Naofa studies English with a minor in Spanish at Hillsdale College. She competes on the Varsity Swim Team, is a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, and works as a Student Affairs Mentor in Career Services. After graduating in May 2016, she plans to go into public relations.
At some time in college, every varsity athlete asks the same question: What is the point? In high school, your sport is your life. Scoring the most goals or running the fastest time–that gets you places. Coaches notice you; colleges take you more seriously as an applicant. Unless you’re the next LeBron James or Missy Franklin, when you get to college you’re going to ask yourself: What next?
In college, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Setting goals for the season isn’t the same as seeing where your sport will get you after graduation. Imagine standing at the team banquet at the end of your senior year. You’ll make your nostalgic little speech about the glory days, shuffle off to finish your cheesecake, and then resign yourself to the fact that you devoted half your life to a sport that’s finished with you. And you will ask yourself, for the thousandth time: What was the point?
Being a collegiate varsity athlete means that you’re probably a bit sadistic by nature, but don’t despair. You sold your soul for a reason. Hopefully you love your sport even when you hate it. But even if you hate it through and through, you won’t quit. Because when it comes time to sit down and write that resume, you will look at your athletic experience and realize you are the person everyone wants to hire.
In a stack of applications, the college athlete stands out. Whether you love your sport or hate it, as an athlete you have the credentials every employer wants to see. The United States produces thousands of bachelor degrees each year, but businesses do not simply hire degrees.
Businesses hire character.
“Time-management” is the buzz word that career gurus like to throw at athletes. The emphasis on this skill usually causes an internal eye-roll or involuntary twitch because, for the athlete, time-management is a way of life. Balancing practice, academics, friends, and work–usually on a regimen of minimal sleep and maximum caffeine–is survival. But that fact of survival does not lessen the importance of owning one’s ability to divvy up hours, minutes, and seconds to their maximum potential.
However, by the time of graduation, even the average student has developed a modicum of organizational skill. So what more does the college athlete have to offer?
1) Competitive Edge
The athlete’s intuition, sharpened by years of training, quickly discerns the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent. Being able to identify the best way to attack a problem, and having the confidence and drive to triumph, distinguishes an athlete from lukewarm candidates who struggle to take initiative.
Every team has its problems and personalities that must be addressed. To reach the end of the season, each team member must cultivate an attitude of respect and patience towards others that enables the whole group to achieve its goal. Like a team, no workplace is perfect, and having employees who can manage diverse personalities is invaluable for the efficacy of projects.
Every season comes with a new set of challenges, and the same tired methods do not always resolve them. Athletes invent new ways to strengthen themselves in practice, to constructively confront problems between teammates, and to get the whole group pumped up for a competition. Athletes bring dynamic and creative energy to every undertaking.
Coaches may be tyrannical at times, but they will still treat their athletes like adults. The athlete is the one responsible for getting to practice, putting in the effort, and going the extra mile to be the best. An athlete’s sense of personal responsibility, and the integrity to admit a mistake and grow from it, demonstrates an invaluable maturity.
If you are an athlete, you will inevitably ask yourself someday: What is the point?
The answer should be obvious by now: You are the point.
The next step of being a college athlete is taking the time you have invested in yourself over the years and channelling it into a career. Be able to articulate the experiences and the skills you have learned, and you will find that being a college athlete takes you places in the world you never expected to go.