How to become a student athlete

Emily McCabe is currently a Masters in Education School Counseling student and Division II Assistant Track & Field Coach at The College of Saint Rose. She will be graduating in May and hopes to pursue a career in school counseling, preferably at the high school level in Upstate New York. Last year she was awarded a graduate student scholarship from the New York State School Counselors’ Association. Emily earned her Bachelors in Science in Public Policy and Management from Cornell University in May 2006 and went on to receive her Masters in Humanities from Duke University in December 2007. Emily ran Division I Varsity Cross Country for both Cornell and Duke University, and ran four years of Varsity Track & Field for Cornell. In one Cross Country season at Duke, she lead the team in every race to be named the team’s Most Valuable Player and earned All ACC, Duke Athlete of the Week, All Southeast Region, and All American honors. At Cornell, Emily earned All Ivy honors in the Outdoor Track 5,000 and 10,000 meters and was an ECAC Champion in the 3,000 meters. She went on to be a finalist in the 5,000 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. After her college running career was over, Emily competed briefly for Brooks Athletics and Team USA in 2007 and 2008 at several high profile long distance road and track events. Lately, Emily has been training seriously with her team, The Albany Running Exchange Racing Team and hopes to qualify and compete in the 2016 USA Olympic Team Marathon Trials to be held in Los Angeles, CA.

Let’s be honest. I think every high school athlete dreams about someday being a college athletics star. For me, as an incoming freshman on the Cornell University Women’s Cross Country Team it was a struggle to even make the top seven. A lot of people might question how in four years I was able to go from a struggling freshman runner to one of the best distance runners ever in Cornell’s history, an NCAA finalist in the 5,000 m Outdoors in 2006, and an All American in my final season of Cross Country eligibility at Duke University? The answer is pretty simple, good lifestyle choices. It took me a while in college to recognize the things I did that helped me be a successful runner in high school. One of those things was sleep. I have always trained and competed at my best when I force myself to get at least 8 to 8.5 hours of sleep per night. Coming home from late night practices and dinners, to finally begin my reading at 9 pm did not enable me to get enough sleep. I learned that in order to get enough sleep I had to be proactive about my schoolwork. It was helpful for me to get one, if not several weeks ahead on my reading at the beginning of the semester as soon as I received my class syllabus.

The second contributor to my success was nutrition. My parents supplied most of my daily meals when I was in high school and they made sure our family ate well-balanced and healthy meals. However, I found when I attended college the dining hall could be like a “free for all.” By dinnertime, after practice I was so famished I would grab cookies, pizza, almost anything at first sight. Oftentimes, I noticed by the time I got to the dining hall after practice a lot of the good protein sources and vegetables were already gone. I competed at my best when I started cooking my own meals or buying precooked healthy meals at the local grocery store. Furthermore, as a college athlete desiring to compete at a high level you really have to question to nutritional value of everything you are putting in your body. I realized drinking several glasses of jungle juice at Saturday night fraternity parties was not the best way for me to refuel my body after a tough race or workout. It was also not the best fuel up for my long run the next day. That is not to say that a college athlete who is over twenty-one should not be able to treat himself or herself to the occasional celebratory beer with friends here and there, but it is important that he or she does so in moderation.

The third major contributor to my success was my attitude. I was not able to stand on the awards podium with the “top dogs” until I was able to look them in the eye on the starting line and say to myself, “I can run with them.” College sports require a lot of mental fortitude. I think a lot of times as college athletes we talk our bodies out of performing because we are afraid to try to compete with this person or that person. Once a college athlete feels like his or her training is pretty solid, he or she needs to start believing that he or she has the ability to compete with anyone.

I cannot promise that my suggestions are the “Recipe to Success” for any college athlete. But I can promise that following my advice might help the college athlete feel more in control of his or her destiny. College athletes are given great opportunities to excel athletically. So, I hope they are able to take advantage of the opportunities they have been given and go for it.

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