Spartan Showcase: Sydney Schenk

Student-athletes experience their fair share of highs and lows. Early on in her collegiate career, Case Western Reserve University soccer player Sydney Schenk recognized the toll that took on her mental health.

“Soccer had always been a big part of my life, and when entering college, I began to base my mental health on my performance,” said Schenk, now a third-year student majoring in mechanical engineering.

When she conducted research to understand her experience, Schenk found The Hidden Opponent (THO), a national nonprofit dedicated to supporting mental wellness among athletes and breaking down mental illness stigma in sports. 

“I realized that the more I felt like a whole human instead of just an athlete or just a student, I felt more confident in myself in all aspects of my life,” Schenk said. That ideology is a key tenant in THO’s mission.

Inspired, she teamed up with fellow student-athletes Katelyn Lamm, Abby Wilkov and Sean Yetter to co-found a THO chapter at CWRU, aiming to help their peers see themselves as more than just the sports they play.

With support from the athletics department and CWRU Association of Student-Athletes, members of The Hidden Opponent have hosted events for student-athletes, including the popular THO Field Day, which engages participants in friendly competition over games such as kickball, cornhole, pickleball and more.

Schenk and the organization’s other leaders remain on a mission to spread THO’s reach across campus and welcome new members. Check the CampusGroups page to learn more.

We spoke to Schenk to learn more about her—and who she is off the field.

Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

1. What drew you to CWRU?

I was drawn to CWRU for the balance it provided between great engineering programs and high-level soccer. I felt CWRU would be the place where I could explore a lot of my interests on and off the field in a balanced environment. I also had a lot of discussions with members of the soccer team, and was intrigued by the strong culture that the players had built here—I was inspired and wanted to be a part of it. 

2. How did you choose your area of study?

I knew I wanted to study engineering after being introduced to it in high school with Project Lead the Way classes. Mechanical engineering sounded the most interesting to me, so I chose it and ended up liking the classes and enjoying the industry experience through my internships, so I stuck with it!

3. Can you tell us about your experiences as a student-athlete?

My experiences as a student-athlete cannot be categorized into one word. Life as a student-athlete is busy—oftentimes stressful—but extremely rewarding. I have learned so much about myself and how I handle conflict and adversity, as well as what I need to be successful on the field and in the classroom. I’ve learned to advocate for myself and to “be where your feet are” (something I’ve learned through my THO experience). 

I’ve always been a process person, which has helped me take every piece of my experience here for growth. The community aspect of being a student-athlete is my favorite thing, since my teammates inspire me to accomplish more than I ever thought I could.

4. What’s been your most rewarding on-field experience?

After coming back from a hip surgery my sophomore year, I found a lot of joy from simply being on the field again, but I felt a great sense of joy after scoring the game-winning goal against Penn State Behrend last season. It meant a lot to me after working so hard to come back. 

My first year, while playing WashU, I helped set up our game-winning goal to beat them for the first time in a while. I had been in a bit of a slump before then, so being able to contribute and then celebrate with my teammates in a massive dog pile was extremely rewarding. 

5. Are you involved in any other student organizations on campus?

I am the risk manager for Pickleball Club and corresponding secretary for Theta Tau (the engineering fraternity). I was also a member of the inaugural cohort of the Veale Snyder Fellowship!

6. Are you involved in research or other experiential education opportunities (like co-ops or internships)?

I am currently on a co-op at STERIS Endoscopy working as a Sustaining Engineering Co-op. This past summer, I worked as a new equipment engineering intern at TTX Company. This summer, I will be working at Shure Inc. as a metrology engineering intern.