From Opponent to Family Member: Natalie Mehl’s Journey

Image sourced from Ursinus Athletics

Article by Charlotte DiLello <>

For many athletes their sport is the way they escape the stress and hardship of their everyday life. When you step on the field or court everything else fades away because you get the chance to do something you are truly passionate about. This could not be more true for collegiate basketball guard Natalie Mehl.

Flashback to 2019. Heading into her freshman year at McDaniel College, Mehl was eager to hit the ground running and watch her dreams of being a collegiate athlete come to fruition. Her initial vision was quickly spoiled when the coach retired, throwing the situation with the team into flux. Other problems compounded the stress. “My mental health started to decline and I fell out of love with the game of basketball. I tried to hide my mental health and force feelings of love for basketball, but it soon became too much for me to handle and right before Thanksgiving break I decided to quit the team and enter the transfer portal.”

Transferring was a breath of fresh air for the lost player who once was driven by the opportunity to step onto a court every day. Natalie decided on Ursinus College and although she was very reluctant after just a few short weeks she found herself in the same position she was two years prior, eager to start a new journey. Natalie said that initially she had a tough time trusting her new teammates. But quickly that passion and love for the game that she thought had disappeared ignited in her once again. She emphasized this by saying, “Ursinus and this program has allowed me to find the fun in basketball again. It has given me my best friends and people that I will consider family after I graduate.”

When sitting down with Natalie I got the chance to ask her a few questions about how this change has influenced her life and if she would do it again if she had the chance. In response, she tilted her forearm over and pointed to her tattoo that read, “And if you never bleed, you’re never gonna grow.” She then went on to explain how meaningful this tattoo is to her. The arm tattoo is a lyric from a Taylor Swift song that sums up Natalie’s feeling that change is often hard to accept, but that it taught her valuable lessons and made her the player, friend, and teammate she is today.

After this conversation with Natalie I had the opportunity to speak with her teammate, Kelly Grant, on the topic of this change in Natalie’s life. Kelly said “Despite all of her hardships in her years of collegiate basketball, she has persevered through so much and has still continued to show her love and dedication for not only the game but her life as well.”

Natalie not only wants to share her love of the game to her teammates but everyone she has the opportunity to cross paths with. She aspires to one day be a head women’s college basketball coach somewhere where she can do just that. She wants to show her players that your mental health should always come first and that you’re not letting your teammates down if you are not in the mental state to perform. She highlighted this when she explained “The biggest takeaway I’ve had is understanding the importance of mental health as well as finding out the type of coach I want to be for my future players. Because of the situation I was put in, I have made it my goal to be the type of coach that I needed during those hardships.”