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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal Lutheran chapter.

Recently, I have been trying to identify the kind of person I want to be next year and if I am okay with who I think I will be. As of May 2023, I will no longer be a student-athlete. Student-athlete is a label with which I have identified since third grade. It has shaped my school experience and the way I schedule my life and even my family’s lives. When I became serious about sports, my mom devoted so much of her time to attending my practices and competitions. My dad learned to care for and appreciate sports despite never having a previous interest. My siblings became more competitive with me and still encouraged me to keep playing. I am currently in my seventh season of track and field which means the past seven years of my life have consisted of morning weights, afternoon practices, and full Saturdays devoted to meets. This season means so much to me because it is the last season of who I am right now: a student-athlete. I have begun looking forward to graduate school and I fantasize about what my life will look like next year. Yet, I still find myself sad that I will no longer have athlete attached to my student identity. I have learned so much about life and how to live it through sports. The rest of my article will go into some of these lessons and serve as a love letter to my time as a student-athlete. 

My first coach was Coach Julio and I met him when I was in 3rd grade. Coach Julio taught me a variety of sports from flag football to softball to soccer. I wanted to try every sport that was available to me and Coach Julio pushed me to do them all. He taught me the importance of having confidence in yourself and being kind to yourself. As I navigated through the sports, he showed how half of the sports were simply me believing I could do it and pushing myself to do it. I never really excelled at any of these sports, but I had so much trying to do them. I grew confident in my abilities and I started to believe people when they told me I could do anything I set my mind to. I took this confidence into all areas of my life and never let myself back down from a challenge. 

The next coach who shaped me was Coach Ernie. I met Ernie when I was in 5th grade. I played several seasons of co-ed baseball and a season of softball with him. Often, I was one of the two-three girls on the team and I really had to prove myself, which was incredibly hard for me is that I was probably the worst on the team when it came to game day. I got beat up and bruised every practice, but Coach Ernie quickly learned that I could outrun everyone on the team. He not only used that to the team’s advantage- basically hoping I would get hit by a pitch end of up on base and be able to steal bases- but he also began to make me practice harder. He would send the rest of the team running ahead of me and it was my job to catch them and hopefully pass them all. While the constant injuries were not fun, I loved to run and play baseball. It taught me a lot about criticism and being a team player. Baseball quickly exposed me to the fact that I was never going to be amazing at everything but I would be better than others at certain things. I learned how to take criticism, build tougher skin, and realize that everyone plays a role on a team. Everyone’s role would be important and we each had to accept each of our talents and our weaknesses if we wanted to excel. 

“Track & Field has become my little escape from reality and became something I can always rely on to relieve my stress”

Another coach who impacted me immensely before college was my high school track coach, Coach Bowers. Bowers was unlike any other coach before. He believed in me more than I even believed in myself. He pushed me to do better every single day. He made me fall in love with track and field to the point where I wanted to work at it every single day. I had so many things on my plate in high school, but I learned to manage my time and prioritize what mattered to me. He cared about the person I would become and me. He reminded me constantly that I could get whatever it was I wanted out of my life. It is because of his unwavering efforts that I have continued with the sport. He will still call to check in on me as an athlete, but also me as a human. On our calls, he will ask how I am feeling about grad school, the season, and how my family is doing. I could not be more grateful to have been introduced to him and track. Track and Field has become my little escape from reality and became something I can always rely on to relieve my stress. It was one of the biggest factors when coming to Cal Lutheran, with a senior season cut short by the pandemic, I was determined to do more with the sport. This brings me to my current coaches– Coach Brett, Coach Jordan, Coach Wiley, and Coach Dan. 

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/ Unsplash

This group of men is currently making me who I am. Being a student-athlete in college is hard, especially when you refuse to drop anything else from your life. These coaches have supported me on and off the field by constantly providing me with words of encouragement. They understand that I have the most ambitious set of goals for my career, am involved in other areas of campus, and that I am still a human being outside of being an athlete. I was asked at my last track meet if I liked being an athlete at Cal Lu and how I felt about our team without hesitation I responded that I felt very well-supported because our coaches really cared about us.

Being an athlete comes with injuries, hard practices, and a very busy schedule, but none of that has ever made me regret my sport. Even these difficult demands, teach you so much accountability and taking care of yourself. They are a piece of who I am and have helped me become the person I want to be. If you have ever considered playing a sport or wondered what it is like, I hope this article has shown you a glimpse of what it means to be an athlete. This season has been filled with a lot of last times, but I could not be more excited for the next chapter of my life. I look forward to what other areas of my life will begin to shape and teach me. I am obviously more than just a student-athlete but I will never forget the lessons or memories from these chapters in my life.

xthlali nunez

Cal Lutheran '23

Hi, I'm Xthlali, most people call me Lali. I am a senior philosophy major and have hopes of attending law school. I run sprints for the Track & Field team here at Cal Lutheran.