What It Means To Be A Student Athlete

What It Means To Be A Student Athlete

What does the hard work really mean?
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Chances are if you make it to collegiate athletics, you have already put in countless hours, blood, sweat, and tears into the sport you play. Collegiate athletics is the next step in becoming a better athlete. But collegiate athletics is like a hidden life that only the dedicated and hard workers are privileged to get to experience. There is so much hard work, pain, fatigue, etc., that goes on behind each student athlete. It is a full time job to play college athletics and although the NCAA currently is against college athletes being paid, we spend countless hours working on our craft to bring in a substantial amount of revenue for the school. I mean lets face it, would schools like Alabama be so popular if coaches like Bear Bryant and Nick Saban didn’t recruit incredible talent to win national championships? However, this article is about the life of a student athlete.

While the average college student schedules classes later than 10 a.m., most student athletes have already been up since 6 and have gone to a practice and lifted weights. We must schedule our classes around our practices to make sure that we can give 100 percent in the classroom and at practice. I mean let’s face it, bad grades means we can’t compete. Some student athletes get the joy of going to class sweaty after lifting weights and not having any time to shower, whereas your average sorority girl comes in wearing a $500 outfit, straightened hair, and a full face of makeup. It is a blessing to somewhat look decent to class if you’re a student athlete.

When the average student shows up to class 45 minutes late, it often infuriates the student athlete that has been up since the crack of dawn and must be on time to class never knowing if there is a class checker there making sure you’re on time. We overhear the plans of what frat/sorority socials and parties are being held on week nights and know that if we even want to survive the next morning there is no way we can go out. Like I said, collegiate athletics takes full dedication. Some might say that student athletes are not smart, and they’re only there to play sports. My response to that would be try doing “20 hours” a week of practice and then being attentive every day in class (and all you college athletes know why that 20 hours is in quotations). It is not easy to be on top of all the work all the time when majority of the time you just want to fall asleep. The free time that we do have is spent at study hall getting mandatory hours and studying for upcoming tests. Our lives are practically spent complying to the rules our universities and the NCAA. Although it might seem that I am making an argument for why student athletes have it harder, we actually are the blessed ones.

Being a student athlete is much more than the hours we put in to our sport. It is much more than the early wake up time, the frustration with teammates, coaches, and your average student. Being a student athlete means that we get to put our school’s name on our back and represent it doing what we love. We have worked hard to accomplish where we are and that pride of stepping out on game day is worth every ounce of sweat.

Being a student athlete means you are among some of the most athletic peers in your age bracket that are experiencing the same college journey as you. You get to meet other athletes that are gifted, driven, dedicated, and so much more. You get to create bonds and friendships with people that all start because you share a passion for the same thing as them: being an athlete. It means that when you graduate you walk across that stage knowing you gave all you could in the classroom and you represented the university playing your sport, and that is a dedication only some will come to know.

Being a student athlete means that young kids look up to you in an admirable way and you have the influence to empower them and keep them reaching for their dreams. Only athletes understand what other athletes go through and because of that it creates unification between sports. When we look back at our time with collegiate athletics we won’t remember most how much we hated specific practices (although they will forever be embedded in our minds), yet we will remember the joy, happiness, and pride that was spent doing what we love with people that we love.

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To The Coach Who Took Away My Confidence

You had me playing in fear.
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"The road to athletic greatness is not marked by perfection, but the ability to constantly overcome adversity and failure."

As a coach, you have a wide variety of players. You have your slow players, your fast players. You have the ones that are good at defense. You have the ones that are good at offense. You have the ones who would choose to drive and dish and you have the ones that would rather shoot the three. You have the people who set up the plays and you have the people who finish them. You are in charge of getting these types of players to work together and get the job done.

Sure, a coach can put together a pretty set of plays. A coach can scream their head off in a game and try and get their players motivated. A coach can make you run for punishment, or they can make you run to get more in shape. The most important role of a coach, however, is to make the players on their team better. To hopefully help them to reach their fullest potential. Players do make mistakes, but it is from those mistakes that you learn and grow.

To the coach the destroyed my confidence,

You wanted to win, and there was nothing wrong with that. I saw it in your eyes if I made a mistake, you were not too happy, which is normal for a coach. Turnovers happen. Players miss shots. Sometimes the girl you are defending gets past you. Sometimes your serve is not in bounds. Sometimes someone beats you in a race. Sometimes things happen. Players make mistakes. It is when you have players scared to move that more mistakes happen.

I came on to your team very confident in the way that I played the game. Confident, but not cocky. I knew my role on the team and I knew that there were things that I could improve on, but overall, I was an asset that could've been made into an extremely great player.

You paid attention to the weaknesses that I had as a player, and you let me know about them every time I stepped onto the court. You wanted to turn me into a player I was not. I am fast, so let me fly. You didn't want that. You wanted me to be slow. I knew my role wasn't to drain threes. My role on the team was to get steals. My role was to draw the defense and pass. You got mad when I drove instead of shot. You wanted me to walk instead of run. You wanted me to become a player that I simply wasn't. You took away my strengths and got mad at me when I wasn't always successful with my weaknesses.

You did a lot more than just take away my strengths and force me to focus on my weaknesses. You took away my love for the game. You took away the freedom of just playing and being confident. I went from being a player that would take risks. I went from being a player that was not afraid to fail. Suddenly, I turned into a player that questioned every single move that I made. I questioned everything that I did. Every practice and game was a battle between my heart and my head. My heart would tell me to go to for it. My heart before every game would tell me to just not listen and be the player that I used to be. Something in my head stopped me every time. I started wondering, "What if I mess up?" and that's when my confidence completely disappeared.

Because of you, I was afraid to fail.

You took away my freedom of playing a game that I once loved. You took away the relaxation of going out and playing hard. Instead, I played in fear. You took away me looking forward to go to my games. I was now scared of messing up. I was sad because I knew that I was not playing to my fullest potential. I felt as if I was going backward and instead of trying to help me, you seemed to just drag me down. I'd walk up to shoot, thinking in my head, "What happens if I miss?" I would have an open lane and know that you'd yell at me if I took it, so I just wouldn't do it.

SEE ALSO: The Coach That Killed My Passion

The fight to get my confidence back was a tough one. It was something I wish I never would've had to do. Instead of becoming the best player that I could've been, I now had to fight to become the player that I used to be. You took away my freedom of playing a game that I loved. You took away my good memories in a basketball uniform, which is something I can never get back. You can be the greatest athlete in the world, but without confidence, you won't go very far.

Cover Image Credit: Christina Silies

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4 Traits Developed Through Sports

Participation in sports can be a fulfilling experience for student-athletes.

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It offers the opportunity to learn about competition and build skills during some of the most impressionable years. Therefore, it's important for athletic programs to promote and nurture positive, healthy coaching. Coaches and athletic staff are influential figures to student-athletes, especially in their capacity to teach those in their charge pertinent life lessons.

Student-athletes may find playing sports is a valuable way to learn. Students attain knowledge through different methods: visual stimuli, auditory cues, and active participation. Furthermore, the skills and traits that student-athletes hone on the field can usually transfer into other aspects of life. Participating in competition and practice, and being part of a team, can give student-athletes the tools necessary for success in and outside of sports.

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School sports are a valuable platform for packaging important lessons into comprehensible, practical ideas. Interscholastic athletics are more than just a fun way to exercise and compete; they are a springboard for developing universal traits that can lead to life success. The following are four of those traits, along with information on how they can be utilized outside of athletics.

Listening

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Young athletes can learn how to develop their listening abilities within sports. Comprehending what others say is crucial to learning success. During practice or a game, players must listen intently to the coach's instructions and fully understand what is being conveyed. Additionally, they must listen to their teammates to coordinate better, and at the same time be able to hear an official's whistle or call.

Listening is more than just hearing; it is the ability to understand and utilize critical information. Listening, in reality, conveys respect for the individual who is communicating. Athletic competition emphasizes the importance of listening in a way that is different than in a school classroom. Outside of competition, a student-athlete's comprehensive listening abilities and focused attention can translate successfully to situations in the real world.

Due to their competitive experiences, student-athletes may find it easier to understand instructions or listen to information they previously thought of as mundane. The student-athlete's listening ability is a critical trait that will most likely benefit their career. For example, being able to fully listen to a customer's desires, or to an employer's needs, can set an employee apart and lead to further career growth.

Resilience to Failure

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How athletes respond to loss is just as important as their response to victory. Failure is a natural part of life that requires resilience. When a loss or something negative occurs, it can devastate an athlete's confidence and create uncertainty. While these are natural responses, some athletes can let their doubts or negative thoughts consume them, sometimes to the point where all they see is failure. Athletes who work through failure don't let it affect them or their future performance. They become resilient and rise above.

Coaches can help student-athletes build resilience by being an example of resilience themselves, and by defining other aspects of success. By providing positive feedback and identifying lessons learned through failure, coaches can build positive attitudes in their players. Similar to a defeat on the field, life has its rough moments. In a professional setting, an individual may face the loss of a job, or experience failure for not meeting business goals.

Resiliency assists and prepares athletes to push past life challenges when and if they are encountered. In the real world, the resilient student-athlete will be able to handle rejection and failure, learn from them, and continue to pursue their goals.

Teamwork

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Cooperation is an invaluable trait that can be built through teamwork in athletics. It's an important quality that will reap benefits during a career and in family life. Collaboration isn't always easy. Learning early on how to master it can deliver immediate advantages.

In athletics, players work together to pursue a common goal. That means they must communicate openly, compromise occasionally, and respect their teammates. Individually, they must be dedicated and focused so they can play at peak performance. When student-athletes enter the professional world, they will find being a team player has major benefits. In their career, they will most likely work on teams where collaboration is key. In family, working with a spouse to align values and strategies can lead to a strong bond. Without teamwork, goals will be more difficult to achieve and progress more difficult to accomplish in any aspect of work or life.

Dignity

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How athletes react to victory or defeat will create the foundation for future reactions. Student-athletes who learn how to win or lose with dignity are building a mindset of respect, and a positive self-image.

How others perceive you—and by inference, how they perceive your true nature—is a major aspect of life that shouldn't be ignored. How athletes are perceived on the field, and later as a professional, can lead to the gain or loss of opportunities. Treating others with respect and being humble after a victory conveys a dignified attitude. Dignity is a trait found in leaders, and in those who seek to make a positive impact on the world.

The Far-Reaching Impact of Interscholastic Sports

Sports as a whole can only be as helpful, dignified, respectful, and life building as the athletic staff that is in charge. Student-athletes learn valuable life traits directly from dedicated coaches and other staff who grow to be looked on as role models. For those considering becoming an athletic administrator or similar professional, the career offers many rewards. You are able to mold young lives by setting an example, by teaching important life lessons, and by cultivating useful traits that can carry the student-athlete far beyond school. Interscholastic sports have the ability to reach—and to change—students on a personal, teachable level.

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