“It’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. If it was easy everyone would do it.”
Coach Austin Newton said this to me while we were running sprints as part of our freshmen conditioning program. I didn’t know it at the time, but his words would stick with me. I remember because there were five of us there, all dying from exhaustion, nervously exchanging glances that all conveyed the same thing: “What have we gotten ourselves into?”
I can recall for the first time in my life thinking that maybe I wasn’t cut out for my lifelong dream of playing basketball on the Division I level. But when Newton told me that it wasn’t supposed to be easy, I remember thinking that I was here for a reason. Maybe the coaches who recruited me really did know better. Maybe they saw something in me that told them I could compete at this level.
By no means is being a student athlete easy. In fact, I’d go as far to say that it is the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life. From waking up early in the mornings at 6 a.m. for weights and conditioning drills to the countless hours of practicing, the rehab from the nagging injuries, to staying up late doing homework and doing it all over again the next day. Being a student athlete and balancing our schedules is borderline insanity.
Right now, the basketball team is still in preseason. Preseason is one of the worst times of the year for athletes because that means there will be days where you literally won’t touch a ball all day, which means lots and lots of sprints and defensive slide drills.
But having lived through four preseasons now, I’ve learned that being a college athlete is 90 percent mental. Contrary to popular belief, and despite the few super athletes who dominate their sport, there’s not much difference in physical talent between players at this level. The good and great teams are the ones that focus on the details and get over the tough mental hurdles to where they can consistently pull out the close games.
It makes sense as to why coaches put athletes through such strenuous, and what may seem torturous at times, preseason workouts. The coaches want to prepare their players for the grind of the season.
Not every game is going to be easy. Coaches know this. Players know this. Being on a team is like being in a family. If you knew a hard time was coming up for a family member that you cared about, wouldn’t you want to prepare them as much as you could?
The hard work put in during the offseason and preseason makes getting one win seem so satisfying. It makes it all worth it in the end because you, as an athlete, know how hard you worked to get that one win.
We athletes are here for a reason and have different motivations that keep us going, but the one thing we all have in common is that we all persevere and do the tireless amounts of work because at the end of the day we simply love our sport and the joy it brings us.