Basketball All-Star Erin Laney to Deliver Senior Speech
Erin Laney of the Muhlenberg women's basketball team was selected by classmates to give the senior speech at Commencement.
Erin Laney is no stranger to standing alone in a pressure-packed situation.
Whether as a member of the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team or during her time as a student-teacher, she knows what it’s like to have all eyes on her. While those experiences are great preparation, she’s never had to stare into a spotlight like this.
Laney was selected as the senior speaker and will deliver the address for the Class of 2014 at Muhlenberg’s 166th Commencement on Sunday.
“Never,” Laney said when asked if she had any previous experience in public speaking. “This is a great place to start.”
Like many other things in the self-admitted procrastinator’s life, the idea to put her hat in the ring didn’t hatch until late in the process. Probably unlike most of her competition, Laney’s decision came spur of the moment.
“Right when second semester started and I was reflecting on my teaching experiences and how I was back to being a student again, I thought about it from a different perspective,” Laney said. “I think because of that I woke up one morning and decided I wanted to write a Commencement speech. It was a random thought, but it comes from seeing learning from a different perspective and getting insight into that.”
The first step was writing her speech, which applicants needed to submit by February 26.
“Obviously I got it done right at the deadline, because that’s how I do things,” Laney said.
Then came the announcement of three finalists. After that, students had a 48-hour window to vote for their favorite. A well-liked athlete with a wide-ranging friend group, Laney knew she had a chance to win the popular vote – as long as she did most of the work for her constituents.
“Being friends with all the athletes, I have a lot of friends at the school, and they’re generally not the kind who will go way out of their way to spread the word,” Laney said. “So, I went through my phone and texted every single person I felt comfortable texting to vote for me. And I did it with the link too – if I just told them to vote for me, no one would try to find out how.”
Her good reputation came in handy, too.
“I had heard that even people who didn’t know me well but had heard of me were voting for me because they knew me by association,” Laney said.
On the first Monday in April, an e-mail notification with the good news pinged on her cell phone.
“I hadn’t even gotten out of bed yet, but I read it and was like, whoa, that’s my name!” Laney recalled. “I read it again and couldn’t believe I won. Then I remembered I had roommates and could go celebrate, so I ran out of my room and was jumping around.”
One might think the next month and a half would feature little more than practice, practice, practice. Not exactly.
“My mom has been trying to get me to practice every day,” Laney said, “but it’s Senior Week. I just want to have fun with my friends.”
That’s not to say she isn’t ready for Sunday’s ceremony. Laney just prefers not to overwhelm herself thinking about the magnitude of the moment.
“I’m trying not to overanalyze it, but as soon as I was reminded that I’ll be going up in front of 6,000 people and will probably forget a little bit, it’s hard not to think about,” Laney admitted. “I’m trying hard not to. But if I can go an entire day in front of seventh-graders and be fine, I think I can handle 6,000 people looking at me and not being able to talk back.”