It’s something all young serious athletes dream of at some point – playing in college. When you’re young and first learning a sport, you do it because it’s fun and a healthy activity to be involved in. You get older, stronger, more skilled at your sport and more exposed to the possibilities of where your sport could take you. High school is the time when you really have to dig deep and decide if you love your sport enough to play in college and make it your full-time job, and if so, you have to work your ass off to network, recruit, and impress your way to catch a coach’s interest. The percent of female high school athletes who go on to play in college is 7.9% (scholarshipstats.com). We’ve all heard this speech before and probably heard this statistic before, but if you actually take a step back and think about all the athletes out there, it’s astounding how many people actually get the chance to play in college compared to how many want to. So, when those special few of us do get the chance to play in college, we feel so blessed and worthy – it’s truly the best feeling. All of the hard work put in, money spent, hours traveled and practiced, parties and social events missed out on, pain endured and tears fought – all of it was worth it and has finally paid off. You’re dream of playing in college has come true, and more than likely you’ve thought up this amazing idea of how you want your college experience to go. It’s what we worked so hard to achieve and finally we made it, so it’s going to be amazing and all worth it. Right?
It’s been almost a year now since I said goodbye to the biggest part of my life. I competed as an NCAA Division I athlete all four years of my education and am still to this day heartbroken that I never again will get to put on my jersey and walk out onto my home court. Four years ago, if you were to ask me what I thought my collegiate career was going to be like, my answer couldn’t be any more different than what my journey actually was. I love my sport with a passion, stronger than I think I’ll ever find in another hobby/activity again. However, my experience in college was not easy. At times, it was even depressing and toxic. Being a collegiate athlete gave me the best and worst times of my life. It was a roller coaster of emotions and at the end of it all, has changed me as a person entirely.
All that being said, I’ve had quite a bit of time to do some reflecting on my time as a college athlete. I could probably write a book on all the lessons I learned from my experience, but I wouldn’t do that to you. So, I’ve narrowed it down to the top 5 lessons learned. Here they are.
1. Know your role.
I walked into my freshman year feeling on top of the world, ready to showcase my skills and make my presence on the team. However, I was in way over my head. I was confused about my role, something commonly seen among freshman and easy to subconsciously do. I was a superstar prior to college. Duh! We all were! Again, 7.9% make it. So it’s probably safe to say that the rest of your teammates were the standouts of their teams prior to college as well. It was a hard lesson to learn but one I’ll use forever in my life.
Lesson: In any situation, evaluate your surroundings, your peers, your leaders and your subordinates. Think before you speak and act. Be confident but humble. Humility is one of the most likable qualities a person can have and will get you further and more respect than you may realize.
2. Work your ass off, every single freaking day.
The transition from high school to college brings along so many changes, one of the most obvious being the amount of time put in, both on the court—practices, conditioning, lifting, traveling, and games—and off the court—schoolwork, health and eating habits, sleep schedule, rehab and recovery time. With all this time spent dedicated to your sport, it’s easy to lose focus once in a while and allow yourself an off day to just go through the motions. This is not okay. There is nothing that your teammates and coaches love more than someone who works hard all the time and busts their butt even when they’re tired or having a bad day. This proves your commitment and dedication to the program. It shows you have discipline, goals, a desire to push yourself – not just for yourself, but for your team. People will notice your hard work, and they’ll respect and look up to you for it.
Lesson: Holding yourself to the standard of working your hardest every day will teach you lessons like how to push yourself beyond your limits, train your body physically and mentally to work hard, overcome adversity, maintain your focus, keep track of working towards a goal, and develop discipline—all of which are pivotal skills you’ll use for the rest of your life.
3. Don’t complain.
Not ever. And when you hear someone else complaining, shut it down. Complaining creates negativity. Negativity is cancerous among teams and can single-handedly destroy a program. Once you complain, it becomes easier to do it a second time. And once one person complains, it’s likely another will as well. Next thing you know, your whole locker room is complaining too much and too often, making you lose sight of what you’re working towards. Negativity is contagious (hence the phrase “misery loves company”), and complaining just makes you look good on a person. Don’t be that girl.
Lesson: Promote positivity as much as you can, in all aspects of your life. A quote my coach read to us in preseason that really gave a great perspective on purpose and positivity is, “You don’t have to, you get to.” Remember that you are so lucky to be apart of something bigger than yourself with people who will care and support you and are working towards the same goal. Find the fire in every day and be thankful for where you are.
4. Speak up.
If you have a question, ask it. If you have a goal, share it. If you are upset, express it. Know your coach as more than just a coach. Develop a relationship with them. They are people, just like you and me, not an inanimate all-ruling leader that dictates your life. Know them personally and let them know you over time. And then, when you are struggling with something, you will feel comfortable enough to go to them for help and they will feel comfortable enough and be able to offer appropriate advice. At the end of the day, they want you to succeed and are on your side (sometimes that’s hard to remember in the midst of things). You will come to find that your experience in the program is so much more enjoyable when you feel known and can be yourself.
Lesson: Always respect others – whether they be your leader, peer, or subordinate. Every person has a story and a reason for being. Utilize the people in your life who offer help and guidance, and don’t be afraid to build meaningful relationships with others. Life is about people. So get to know them and let them get to know you. You never know who or how you may impact another person’s world.
5. Love your school, your team, your coaches + enjoy every minute of it.
Your teammates are your family, your best friends, and will know you on a level no one else in this world ever will. Love them like your family, even if you don’t want to at times. Same goes for the coaches. Your coaches will be your coaches far beyond your four years as an athlete. Build a relationship with them that goes beyond the court and utilize them throughout your life. They love you and want the same from you, believe me. When times get tough, the road gets exhausting, the days get monotonous, and you feel you’re losing your passion, remember who you play for. Whether it be your family, yourself, or whatever your personal reasons, you ultimately play for the name you wear on your jersey – your school. Have pride in your school and your team. And enjoy the respect you get from representing it. Love your fellow student athletes, the non-athletes, the professors, the campus, and everything in between. Loving where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing will ultimately make your experience everything you’d hoped it’d be and more.
Lesson: Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, find a passion that gives you purpose. Sometimes passion will be hard to find and other times it’ll just be there naturally. But no matter what, you will not be your best self if you don’t have a desire for where you’re at or what you’re doing. Just like one my favorite Pinterest quotes says, “do it with passion or not at all.” Once you live by this perspective, you’ll soon come to find that living through passion makes you a more content, better person and will attract more positive, good things, people, and opportunities.
I hope some of this resonated with you and inspires you to appreciate where and who you are, whether you’re an athlete or not. If you guys have any other lessons, advice, questions or comments, please comment below. I’d love to get to know you and chat more with you on this topic! (As you can see, I’m very emotional and into this topic! lol)
Thanks for reading guys! I’m so appreciative of you!
Stay beautiful my lovely ladies.