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10 Things they Never Told You about Being a College Athlete

The day you sign your national letter of intent is a day full of joy and relaxation. The hard work that you’ve been putting in for years, has finally paid off and that college search is officially over. But… that’s where the relief and relaxation ends. From that moment forward it’s four years of endless activities, practice, community service, working out, homework and traveling. So after four years as a college athlete, here’s 10 things that no one told me before I signed my national letter of intent.

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1. You’ll spend copious hours on a bus.

Prepare yourself, this may be absurd for those of you not involved in college athletics. In one season, we spend about 120.5 hours on a bus, give or a take a few and yes, we counted. You may think we have the luxury of flying everywhere we go, but that is not the case. We drive to California, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Canada. And when we do fly, that involves the drive to airport, to the fields and to the hotel. Needless to say, you learn to be productive on a bus and you learn to sleep in uncomfortable, awkward and small spaces. So next time you’re on a road trip that feels endless, just be thankful its not on a bus with 20 girls.

2. Your body isn’t made for the amount of physical activity you put it through.

When you’re 17 or 18 signing your letter of intent your body feels great, indestructible and young. When you’re graduating after four years, your body feels A LOT different. You feel old and it becomes clear that the mileage you’ve put on your body isn’t exactly normal. There aren’t many days where you wake up with out some sort of soreness or ache. It becomes clear that your body has more muscles than you thought because they are ALL sore. The hours of weight lifting, the long practices, the hundreds of games and everything in between adds up and it hits you hard.

3. Sleeping is a privilege.

For some, college means late nights and sleeping in till noon. For college athletes, it means late nights and REALLY early mornings. Imagine working two full-time jobs and well, that’s pretty much what it means to be a college athlete. You’re at school to get an education but that doesn’t change the fact that your sport is what got you where you are. Trying to balance the two often means cutting in to time for sleep. It means finishing the assignment five minutes before it’s due and it means only five hours of sleep before your alarm goes off for weights in the morning. So every once in awhile when you have the opportunity to sleep in, you are beyond thankful and you learn to take advantage of it.

4. You don’t get all the breaks like other students do.

It’s no secret that spring break in college is the epitome of wild, crazy and fun. Well, for some people. As a college athlete who has a spring sport, spring break doesn’t exist. While you’re on your way to Cabo or Hawaii, the softball team is in glorious Ellensburg, alone (except for the baseball team too). That week that is filled with fun, alcohol and sunshine is the week we spend extra time at practice and in the weight room. Even summer break isn’t always what you envisioned, summer break for a college athlete creates a massive opportunity for working out and getting better. So, if you think you want to be a college athlete let the idea of wild spring breaks go now.

5. Holidays aren’t always holidays.

Those long weekends because of Martin Luther King Day or President’s Day are just another opportunity for practice. Although it may seem normal and seem silly to talk about, it becomes extremely obvious that you’re missing something when you are the only people on campus (or in town). Oh, and don’t forget about Easter. For spring athletes, Easter is a Sunday that we have off but it’s not spent with family and it’s mostly exciting because of the chocolate that goes on sale the following day.

6. Being 21 doesn’t mean you can actually drink.

You’re finally 21, you can go to the bars and you can buy alcohol WHENEVER you please. Wrong. Being an athlete severely limits your extracurricular activities. Let me explain, the day season starts is the same day you can no longer treat yourself to a cocktail or a cold brew. You may be 21 but you are now dry for the next five months. This includes attending parties, going to the bars or just having a beer around the bonfire. NOTHING, zero, zilch. So what, right? Well, it’s true what they say, “you don’t miss it until it’s gone”.

7. Your teachers won’t always love that you’re an athlete.

Loved by many, hated by some. Some professors just do not understand. They take it personally when you miss class and they hold it against you. Miss a quiz because you were playing in a championship game? Your loss, hopefully there’s an extra credit opportunity. Getting hand surgery? Get well soon, but you won’t get your participation points and don’t forget to turn in your assignment and finish typing your essay… one handed.

8. You won’t always get along with your teammates.

You spend about 20 hours a week with your teammates, not including travel time and team bonding. They really do become family and with that comes a little bit of conflict. Just like with you brothers or sisters, there’s times when you need to be alone and away from the ones you love most. There’s nothing in particular that you can point out, but you just need time away and that’s okay.

9. You love and hate it all at the same time.

You definitely don’t love the early wake-ups, the 17 hour bus trips, the late nights spent studying, the missing out on weekend activities and you won’t love constantly splitting time between friends. But… you do love the game, you love your teammates, you love the grind and you love the memories that are created without even realizing it. You’ll say you hate it, but you you know it’s not true. You LOVE it, even on the days you think you hate it.

10. You’ll miss it before it’s even gone.

It’ll hit you hard before you know it and the realization that the grind of being an athlete is almost over is overwhelming. When you come to realize that you won’t be with your teammates day in and day out, you won’t be traveling with your best friends, you won’t be waking up sore knowing you had a great weekend and you won’t be able to say “I’m an athlete”, it hurts. And it’s easy to get emotional just thinking about it. You think of the seniors before you and you understand it, and you know why it was so hard. It’s not just saying goodbye to a sport but it’s saying goodbye to the last 15 years of your life and it’s saying goodbye to what turned you into the person you are today. So, even though I’m not quite finished with it, I can already say miss it.

Las Vegas to Ellensburg, 25 hours?

Last Thursday morning my alarm was set for 4:05am. I hopped out of bed tired, but excited for the weekend that was ahead. Las Vegas was the beginning of the season, and this year, it was the beginning of the final ride of my softball career. Not to mention, we were leaving the subzero temperatures of Ellensburg for 70-degree weather!

Now, Vegas went well and it was a dream come true to wear a t-shirt outside without a parka and beanie on. However, the trip back to Ellensburg was an ABSOLUTE NIGHTMARE. Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

We left the ball field at 4:30pm and headed straight to the airport (no, we did not get to shower). As we parked the rental car we found out our flight was two hours delayed. We then found out that we weren’t able to check our much larger than carry-on sized duffel bags. Here we go…dragging huge duffel bags through the airport. This in itself is never a good way to start the trip home, but looking back at the trip, the two-hour delay was the least of our worries.

Okay, now pretend you’re boarding the plane in Las Vegas with us and for the next few minutes imagine yourself in this situation (and don’t forget, we still have not showered after the game).

After spending hours (four to be exact) in the airport, at 9:30pm we are finally in the air and headed back to Seattle. Around 11pm we are told we were descending into Seattle and will be arriving shortly and the bus is already waiting for us at the airport. As we began to get closer to the runway it became apparent that it was snowing extremely hard in Seattle, the turbulence was terrifying and we became uneasy about the events that we transpiring. As we were about to touch the ground, we sped back up and began going upwards again. After a long ten minutes the pilot notified us of what was going on. We were headed to Portland for an emergency landing. Needless to say, a slight panic attack was taking place for everyone on the flight. Our bus was waiting at SeaTac, not PDX and we were supposed to be back in Ellensburg for class on Monday, it’s already Monday.

After waiting for two hours in Portland, we were in the air on the way back to Seattle. After another bumpy trip, we landed in Seattle at 2am. We headed to baggage claim and after waiting for over an hour, we finally had our bags and were headed to the bus. By the time we were loaded on the bus and driving away with chains on, it was 3:15am. Ellensburg bound, we thought.

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As we continued to drive and the snow continued to fall, we checked the pass, CLOSED. It’s 3:30am and the pass is closed, we aren’t going home after all. To Bellevue we go, where we find a hotel and crawl into bed at 4:30am…the sun was beginning to rise. I think I speak for everyone when I say, the frustration was so immense that I could have cried. Exhausted, stressed and frustrated.

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Waiting for our hotel rooms in Bellevue.

After a whopping three hours of sleep we wake up for breakfast and begin to plan our trek back home. It’s Monday morning (still) and pass is still closed and the snow is STILL coming down. We are missing class, we are missing practice and we are missing weights. And… all other routes to Ellensburg also include compact snow and ice, chains required and hours of added travel time.

We loaded up the bus (again) at noon and headed toward the pass to wait out the closure. As we waited for the pass to open we shopped, talk about retail therapy. At this point in the trip, we were looking for all the positives possible. A new pair of Nike’s was a temporary mood booster.

FINALLY, around 2pm the pass opened, we chained up again and headed for the summit through the blizzard. In the hundreds of trips I’ve had across the pass I don’t think I have ever seen so much snow. It was as if we were driving through a tunnel of snow because the massive amount of snow piled on the sides of the road.

After three long, stressful hours  of driving and stopping and driving and stopping we took exit 106, Ellensburg. We were home and we were safe. After 25 hours, we were home.

And guess what? In less than 24 hours, we will be on our way back to SeaTac, headed back to Las Vegas airport and getting on ANOTHER bus to Utah. Talk about a crazy week.