Sisters and student-athletes Britta and Hallie Christofferson are familiar with the challenges that college life and college sports can bring. They also know that their experiences growing up in 4-H help them meet those challenges.
Britta Christofferson, 22-year-old Iowa State senior track team thrower, and Hallie, 19-year-old Iowa State freshman basketball forward, arrived at Iowa State from their family farm six miles east of Hamlin, Iowa, in Audubon County.
Britta’s active involvement in 4-H ended years ago, but she recognizes it as an experience that helped her achieve recent accomplishments. The communication, team building and leadership skills that developed during her 4-H activities, including positions in the county committee and local club, are life skills she continues to use every day.
“Those 4-H positions taught me to be a great leader and a great listener, which are skills I use daily competing in track,” Britta said. “Last year my coach named me one of the co-captains for the throws group, and I don't believe that would have ever happened if it hadn't been for my 4-H experiences.”
The collective experience of 4-H, which includes group events, individual projects and leadership roles, is something Britta said she continues to value as a college senior.
“I put a lot of time into 4-H during the years I was involved, so one thing that it really taught me was time management. Being a student-athlete is a big commitment and that means it is also a big time commitment,” she said. “4-H taught me how to balance the different activities in my life.”
Each Christofferson sister recognizes the team building skills she developed through 4-H activities that directly assist her as a Cyclone. Hallie’s time in 4-H helped her adjust to college life on and off the court.
“4-H helped me meet some of my friends at Iowa State, which helped with the adjustment, because we were going through the same things together,” Hallie said. “4-H also made me stay organized since I had the experience of keeping the yearly record book and keeping records for 4-H projects.”
Hallie’s 4-H activity continues through her freshman year because she is also the 2010 Audubon Fair Queen until the 2011 Iowa State Fair in August.
“Our academic advisor has a nickname for every player on the team and mine is ‘Your Highness,’” she said.
On the basketball court, Hallie values her 4-H experience for its team-building emphasis and communication skills development.
“In 4-H, I learned to work individually and with a group. Basketball is a team sport, so you have to be able to work collectively to get the job done,” she said. “4-H also helped me interact with people from other schools, which was useful when I first came to Iowa State because I did not know much about my teammates.”
4-H is a family tradition for the Christofferson sisters. Both parents, Tom and Phyl Christofferson, were once young 4-H’ers, as were their twin 30-year-old sons, Seth and Tyson. Phyl also served as her children’s 4-H club leader for seven years.
“I think 4-H made for great family time together,” Britta said. “My brothers, sister and I all took swine to the county fair each year and dad always helped us. I also learned how to bake and cook with my mom and grandma and continued to bake for the county fair each year. Those were great bonding experiences with my mom.”
As college student-athletes, Hallie and Britta face unique challenges, but have a foundation of 4-H family experiences to guide them. The sisters are at different stages of their college careers, but say they have grown closer than ever before.
“The thing that is great about our relationship is that we each know what the other is going through as a student-athlete,” Britta said. “We just know that we are each there for each other and can always talk about anything.”
4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization, serving more than 6 million young people across America with programs in leadership, citizenship, communication and life skills. One in five Iowa school-age youth participates in 4-H. In Iowa, 4-H Youth Development is headquartered at the Iowa State University campus in Ames. 4-H is supported by federal, state and county funding, private grants and donations, and fees. For more information about joining 4-H, contact an Iowa State University Extension county office at www.extension.iastate.edu/ouroffices.htm or visit www.extension.iastate.edu/4H.
[PHOTO]: Britta, left, and Hallie Chrisofferson. Used by permission of Amy Vinchattle and the Ames Tribune.