Over the course of my four years of playing at the University of Washington I encountered many unique experiences that resulted in many lessons learned. Through administration, coaches, teammates and beyond, I was able to absorb and apply numerous concepts and ideas that I think can help bolster your college experience as a student-athlete. I have come up with about 40 points to pass along from my experience as a collegiate student-athlete onto you. These have been broken down into four sections.
Below are the first ten…
Tough times are inevitable…
- I remember my freshman year like it was yesterday. I was on a bike warming up a few days before our first closed scrimmage. My coach came up to me to discuss my role on the team for the season. I was more than satisfied and excited to get the season started. The day before traveling to Portland for our first game, I was riding my bike back to my dorm after practice. Before you know it, I am lying on the ground trying to comprehend what had just happened. I had been hit by a car! I was devastated… The injuries from the accident held me out for over a month. I watched as my team developed and grew on the court without me. This put me behind and I was not able to fit into the role that I was supposed to have when the season began. Add that to all the tough times getting to know my teammates, living with the other freshman, it was almost a nightmare. I wanted it to be over and it had barely gotten started. Freshman year was one of the toughest years of my life. I went through so much at 17 years old that I did not expect to go through. Long story short, tough times happen, embrace them. You will have injuries, fights with coaches and teammates, you will not want to go to school most days. Outside influences will be telling you things that you start to believe and that may not be the best advice at that time. Whatever the case may be, understand that it is going to happen. Embrace them, reflect on them, learn from them.
You will make mistakes.
- This is in all areas of life. On and off the court, with family, friends, relationships, school and beyond. The number of mistakes I made throughout my career on and off the court can’t be quantified. There were so many times that I felt like the sky was falling when it wasn’t the case. A big mistake I made, and still do, is letting the mistakes I make affect me longer than they needed to. One thing I try to think about is whether those mistakes will even matter in five minutes, days, or even years from now. When I put that into perspective, it makes it much easier to let go and move on. Mistakes are unavoidable, learn and grow from them.
Injuries will happen at some point…
- Injuries suck. I wish they never happened, but they are a reality of the game and any sport. At some point in your career, you will be faced with some sort of injury. It won’t be easy. I’ve had my fair share of injuries, from ankles, to knees, to shoulders, to feet. You name it, injuries always find a way to rear their ugly head and cause you to miss time from practice or games. I was blessed to never tear an ACL or suffer a serious long-term injury, but to those that do; Use it as motivation to come back better than you were. Things can always be worse. You are still very much a part of the team and their success. Find ways to still bring something to the table. A piece of advice I would give is to make sure that you see yourself at a school for four years without sports in the picture.
There will be times you lose confidence.
- There were a few times in my career that I lost confidence in myself. My bike accident that led to my rough freshman year was one of those times. Find ways to stay motivated. Easier said than done but understand that there’s a reason that you are where you are. You’re more than capable of being great and having a successful career. Just keep working.
Being a student-athlete is hard
- Really hard… People don’t understand the necessary time that it takes to be a student-athlete. From morning workouts, to class, to individuals, back to class, to weights, to tutoring, to training table, then home to do homework… and that’s only one day! Try repeating that for months. It’s not to an easy thing to do. It’s exhausting both mentally and physically. Not everyone is fit to be a student-athlete. Be proud of what you accomplish in your four years. Whether you have on court success or not, being able to do what you do and go to school and get a degree is something you should be proud of.
Go to class…
- Yes, being a student-athlete is hard… But, you’re a STUDENT before an athlete. Go to class, plain and simple.
Know the plays
- This may be cliché but it couldn’t be more true. Don’t be the only player on the court who doesn’t know the plays. Know your position, and every position on the court. This is an area that I am proud to say that I thrived at. There were times that I would even argue with my coach about certain plays. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook execution when you are talented but it’s little details that not only get you playing time on the court but can also be the difference in the outcome of the game. You want playing time, you want to succeed… KNOW THE PLAYS!!
- This is one factor that I wholeheartedly believe differentiates good players from great ones. There are so many kids who work as hard as they can in the gym, and that’s great, but the ones that do more than just get shots up and spend all their time in the gym separate themselves from the pack. The smart ones learn from their mistakes through film. Whether you sit down with your coach or watch it yourself, analyzing film on yourself and the team is crucial. You not only become aware of mistakes, but it can also help with learning the plays if you struggle with that. Being an underclassman, I think watching film with your coach is very important. Them being there to turn each play into a learning opportunity will benefit you later. By the time you’re an upperclassman, you will be able to self-evaluate. Unfortunately, not every program has the same resources. If you have access to an iPad provided by your program, great. If you don’t, ask your coaches to make clips for you that you can put on a hard drive, or ask for their synergy login. Like my coach always used to say, every rep is your rep. Mental reps are equally important to physical reps.
You will always get an opportunity…
- Someone can get hurt, a player can transfer, anyone can foul out of a game, whatever it may be. There is always an opportunity that comes your way. However, it’s on you to seize it. Make sure that you are prepared for these opportunities. If you stay ready, then you don’t have to get ready. There are countless times when I got the opportunity to start because of different circumstances. Some of my teammates also had those same opportunities. You see it all the time when a player who was a walk-on or doesn’t play comes in and makes an immediate impact. One of my favorite people in the world, Jenna Moser, or better known as “Sniper,” was a walk-on and used to kill us in practice when we went against our practice team. After we graduated, my class and our coach left the program. This gave her an opportunity with a new coach in a new system. Months later she was the only player to start every game for them and killed it during the season. You can be one of those people. So, don’t get discouraged, keep working hard and when the opportunity presents itself, do the best with whatever time you get.
- Learn about the people around you, places, and what’s happening on campus. You can never stop learning and growing. Get to know your teammates. Ask them about things that they like and don’t like. Get to know your teachers. Ask them any and every question about issues or curiosities you may be having in class. Most of the time, teachers reward you with better grades for putting in the effort. If you don’t know things on the court, ask. Most of the time the question you have, someone else is wanting to ask. Know the events and things happening on campus. There could be things that peak your interest that you want to attend. Be curious about life. Asking questions and the eagerness to learn will broaden your interests and help you become a more well-rounded person. Don’t let thinking your question is stupid stop you from asking. There is nothing wrong with laughing at yourself sometimes.