Endless hours spent getting up shots in the gym, running to class from a group lift with a granola bar and wet hair (that freezes in the St. Lawrence tundra), and missing a late afternoon Friday class for a 4.5-hour bus ride to face rival Skidmore - these are just a few of the common sacrifices that can be expected of the hundreds of student-athletes at St. Lawrence University.
As a member of the women’s basketball team, I have personal experience with each of these sacrifices, yet I am one of the many Saints that elect to participate in a varsity sport all four years of college. Considering the many hurdles athletes must face, you might be wondering why we would choose to participate on a Division III sports team as opposed to devoting all of our time to academics and other extracurricular activities.
College can be both an exciting and overwhelming time for many first-year students. Just like SLU’s First-Year Program attempts to ease this transition by creating a foundation for collaboration and friendship, a sports team similarly acts as a small community that immediately welcomes newcoming members. Regardless of the diversity of people and interests that combine to create any one team, an incoming athlete can be sure that they have one thing in common with their teammates: a pure love for the sport. For me, this shared connection served to help me form friendships with my teammates, first-years and seniors alike, that I otherwise may not have overlapped with on campus.
While these relationships are initially based upon the sport itself, the trials and tribulations of preseason, “hotel time” (as us athletes so fondly call the time spent living in the nearby hotel during winter break), and league play itself create endless opportunities for team bonding. After so many shared experiences, I often find myself seeking out my teammates, now turned best friends, even in my few off hours away from team functions.
While I’m sure you have heard it a million times before, it is true what they say: the skills developed as an athlete are extremely transferable to both the classroom and the “real-world” setting, a statement I can vouch for after nearly completing my fourth year as a varsity athlete. Being able to juggle my busy schedule of classes, labs, practices, lifts, and extracurricular interests has become a strength of mine, and through this chaos, I have learned to budget my time accordingly and complete all of my assignments and responsibilities on time. My fellow athletes and I often comment that we feel as though we are more efficient and budget our time better when we are in season compared to the less demanding and less time-consuming off-season.
In addition, playing basketball has provided me with countless opportunities to develop my leadership and teamwork skills, both of which are not only integral in the sport domain, but also in the professional realm. Many of the mentors and alumni I have conversed with in my later years at SLU have emphasized the value of the skills developed through athletics in the workplace, and have encouraged me to highlight these skills to any potential employer; speaking from personal experience, I have either been asked about or able to reference my participation in SLU athletics in the job interviews I have undergone so far.
Finally, another perk of being involved with collegiate athletics is the many unique experiences and opportunities you are introduced to. For example, as a first-year student I traveled to Colorado with my teammates for an opening tournament, and while there we got to see some pretty amazing places, including the famous Pikes Peak (one of the highest peaks of the Rocky Mountains) and the Garden of the Gods (a National Natural Landmark). As a program, we were also fortunate enough to have Duke basketball legend Christian Laettner spend a weekend working out with us, providing lessons and skill development opportunities for athletes and coaches alike. Not only did St. Lawrence provide me with these awesome opportunities I otherwise would not have had access to myself, but I was fortunate enough to experience them alongside some of my best friends!
Although playing a sport in college is without a doubt a big commitment that entails a lot of sacrifices, I can say with confidence that the benefits vastly outweigh the costs. As my four years as a Saint come to a close, I find myself reflecting more and more on just how much I have gained from pursuing my love for the sport – I have gained some lifelong friends, have greatly expanded and enhanced my skillset, and have some amazing experiences and memories to carry with me as I graduate from St. Lawrence this spring. If you have the passion for the sport, the drive, and the skills necessary for competing at a higher level, I would DEFINITELY suggest you explore the possibility of joining us and become a Saint athlete.