My shirt was drenched in sweat and covered in dirt. My legs could barely support the weight of my body. I was counting down the minutes until I finally got to sit down and eat. It had probably been five or six hours since my last meal.
That was when I looked over to my fellow freshman teammate, who was walking beside me and with despair in my voice, I asked,“Do you realize we have four years of this?”
What made it worse, was coming home from morning practice at the softball field and seeing my roommates just waking up. They could go out to lunch but I had to be at a team meeting. They could study for a midterm during the day but I had to stay up until midnight doing it.
I was envious of them.
Even now, going into my fourth season, I still am. I found myself constantly asking questions like, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” and “Is it worth it?”
Today, the perception is that the purpose of college athletics is to provide a gateway into professional sports.
At least that’s what I thought, as well.
But, according to research conducted by the NCAA, only 8.6 percent of college baseball players play professionally, which was the highest of all the men’s sports. Most of the other men’s sports fall under two percent, such as football and basketball.
As for women, like me, women’s basketball holds the highest probability of going pro, with a whopping 0.9 percent.
So, if I have a slim-to-none chance of playing professionally, then the question still remains, why play?
Why put myself through the workouts where I am constantly on the verge of passing out or throwing up? Why practice when I know there is a girl better than I am, who is probably going to be given the starting spot?
It may have taken me three years, but I have finally found the answers.
“Life is about being a versatile athlete and training in all realms of life,” said Ray Lewis, former linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens.
In an essay written by the U.S. Sports Academy in 2012, “Athletic programs were first incorporated into institutions of higher learning because it was believed that participation in sports helped to build character.”
That is exactly what my sport has done for me.
From my sport, I learned how to compete; whether it was for a starting spot in the lineup or the highest grade on a test, I learned how to be resilient and pick myself up during my weakest moments. I learned how to manage my time and honor my commitments. And all of these lessons were taught on the field, not in a classroom.
Now, I no longer envy my roommates or the normal students, because although they get more time to sleep, study and hang out, they will never know how it feels to complete an intense workout that pushes your physical and mental limits, hit a game-winning homerun or hold a championship banner.
I would do it all over again and I am sure most student-athletes would say they would too.
Our shirts may be sweat-stained from the day we had practice in 100-degree heat. Our sneakers are probably destroyed from that one time coach told our team to sprint through that muddy field.
So if you see us in your night class, we just got done with practice and no, we haven’t had time to shower, change our clothes, or eat.
But, we are okay with that because the lessons we learn are ones that can’t be taught on a whiteboard or a PowerPoint.
These lessons teach us about life and how to cope with the adversity and struggle that comes our way. We know that we will overcome such difficulties because we have trained for it; because we know what a reward it is to be called a student-athlete.