Nov. 29, 2006
From Lehigh Athletic Communications
Julie Sterrett has spent her entire life immersed in Lehigh, and its athletic programs. This kind of thing will happen when both your parents, your grandfather, your uncle are all Lehigh alumni, and your older brother and sister go there too. When she was younger, Julie was a bat girl for Lehigh's softball team, just another one of the perks when your father is the athletic director. When it came time for her to choose a college Lehigh seemed like the logical choice, but it was by no means required. She looked into a number of schools, but in the end an opportunity to get a Lehigh education and play softball would be too much to pass up.
"Everything just felt right here," said Sterrett. "I could not picture myself being anywhere else."
Julie's parents, Joe and Cindy are both Lehigh graduates. All four of their children have decided to stay near South Mountain for college.
"As a parent, I made a conscious effort to ensure that our children realized there were a lot of other schools out there, that are pretty good schools," said Joe Sterrett, Lehigh's Goodman Dean of Athletics. "We took them on fall campus tours of other schools, and I actually enjoyed the process, working in higher education and getting to listen to other people.
"The main thing I told Julie and my other children," added Sterrett, "is that you make your own assessment. It's your decision, and when you make that decision, make sure its for the right reasons. It's the same thing I tell to top prospects in the recruiting process."
"When I was in high school everyone just kind of assumed that I'd end up at Lehigh," said Julie, the third oldest of the Sterrett children. "There was absolutely no pressure on me to come here, not even a hint. Between my parents and me, my brother and my two sisters, that's six people who came to Lehigh and have enjoyed six unique positive experiences."
What separated her from her siblings was Julie's desire to participate in athletics on the collegiate level.
"It was my dream to play college basketball," recalls Sterrett. "Eventually I realized I wasn't good enough to play basketball. I looked at a few Division III schools, but I wanted to play a Division I sport. It's part of my competitive nature to be at the highest level of competition."
So Sterrett turned to softball.
"I wasn't even close to my full potential leaving high school," Sterrett notes. "Coming to Lehigh I learned how to work, and that gave me the confidence that if I had the right work ethic I could be the player I wanted to be."
In her first two seasons playing for the Brown and White, Sterrett batted .275, but battled illness and the constant struggle for playing time. Through the tough times, she kept working and her work paid off with a breakout junior season. Sterrett started 56 games in right field, and led the Patriot League in batting with a .369 average. She tied Lehigh's single season home run record with seven round-trippers, but more important to Sterrett was the record setting team success that Lehigh displayed in 2006.
The Mountain Hawks won a school record 43 games last year and won two games in the NCAA Amherst (Mass.) regional. Both over the nation's 13th ranked team, Texas A&M.
"The greatest feeling for me in my athletic career, was beating a big time team like Texas A&M," says Sterrett. "Our team unity was tremendous and we played so well together, almost out-of-our-minds good. It's a huge confidence boost when all the hard work pays off and things fall into place."
It was Sterrett who played a role in knocking off the Aggies. In the first game, her two-out first inning double gave Lehigh a lead it would never relinquish. In the second meeting, an elimination game, her fourth inning home run tied the game at two, and her fifth inning single drove in the eventual winning run.
"Julie had an absolutely phenomenal junior year," said Lehigh head softball coach Fran Troyan. "Once she finally got healthy, the lynchpin for Julie was that she finally had enough self-recognition that she was an excellent player both offensively and defensively. That belief in herself is what put her over the edge in terms of playing on a high level."
For her efforts on the diamond, Sterrett was named a tri-captain for her senior season. Her leadership is not limited to the playing fields. She is an active member of many campus groups. Last year, she served as co-chair for Lehigh's award-winning community outreach C.O.A.C.H. program, and this year she is serving as president of Lehigh's student-athlete council.
"I'm keeping busy, with a lot of meetings, from the student-athlete council, to the student-athlete executive council, C.O.A.C.H. events, SAM (student-athlete mentoring) events," Sterrett lists. "Everything I do it seems to stem from something the athletic department offers."
"She really embodies what should be the consummate Lehigh student-athlete," adds Troyan. "She has been a tremendous role model and a great ambassador for our softball program. Julie leads by example, but she's not only a leader by example, she has the respect of her teammates that when she needs to speak up in the locker room, she can do that as well."
While Julie admits things can get cluttered every once in a while, she knows she has a pretty good role model to look to when things get tough.
"My father does what I'm trying to do, only every day on a much larger scale," Sterrett explains. "I learn more from him, the way he problem solves, how he deals with people, how he runs a meeting."
In the classroom, Sterrett holds a 3.46 grade point average majoring in sociology and social psychology. She has been named to the Patriot League academic honor roll after all three seasons.
"I'm more of a liberal arts person and not really a math and science person," said Sterrett. "I love being around people, be it C.O.A.C.H. or other leadership programs, I just enjoy working with people."
Sterrett initially thought she wanted to be an athletic trainer, but sees a future in working with college student-athletes.
"My talk of wanting to work in Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership basically comes from my interest in people, development of college-aged individuals and passion for sport," said Sterrett. "I love analyzing, learning about, and helping others, especially those with the competitive drive, work ethic, leadership potential, challenges and personalities of an athlete. Unfortunately there isn't any one specific job for these interests, but I feel like continuing my education will refine my skills and ideally working with these types of people in some way will be enjoyable."
In the meantime, she will continue to enjoy everything that Lehigh has to offer.
"One thing I've learned is that good people come from Lehigh," notes Sterrett. "The people that I've met here and the experiences that I've shared make the whole thing worthwhile. I'm very proud to be part of the Lehigh tradition."
"We are very proud of what Julie has done," acknowledges Joe Sterrett. "It could be very hard to come into a place where the family name has some history, but to make your own way and have your own enjoyable college experience, academically, socially and athletically is a tribute to her."