The Only Letters I Wear Are NCAA

 

Student-Athlete. This is my label on LinkedIn and a a group that I’m associated with on campus and beyond. It doesn't matter if the school is Division I or Division III, athletics are a badge of honor that we all bear. However, may it be the uniform or rain gear that we wear around campus, we are much more than the lead point guard or the record singles champ. We are students first.

I grew up in a very intense sport driven area where it was normal for high school freshmen to get letters of commitment to top Division 1 or Ivy league schools simply for their outstanding performance in travel leagues or other ways of exposure.  Some may find this outrageous that 15-year-old boys and girls are at that point in their lives where they can make such a big decision before even learning to drive a car, but that was the mentality that they have been working most of their lives for and they deserve every opportunity they get to show off their talents. Clearly, I’m skewed when it comes to the point of view that athletics run your future, but that’s far from the truth. If anything, they are the most rewarding development of character a individual can do for themselves - a double benefit. Admissions for myself took a different route. When looking at schools, I wanted a campus that let me be who I wanted to be minus the label. Realistically, you can do this anywhere, it just takes the personality to not let assumptions get to you. My freshman year I saw this first hand. For myself, my sport has both a fall and spring season, which means I’m constantly in training and prepping for the next event, but the coalition of friends was very similar to High school, where teams are family, but as always people are welcoming and making friends that were non- athletes was not a problem. The only issue was when games and practices came up and I had to miss concerts and mixers, I would be left out of inside jokes and stories, which was tough, but my friends were so understanding and supportive despite my absence. When I would have a bad round or a tough practice and just wanted to vent, they were always there to grab cheese fries and hear my problems and I couldn’t love them more. But there is definitely a sense of family you have within your team since you go thick and thin with them, they truly see you at your best and worse, that makes it hard for your friends outside understand. Its hard to plan around since any time you’re not in a classroom or on the field you are in the library, or most likely asleep but you have to make time to just be a kid and have those experiences your supposed to have in college.

So the big question is, that every parent asks on the initial tour is how do you manage it all, and there is really no answer, because we don’t. No matter how well you manage your time there is still not enough hours in the day to accomplish all we wish we could. Those 4 years truly fly by. Bigger teams have scheduled study halls where cell phones are handed in and your head is in the books for the entire duration, others cram in a reading on the bus ride to a match, but jokes aside you are a student first and no matter how big a week you have you are as dedicated to your game as you are your paper. That mindset is as focused on the field as off and such drive is an incredible attribute for later in life. Something much like colleges admire in a recruit that employers also look for in a strong hire. Mentally how do I manage? If you ask my friends I’m a jumbled mess, but I somehow make it all work. Its tough for sure, I feel like I live separate lives at school and home, making it tough to connect with friends, but at the same time that’s what keeps me grounded. Like the life I live at school seems like a fantasy and when I come home for breaks my mind is blown away by how small my town actually feels, neighbors grow up and you forget how much time flies by as you are away at school.

So in short, after hearing what goes on inside the chaotic mind of that athlete you sit behind in lab, remember that they are students just like you but carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. But they do it with stride and ask for nothing in return but the gratitude of a degree just like anyone else on campus. We span all demographics, some come from New Zealand, some from 5 miles down the road, but we are all here for the same reason, the incredible opportunity to be challenged to discover what we are truly passionate about learning, and face the scary reality of what we will conquer after graduation.