When I crossed the finish line of my last race during my senior year of high school, I immediately began crying. Thinking back on it now, there are still almost no words to describe that feeling. Before that point, I had no aspirations to participate on a collegiate cross-country or track and field team. But it was the feeling I felt, after finishing what I had thought was my last competitive race ever, that made me stop and realize that there was no way I could go on without continuing to run on a team during my college years. I wasn't recruited, and I sure as hell had a rocky start my freshman year of college, but being on a Division III athletic team during my time here in college is the best decision I have ever made. I have learned so much about myself as not only an athlete, but also as a person, that I will carry with me beyond my undergraduate days.
1. Time management.
Being a collegiate athlete made me understand the importance of managing my time. When you know you'll be gone for two hours or more every single day for practice or lift, on top of being gone every single weekend for overnight meets, you really have to learn how to balance everything. I've learned to procrastinate less because I know I won't have the the time to write that paper that's due 8 AM Monday morning if I'm going to be away for the whole weekend. I've learned that practice and homework are important, but so are sleeping and having a social life. Having practice and meets have forced me to schedule my time accordingly so I can fit in everything without over-working myself.
2. How to be a better friend.
When you spend almost every waking moment with these people, it is natural that they become your best friends (and your family, as mentioned below). You stay with each other through the highs and the lows. You learn each other's strengths and weaknesses. Being on this team has taught me how to be there for someone when they've had a not so good day, as well as how to celebrate when someone has done really well. It has taught me how to encourage others in the way that they encourage me, so that we can all be better athletes, students, and people.
3. How to find family anywhere.
4. How to push myself beyond what I thought was possible.
I've learned a lot from being on this team, but learning how to push myself beyond what I ever thought I was capable of before is one of the greatest lessons. I've found that I have so much more opportunity, talent, and strength than I ever thought possible. I've learned how to leap barriers and break walls that I never thought I could before in athletics, academics, and many other aspects of my life. I've also learned what my own limits are and how to be my best without breaking myself down in the process.
5. How to believe in something bigger than myself.
Most importantly, being a part of this team has opened up my eyes to the bigger picture. I believe in myself and what I am capable of, but more importantly, I believe in all of my incredible teammates and what we are capable of, together. When I step on to the line and wait for the gun to go off, I know that I am running for my team, not myself. It is so easy to get caught up thinking about what YOU can do and what YOU can do better, but being a part of such a hard-working, determined, and strong group of people reminds me that really are all in this together and that WE are working towards goals that are bigger than just myself. Being a part of this team has changed my perspective on my own running, and then in turn on my own life. I know now that there is a lot more out there in this world that is just waiting to be taken on.