As a college athlete, you are expected to be many things: a leader, a scholar, an athlete, a teammate, a mentor, an aspiring professional, etc. While each of these roles is valuable in their own right, I’m a firm believer that as a collegiate athlete, the most important thing you should be is a friend.
College is rough. Exams, games, practices, lifts, travel--it all can be overwhelming at times, but the people who are there with you through it all, your teammates, are arguably the most important people you’ll interact with throughout your four years. The bonds you create with them are the ones that will last forever. Think about it; these people are the people who know exactly what you’ve gone through to be able to compete at this level and to go to such a great school. They’re the ones who know your pre-workout playlist and can tell when you’re mentally not in the game. They’re the ones who know your favorite post-game snack and can sense when you’re having doubts about yourself. These people are the people that you spend all of your time with so at the end of the day, be their friend.
The mental health of student-athletes is finally becoming an issue that is being addressed. With all of the added stress in our lives, it’s imperative that we all have outlets to decompress, vent and heal with. I implore you to be that outlet for your teammates, be their friend. Yes, there is always going to be some competition on teams between teammates but never let that get in the way of your relationships. The whole of a team is greater than the sum of its parts so the stronger the individual relationships between teammates, the better off your team will be.I’m not expecting you to always be best friends or to always feign happiness with everyone, no. When someone is wrong, call them out. When you are wrong, humble yourself. Just never let any problem ever get so big that it affects personal relationships between players. We all came here to compete and get an education, but at the end of the day, we still need friends. So, please, student-athletes, don’t just be teammates, be friends.