kramer realized that the voice she had been expressing privately for the past year could be a valuable tool in uplifting her teammates, and anyone else going through similar turmoil.

At this point, Kramer took the bold step she “never thought she would do in a million years,” and shared the link to her blog, “Life Through My Eyes,” in her social media profiles. It offered people a safe, relatable, and vulnerable space. She understood that sharing her experiences could liberate others from feeling alone.

Since sharing her blog, Kramer has reaped several rewards for her candor and vulnerability. Almost instantly, she felt the sense of purpose (the same one she had longed for) flood into her life. After reading her words, people often reached out to Kramer to express their gratitude with little notes such as, “hey, you don't know me but I just wanted to say that I read your blog and it was super insightful. Thank you for sharing your story with the world.”

Although Kramer did not start her blog with the intent of garnering attention or compliments, these comments remind Kramer that her words help others and drive her feeling of meaning. She described this time as, “The first time in my life that I felt like I was truly living in the present and happy with who I was and what I was doing.”

Not coincidentally, her basketball performance also improved. In her second season, she averaged a team-best 16.2 points per game for the Mountain Hawks and led the Patriot League in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and three-pointers per game. She set the single-season program record for three-pointers and scored 469 points over the course of the season.

Meanwhile, she maintained a cumulative 4.0 GPA in her major, population health (a data-focused subset of public health), and her double minors in computer science and biology. It is little wonder the Patriot League named her the Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Although Kramer is thriving and “in a much better place” than she was in the challenging 2020-2021 time period, she still posts updates to her blog. These posts are meant to help people achieve a similar sense of peace that the blog has provided her.

Kramer understands that as a student-athlete, “it is easy to get pulled in so many directions and it is hard to feel like I can give a meaningful amount to each aspect of my life. As much as I love basketball and value my education, my success in these areas will never fulfill me. I think that the blog has helped me with that. If sharing my insights and stories can help even one person, that means a lot to me.”

Kramer knows that her path forward involves helping others. If the past is the prologue, her self-motivation and empathy will drive her future success.

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