Beauty of Being a Former College Athlete

3 Nov

Why we play D3 athletics.

It’s not about getting a scholarship, getting drafted, or making SportsCenter. It’s a deep need in us that comes from the heart. We need to practice, to play, to lift, to hustle, to sweat. We do it all for our teammates and for the student in our calculus class that we don’t even know. We don’t practice with a future major league first baseman; we practice with a future sports agent. We don’t lift weights with a future Olympic wrestler; we lift with a future doctor. We don’t run with a future Wimbledon champion; we run with a future CEO. It’s a bigger part of us than our friends and family can understand. Sometimes we play for 2,000 fans; sometimes 25. But we still play hard. You cheer for us because you know us. You know more than just our names. Like all of you, we are students first. We don’t sign autographs. But we do sign graduate school applications, MCAT exams, and student body petitions. When we miss a kick or strike out, we don’t let down an entire state. We only let down our teammates, coaches, and fans. But the hurt is still the same. We train hard, lift, throw, run, kick, tackle, shoot, dribble, and lift some more, and in the morning we go to class. And in that class we are nothing more than students. It’s about pride—in ourselves, in our school. It’s about our love and passion for the game. And when it’s over, when we walk off that court or field for the last time, our hearts crumble. Those tears are real. But deep down inside, we are very proud of ourselves. We will forever be what few can claim…college athletes.

I can remember the exact moment that moment when I walked off the court for the last time, my heart crumbled and my tears were real. It was the NCAA Tournament at Ithaca College this past March. I guess I always knew that our season would end in a loss, but nothing can compare to it actually happening. We were down by 15 or so at half time and came back to only lose by six. As much as I hate to say it, it was one of those games where, as the time boiled down, we knew we were going to lose. I remember the buzzer ending the game that triggered this wave of anxiety over me. It was over. I’ve been playing basketball since I was twelve and now it was done.

Every single time I worked out , I did it for basketball. Why get in shape? For basketball. Why lift? Basketball. Buy a jump rope? Basketball. You get the idea.

I knew I wanted to play in college so that narrowed my decision. I wanted to play for a successful program, that had my major and wasn’t astronomically priced. MSMC was just that. Conference champs every year, 20+ wins a season, Public Relations program and best financial aid package of the 12 schools I applied to.

Our freshmen year had around 15 freshmen alone trying out for the team. Some recruited, others not. The former upper classmen were truly great leaders and really helped pave the way for my four years. October 15 came and I knew what I had gotten into. I earned decent minutes freshmen year and sophomore year I knew I’d probably be starting.

So I went home and worked my ass off and lost about 20 lbs.

I came back to school and lost another 20. Sure my clothes fit better and I was feeling pretty good about myself, but the main reason I started all this in the first place? Basketball.

I ended up having a great career. I scored 1000+ points, was team co captain for two years, won three conference championships and advanced to the second round of the NCAA’s twice.

That quote at the top is true for every D3 college athlete. We play hard. The hours and hours of time I’ve spent in the Kaplan Center at Mount Saint Mary College are times I’ll never forget. The endless sweet 16s, down and backs, 4 6 4s, 4 on 4 full, full court layups, take the charge drill, 5 man shell, box out drill, just to name a few.

There we so many times when I’ve wanted to stop, but I didn’t because I looked next to me and my teammates were pushing just as hard, if not harder. We had no choice. It was either keep going, or get out. We wouldn’t let each other stop. When you play a team sport, you bust your ass for your team.

Why do I bring this up? Because at the gym today when I was running on the treadmill and my entire body was cramping up, I stopped. If I was in practice I would have never stopped, I couldn’t.I was talking to my best friends and co captain of the team tonight on the phone, explaining to her my frustration. We’re running the Phili Half Marathon in three weeks and I’m in no way shape or form ready for this race, but I know I’ll be fine. I know I can do it. It will be extremely challenging, but I know I can because I know how far I can push myself.

We know how to push ourselves to the absolute limit. We’ve all thrown up from pushing ourselves so hard. Sorry to be graphic, but it’s true. Someone else might have been okay with stopping after cramping up, but I was getting so annoyed with myself. I remember countless times at the end of practice when we would have to “get in the blue,” (the baseline) and run sprints. We’d split into two groups and usually go one sprint (down and back) at a time. Because it was only one sprint at a time we had to give it 110%. More times then not, I couldn’t stand up the pain in my side hurt so bad. That only triggered our coach to yell louder because he knew we we’re getting tired. That’s when you get stronger. When you literally feel like you can’t go on anymore, but you fight through the pain and it eventually will get easier. I just feel like I can’t do it on my own and I feel that only a select number of people can get me to push that hard.

I knew I was going to struggle when basketball ended and I realize now why.  Basketball was always my motivation to stay in shape and now I need to do it because of the endless reasons why exercise is good for you. I know some of you are thinking why I still can’t play. I can and I will, but it will never, ever, compare to college basketball.

Playing Division III basketball is something that will always be a part of me and now I need to turn the page, close the book, end the chapter and focus on getting back in shape and learning how to push myself without anyone. I know I can do it, but it will take “mental toughness,” a term all too familiar.

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3 Responses to “Beauty of Being a Former College Athlete”

  1. e m l November 5, 2010 at 8:47 pm #

    This is something many college athletes can relate to – trust me your not the only one. Just know that that was simply one part of your life. We all change and evolve and everything you do is meant for you at that moment in time.

    And don’t worry about pushing yourself at the gym…honestly – why punish your body to puke-y terms? No thanks!

    • Shannon November 8, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

      Aw thanks! You’re so very right.

  2. Shannon [Tropical Eats] November 9, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    this gave me the CHILLS!!! it was neat to be able to step inside your world just by reading this post 🙂

    If you ever wanna play bball when it warms up.. or heck even in the cold, just let me know!

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