Feature photo courtesy of UMTerps.com.
I never imagined my college years to be busy with chartered flights, catered meals and autograph signings, but I also didn’t expect a sport to be the most demanding part of my life.
When I started playing volleyball in sixth grade, it was only because my older sister played, and I thought she was the “coolest” person on the planet. It only took seven years for a sport that I once played in the recreational building of my small town to transform in to a passion that drives me to wake up everyday.
Being a college athlete comes with the obvious physical pains of being sore, getting injured and feeling constantly fatigued, but what some people seem to ignore is the even more necessary mental strength that is involved. Playing in front of 10,000 fans at Nebraska, for example, does not come without a massive load of pressure. Performing our best is for our team, coaches, families and hometown, and we can’t forget about agents scouting for their next potential professional client. There is a specific love for competition that pushes college athletes through the last couple points of their fourth match in seven days. Or during the off season, when we wake up at 5 a.m. and may not finish our last rep in practice until late at night. Only passion for the game is left as our motivation.
Between morning weight lifting, three-hour daily practices and traveling across the country in the middle of the week, some may wonder when student athletes have the time to play their role as a college student. We could sit around and wonder how the demands placed before us can possibly be met within a 24 hour day; however the tools to complete each task are available for us. We have academic advisors, tutors and coaches who care, some more than others, about the future of each individual player.
As if all of those resources are not enough to get us through the long practices after taking three midterms, we are handed a team of friends, just as passionate and determined, on the first day we step on campus.
One of my teammates who has inspired me throughout this season has been our senior captain Amy Dion.
“[Being a college athlete] has given me networking opportunities that I would have never had and has given me the chance to travel and see a lot of the country that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to visit,” said Dion. “It’s also given me tools and skills to excel in the real world, like speaking in front of people, time management and organization.”
At the end of the day, every student has different priorities. Every one has something they place value on that could cause stress. What most athletes have in common is that their priority, aside from academics, is to compete in their sport.
It hasn’t taken sophomore defensive specialist Samantha Higginbothem long to discover the differing lifestyles of students and athletes in college.
“I think that every student, whether they are an athlete or not, has problems and goes through tough times,” said Higginbothem. “Ours just happen to be losing matches or being sore from a tough workout.”
Being a college athlete is not glamorous, but we are also not prisoners of our sport. There are no easy matches when you play volleyball in the Big Ten Conference, but this is something we are grateful for. Every game takes 100 percent of our mental and physical strength, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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