When I first considered playing collegiate basketball, I often anticipated the glamorous aspects we all see on TV—the exciting game days, fancy apparel, gear and the added bonus of having school paid for.
While those are definitely perks of committing to play any collegiate sport, that is just what it is—a commitment. After transferring to JBU, I have realized that, at whatever level a person plays – junior college, NAIA, or NCAA – coaches demand excellence from their players (as they should). Contrary to high school basketball, most college athletes are no longer the standouts on their teams. They must learn new and much more intense styles of play, figure out their new coaches’ systems, adjust to their new team and, worst of all, wake up for those 6 a.m. workouts when they are still way too sore from the day before.
Playing a sport in college makes a student athlete no better than students who work a full-time job while going to college. In fact, we are very similar to them since playing sports is our job.
I think the most defining difference between the two is the intense pressure we feel to perform, not just for ourselves, but for our close teammates, coaches, family and school. Sometimes, when we feel overloaded with school assignments, practices, weights, study hall, community service projects, team meetings and important conference games that determine the fate of the season, we might wish we were sitting behind a desk or bussing tables to pay for school.
However, the nature of being college athletes is that we would never ever want to give this opportunity up. There is something about the mental, physical and emotional challenge that is overwhelming on some days but exhilarating on others. Most of the experiences that have shaped me in college came from basketball — not from winning a big game or hitting a cool shot, but instead the disappointments, injuries, conditioning sessions and extra practice I have had to push myself to do.
Somewhere in these past few years, I have grown accustomed to pushing myself to meet these extra demands and have found myself growing up in ways that I never would have expected.
If I had to say one regret from playing a sport in college, it would be the lack of time to spend with classmates and develop friendships. We obviously have built-in friends on our teams, but I think most of us wish to be in two places at once— both in the gym and out experiencing life in college.
I remember an advisor telling me that being a student and an athlete is a process of juggling three balls: academic, athletic and social life. He told me I would learn how to keep those three balls in the air. Just like every other college kid out there, we are constantly experimenting and learning how to juggle our responsibilities.
With all things said and done, we are all working hard in college. Some of you are working full-time jobs, getting married and joining clubs. Work is work. As an athlete, I would like to express my gratitude for getting to work this job, which is still very close to my heart.
While some athletes may have an attitude of entitlement, I think most of us realize that we are blessed to learn these lessons, get through school and enjoy being pushed in something we have strived most of our lives for.
Williams, a senior, plays guard for the Univeresity’s women’s basketball team and is majoring in business administration. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.