Dear Younger Siblings,
You are at the point in your life where athletics are becoming a very prominent aspect of your everyday life. When I was your age, I started exactly where you are now. It's exciting, isn't it? Feeling the chilly fall air brush up against your bare skin as you're waiting to start the play on the football field, feeling a drop of sweat fall off your eyebrow after making a free throw, and having both friends and family fill the stands with their love and support are all things that you will be blessed with from here on out. You both know I was once a multiple-sport athlete, and as annoying as it was to be dragged all over the state to my tournaments and games, your support was, and still is, greatly appreciated.
Therefore, I want to do everything in my power to return the support as best as I can from here at college. Although I am away, I want both of you to know that I am so proud of the great kids and athletes you have become, and I cannot wait to see you grow on and off the court/field. As your older sister, who is not as credible as Dad, I can at least offer a few words of advice as you prepare to start your career as an athlete.
1. Work hard at alltimes.
There will be times where you think you have reached your limit, times where you want to just sit down and take a break, and times where you think to yourself, "No one else is going 100 percent, why do I need to?" Forget all of that. Give your 110 percent effort at all times, whether it is practice, games, lifting, or conditioning. Not only will you improve your own game, but you will push your teammates to improve theirs.
2. Never take any practice or game for granted.
Sports are not a right, they are a privilege. One day, your favorite game could be taken away from you out of nowhere. Play every game like it's your last.
3. School comes first.
As stated previously, sports are a privilege. School always comes first. Maintain good study habits, time management, and good grades in order to be the epitome of a great student-athlete.
4. Support your teammates.
Your teammates are your backbone and become your family. Stay tight-knit and trust one another, for they are the ones that are behind you in everything you do on the court. Give them your support, and always encourage them to be the best athlete they can be.
5. You will make some pretty funny faces while playing.
You will make some ugly faces in whatever sport you are playing, but at least you can find some consolation in the fact that probably none of your faces will ever be as bad as your older sister's (covered that one for you).
6. Know that you will have bad days.
You will have "off" days where you cannot make a basket, get a pass up, or miss your PR by not even a tenth of a second. Strive for perfection, but remember that you are only human. It isn't important that you have a bad day, but it is important how you bounce back from that bad day. Go into practice the next day with the mindset that you will redeem yourself.
7. Respect your coaches.
Your coach is ultimately the primary person you are listening to. Therefore, treat your coach with respect. Don't argue or talk back, but don't be afraid to ask questions. They are your go-to person for questions and concerns.
8. Respect your referees/umpires.
You might catch yourself giving the other team a little attitude (refrain from doing so in the first place), but never allow yourself to talk negatively toward a referee or umpire. Always respect the call, even if you have to politely clarify what happened with the ref, and always shake their hand after the game.
9. Respect the other team and coaches.
The biggest key to remember in sports is having good sportsmanship. The other team/individual is in the same exact spot as you, playing the game that the both of you love. I realize how iconic rivals are, but if you think about it, they aren't that different from you. Some of my biggest rivals in sports ended up becoming my closest friends. Always respect the other team and their coaches by maintaining a positive attitude and shaking hands afterward.
10. You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.
This is so important. Never let yourself believe that you're only in the game for defense, or to run fast and look pretty. You are on the team for a reason and in the game for a reason. Your coach, your teammates, mom and dad, and I believe in you and want to see you succeed. Don't be afraid to take the open shot or make your own play. If you need some courage, think back to the time I waited to take my very first three-pointer until the state semi-final game.
11. Stay hydrated!
Another important thing to remember: Stay hydrated! Whether it is Gatorade, Powerade, or water, keep drinking fluids before, during, and after every practice and game.
12. Don't get caught up on who is on "A Team" or who is the "starting lineup."
Take it from someone who always tried to impress coaches before improving my own game, it's not worth it. As long as you are giving all the effort you can give and work as hard as you possibly can, the rest is out of your control.
13. Pre and post season are just as, if not more, important than the regular season.
Go to open gyms! I cannot stress that enough. Along with showing loyalty to your coach and the game, no harm can be done by practicing every day, whether it is during the season or off season. And do not, I repeat do not, take lifting and conditioning for granted. I know it isn't fun during the process, but I promise it will only improve your athleticism in the long run.
14. Stay humble.
After Michael Phelps received his 22nd Olympic medal, he still thanked and acknowledged his teammates. When you break your PR in track or surpass your highest scoring game in basketball, don't let it get to your head. I know you both well enough to know that you won't, but it's just a friendly reminder to always stay humble.
15. Listen to Dad.
I know that sometimes his voice emanates throughout the entire gymnasium and he is the only voice you can hear, but I promise you that he is always right. No matter how annoying (I love you, Dad) it may get, always listen to him. He has years more of experience than you ,and he only wants you to be the best you can be. He sees more potential in you than anyone else.
16. Remember to thank mom and dad.
Remember how far your non-conference games are? And how far your parents drive multiple times a week to watch you play? Often times they are in the car more than actually watching your games. Thank them after every game, for they are your number one fans and greatest supporters.
17. Last but not least, have fun.
Sometimes players and coaches get too caught up in winning or having a winning record that they forget why they started playing in the first place. Sports are built from hard work, determination, and most importantly, having fun. I will never forget my basketball stats keeper who would never let me forget to smile after a game, win or loss. If you're not having fun, the purpose of playing has subsided. Go out there, work hard, and have the best time of your life doing it.