Senior Spotlight: Kath Liggett
Nov. 25, 2011
Adversity is something that every student athlete will face at least once during their collegiate careers. How they handle those tough and challenging times is something that varies from athlete to athlete. For Kansas senior Kath Liggett, her best tools to fight those adverse conditions is nothing more than a smile and positive attitude.
“It is important to take things seriously but it is also important to have a good time,” Liggett said. “You need to enjoy your experience here, so if you are relaxed and don’t get worked up about everything, you can still be successful.”
The Portland, Ore. native may know a thing or two about being successful in the KU program. After all, her sister Anne swam for the Jayhawks from 2004-06 and 2007-09, which gave her an opportunity to see how her big sis handled the pressures of becoming Division I athlete.
“Swimming with my sister was such a great experience,” Liggett said. “We swam together growing up and she was always motivating me. Having her on my college team was no different because she always had her priorities straight and helped keep me on the right track.”
“I think it was really special to be able to share the school and swim team with each other,” Anne said. “I feel like we were able to get closer because we had that year together.”
“Personality wise there were some big differences between the two,” said head coach Clark Campbell who recruited and coached both Liggett sisters. “They do share each other’s work ethic because they are both very hard workers in the water.”
Campbell sees the younger Liggett as one who takes the road less traveled as opposed to her older sibling’s more conventional outlook.
“Anne had a more serious approach at that time in her life,” Campbell remembered. “While Kath seems a bit more whimsical.”
Free spirit or not, Kath knows her easy going approach can help not only herself, but her teammates through some rough patches during the season.
“I think that one of my roles on the team is when adversity happens to let others know that it’s okay and you will be successful,” she said. “If you are having problems or a conflict with someone, it does not have to negatively affect your swimming.”
One of those situations arose earlier this season, when Liggett found herself amidst some adversity during a meet against Missouri. She and a few of her teammates began swimming in the wrong event and eventually had their times disqualified. Rather than get down on herself about what just had happened, the four-year letterwinner got back in the pool and used the DQ as motivation for her next race.
“The 200 fly is a really tough race, so to do all that work and to not have it count is disappointing,” she said. “But as Stephanie (Payne), Rachel (Snyder) and I were in the cool down pool, we all kind of thought, ‘we still have the rest of the meet to go and we are still here as a team’. So we just used that to motivate us instead of making us mad or upset because we all knew there were still points to be earned,” she remembered.
That outlook helped Liggett score a total of five more points for her team during the meet as she earned third place honors in the 100 fly (59.17) and had another strong performance in the 200 freestyle relay, where she swam anchor.
“Even though she was in the wrong heat and was disqualified, that was still her in season best time,” Campbell said. “She just got into a lane, blocked everything out and went for it. Swimming is about the individual effort because you cannot really control what goes on in the lanes around you, so Kath just did a great job of what she was able to control.”
“I just really try to work on that for myself, but also display that attitude for the team,” Liggett said. “Problems are going to occur throughout a season, but it does not have to bring down the team.”
Sometimes that outlook is easier said than done as the dual event swimmer can most easily attest to.
“It is hard to be positive all the time because falling into that negativity can be easy,” she said. “Whether it is in a workout or while you are having a bad week, that is when you really feed off of the rest of the team. Everybody has those negative days, but if I am having one of them, I try to just keep it to myself and not let it affect anyone else. That’s because one person can bring down a team, while one can build it up.”
One of those teammates who benefits from Liggett’s grounded approach is fellow senior Abigail Anderson. Anderson like her other swimming counterparts, encounters some challenges during the course of a season, but enjoys the upbeat and optimistic attitude of her water mate.
“Kath is incredibly gifted at maintaining a high-level of positive energy,” Anderson said. “It rubs off on others so easily that you just can’t help but cheer up when you see her.”
Even her older sister saw some of her sibling’s talent when it came to keeping team morale during the duo’s one and only year in Lawrence together.
“I would say that she definitely takes things in stride more than I do,” the older Liggett said. “If I was stressed about something, she would help calm me down because she has a pretty level headed perspective.”
While Liggett may be known best for keeping her cool, she still has a serious and focused attitude when it comes to her future in and outside of the pool.
“Scoring and finishing in the top eight during Big 12’s is my main goal for the end of the season,” she said. “But I am also excited and feel prepared to go out into the real world once my swimming career is over.”
The history major will have to wait until next fall before she gets a chance to make her splash professionally. That’s because she will have an extra semester after her swimming career has come to an end, to solely focus on her academics.
“It will be nice to be a normal student for a little bit and not have athletics,” she said. “I am not 100 percent sure what I am going to do afterwards, so right now I am just applying to internships in different fields.”
Even though the future may be a bit uncertain for soon to be college graduate, she plans to use the same mettle that got her through those tough times during her collegiate career, so she can take on the challenges of tomorrow.
“Every day is such a struggle when you are an athlete,” she said. “That is why you have to focus on what you have to do today and not stress out about the future. It forces you to become mentally tough.”
Whether Kath Liggett someday finds herself in a classroom teaching history, or back in the pool trying to make it to the Olympics, one thing is certain, that mental toughness and optimistic attitude she has carried with her thus far, will go a long way in getting to her next successful destination.