Being an eighteen year old, leaving college for the first time is a very stressful, intense but yet exciting time. It is not just a jump, but a leap into the future in which you have no idea what to expect. There are so many scary situations going through the mind of an incoming freshman. Things such as worrying about making friends, managing your time between school work and the social scene. Getting the full experience of college is one of the perks. Being on your own for the first time with complete freedom is what every eighteen year old craves. Move in day is so exciting that you can feel the excitement turning in the pits of your stomach. You can feel your smile so big on your face that your jaw hurts when you turn onto campus. There is so much to learn and experience. It is a very special time in a teens life. Even though it is exciting, it is even scarier for incoming freshman athletes.
I remember my move in day for college like it was just yesterday. I was so excited I could not stop smiling but so scared that I had a frown line in between my eyebrows. I was creating so much pressure in my mind that it traveled into my traps and shoulder blades creating such intense and painful knots. I was not sure if I was going to be able to handle the life of a collegiate athlete on a scholarship. There was so much being asked of me, months in advance of move in day. Receiving my work out packet a week into summer, realizing that college was not just fun and freedom. I realized it was going to be work, time management and a ton of dedication. I was on scholarship, basically being paid to attend that school. I was chosen to represent my school and I wore that mascot across my chest with so much pride.
Even though, not all people may like the athletes, the athletes are the face of the school. We represent our school no matter where we go. Not only did we rep our school, but we were a reflection on all those who worked at the school. It is a terrifying thing to hear that no matter what any athlete does, on or off the field, it was being watched and talked about. People see an athlete chugging beer from a beer bong in 3 seconds it becomes the talk of the school or the town. That scenario presents itself as an act upon the coach. People hear or see that, they automatically think, how can an athlete behave in that type of manner. We are suppose to be respectable and behave in all good manners. No matter how hard athletes work in the class room and on the field, the night life is what dictates how the sport is looked at. Athlete or not, you see a peer chugging a beer or lighting up a bong, it creates a bad name not only for that person but for the team as well. People see it as that one athlete not taking their sport seriously. There is a ton of pressure on athletes to be a respectable person no matter the situation which creates an excruciating amount of pressure on the athletes. As a human being, we just think that we are doing all the same stuff our fellow classmates are doing. We are simply, drinking and having fun like the rest of the school. However, consequences do not fall the same way they do for athletes as they do for non-athletes. Although, it is understandable that athletes can create a bad name for their sport by their actions, it is hard some times to always be held at a higher standard. Although most athletes want to be treated equally as other students, being the face of the school and held at a higher standard is a privilege. Most of the time, freshman collegiate athletes do not understand how to control the surroundings yet and can fall into a situation that will be talked about for weeks to come. However, this happens to all athletes, no matter what year of college you are in.
Being able to learn how to be time manageable and to divide your time up wisely is very hard. However, as each semester passes it gets so much easier. You find ways that work best for you; it even makes it easier having your entire semester timed out and put on a calendar for you. Although, getting that calendar for the first time is intimidating, it helps create a path on how to become structured. Every day as a collegiate athlete is stressful and full jammed pack of activities that you barely have time to breath. Running from classes to lift, than to conditioning and straight to practice, your day is over. By the time that athletes get back to their rooms, you are exhausted and probably want to call home but there is no time for that. After you get home, it automatically comes back to school and making sure it is all done up to your professors expectations is difficult. All they want to do is sleep or take a nap like they heard the two girls sitting next to them in their 10 AM talk about. The stress of practice and lift can easily spill into the homework session. As you sit there and think about the terrible practice you had, or how sore your legs are from maxing out, it can be hard to really focus on the book you are reading. After you finish your homework, you realize you have not eaten anything all day. So you pop open a bag of Ramen noodles and shower while its cooking. Once in bed, you realize you have to wake up and do it all over again tomorrow morning. The one thing about realizing it will repeat tomorrow, is you are scared of whether conditioning tomorrow is going to be harder than it was today. So, as many athletes do, you fall asleep stressed about what is too come.
However, there are so many more perks to being a college athlete than there are downs. As a freshman you are walking onto campus with 20 or more automatic friends. Who are either just as scared as you are or have the experience to help you get through it. College teammates become more than just friends, they become family. They are the people you cry too when you are too tired to go to your 8 AM or go to when you need help selecting your next semester professors. Not only do they become your family, they are the people who truly know what you are going through. Between team dinners and living together, teammates become inseparable. Those are the people you miss the most when you go back home to your parents and their rules. They are the ones you are texting at Christmas break when you just want to go back to your tiny dorm and to your freedom. Teammates are the people cheering and supporting for you on and off the field. On the field, it is an army, with one thing on all minds which is winning. Beating your opponent and willing to do anything for each other. To look and see how many people are willing to dive into a fence or shove another person into the ground just for you to succeed is the most satisfying feeling in the world. Not to mention once season comes around, how quick and amazing you feel at all times. Together, you get to watch all the hard work you all put into each and every day for that moment. Not to mention, how luxurious it is to get fully paid meals and trips with your best friends all over the country. Those people become those who are in your wedding or become the uncles/aunts to your children.
At times, it is so easy to forget how lucky you are to be a college athlete due to all the demands coming for you. But there is no better feeling than lacking up those cleats on game day and seeing each and every one of your teammates smile on their face. There really is nothing more rewarding than hearing your coach admit that each and every one of you are an amazing player and were chosen to become something much bigger than a sport. You are becoming the person you will be for the rest of your life because you are a collegiate athlete. The lessons you learn from your sport will carry with you for the rest of your life. I promise, you will look back one day and think "how did I handle this back when I was at school?" or "what exactly would my coach tell me to do in this situation". Being a collegiate athlete is something to be so proud of. You are being recognized for your hard work but are also given the opportunity to further your education and make something of yourself. Between the stress, tears, running tests and finals, being a college athlete is hard, but being a college athlete and representing the school you chose is the greatest gift I could have ever been given. It is important to remember that one day, it will all end. You will never lace up those cleats again, you will never hit/catch/kick a ball again. One day it ends, and all you are left with is a memory. Being called a college athlete is the most amazing and rewarding trophy you will ever receive. Cherish it and treat every moment like it is your last.