Everyone remembers their first love. The butterflies fill your stomach and your palms begin to sweat. For me, when I stepped onto the volleyball court in sixth grade, I fell in love for the first time. I knew then that I would play volleyball for as long as I could. I wanted to commit to playing collegiately before I could legally drive a car. And four days before I turned 16, I got the call.
Committing to Wake Forest University as a sophomore in high school, I anticipated the dream ever since.
Flash forward to 2017 when I finally became a student athlete at Wake Forest and my life flipped upside down. Transitioning from high school to college seemed hard enough without adding a division one sport—aka my full time job. From workouts to class to practice to tutoring, I knew my life would change forever the minute I left Texas. Nothing compares to the life of a student athlete. With injuries, hard losses and a full class schedule to top it off, it can start to take a tole. But the opportunities that arise and the special moments shared between teammates make it the time of your life.
Now, instead of waking up to go to school, I wake up for workouts—fifteen minutes early of course. Just this first step formed the nightmare of dreaming I’m late. My freshman year roommate found me—multiple times I might add—making oatmeal at 1:30 a.m. because I saw five on my clock and thought I had slept through my alarm. Now I get out of bed faster than I ever have in my life. Too bad I can’t get up like that on a normal day.
Waking up, having a heart-attack and getting to lift just might qualify as the easiest part of the day.
Getting to class, however, changes that story. I can only put it one way: an absolute sweaty mess. I pray that I can get those five minutes to get a quick body shower in but that luxury doesn’t always happen for me. I find myself walking into my classes with an apology note in hand because I know I don’t look or smell like a field of roses. I’ve gotten used to people scooting an extra seat over—nothing personal of course. In this business, wanting to dress nice leaves your mind in seconds.
The afternoons and evenings get consumed with practice and tutoring, leaving a very small window for homework or social time. Collegiate athletics has taught me how to become a professional when it comes to time management. With this type of schedule, you barely have time to breathe, much less waste time. Having a hundred things to do in so little time unleashes a different kind of working beast.
This especially happens when travel comes into play. Blessed with the chance to travel around the country playing the sport that I love becomes a whole new ball game. The fall turns into planes, trains and automobiles. It also turns making planes into missing class. This has made me hyper-aware of my assignment due dates, exam dates and makes syllabus day very stressful. I considered myself a ‘night owl’ in high school but coming to college truly taught the real definition.
All that said, playing volleyball in college has given me memories and a family that I can never lose.
Coming onto campus my freshman year, 17 hours away from home by car, the fear really set in. But the minute I stepped onto campus, I immediately gained new family. My teammates and I spend almost every hour of the day together. I soon realized that only they would understand what I feel throughout this experience. Most students don’t get to step onto campus with a family of people established, but I, fortunately, did.
Wrestling through the tough times together only makes the great times even sweeter. I have memories from the locker room after beating Clemson in five sets and when my teammates cried with me when I got cleared to play after my injuries—the list goes on and on. Having a team, doing life together and experiencing the highs and lows of collegiate sports can’t ever change.
The soreness melts away, the stress releases and the rough moments become worth every second.
It shocks me to think about all the mentors and friends I would have missed out on without sports. Even through Wake’s Bible Study, Athletes in Action, I have met lifelong friends. I’m talking people who I want in my wedding. Having athletics has blessed me with chances and people of a lifetime. People ask me why I do it and why I put my body and mind through this distress. I won’t say I never wonder the same things when I run my brains out in the mornings, but the love for the sport, the love for the competition, and the love for this family keeps me going every time.