- By Sarah Harris
When I think about my final college and Olympic year's preparation they leave me with contrasting emotions. The two years, whilst have similarities, their outcomes were stark opposites. My Senior year at college was exciting, fun, and successful, but my final year of Olympic preparation was hard, full of tough decisions and riddled with disappointment. Both years have moulded me into the individual that I am today and both years have valuable life lessons strewn throughout them.
Last year of Olympic preparation came with loads of disappointment for me. The fairy tale ending did not occur and my life-long dream was not met. I did not end up going to the Olympics and although the disappointment of that year felt overwhelming at times, I learnt more through that disappointment than I ever could have imagined. A lot of people, when faced with disappointment, react in two ways; 1) They blame other people, their circumstances and make excuses or 2) they learn from the experience and look at the journey rather than the outcome. While I may not have achieved my overall goal, the journey was worth it. The lessons learnt were invaluable, and I will never say “what if”. This hard lesson was not a failure, merely a bend in the road and it helped me achieve many great things since.
Lesson I learnt:
1. To be Grateful
As a college athlete you are doing something that most people dream of doing. Do not waste a day and be grateful for all these experiences.
2. Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy
Nothing worth having comes easy, If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Work hard, go the extra mile and do not give up.
3. Live in the Moment
Regardless of the outcome, make sure that you soak up each moment. Make friends and cherish the memories you make.
Attending College and playing International Water Polo moulded my life in ways that I will cherish forever. Through the highs and lows, I made the most of my opportunities. Make sure that you live your journey to its fullest. When given opportunities, grab them with two hands and be grateful to have the privilege of being able pursue your dreams.
During these middle years, my mum would tell me, "If you familiarise, you equalise, and then you neutralise”. Meaning, if you get too familiar with your coach, you will lose respect and you will begin to equalise by thinking you know more than them. This lack of respect will then neutralise their effect in your life. It was quite easy during these middle years to allow familiarity to set in, I had to make a constant effort not to go through the motions. I would try to use each day, each practice and each lecture, to gain knowledge, to learn tactics or valuable lessons from my coaches and lecturers.
A coach is more likely to give a team a weekend off when they can see how hard you have worked as they want to reward you. A professor is more likely to give you a weekend with no papers due if they note how seriously the class is taking their course. During off season in college, we would go on camping trips to the lakes and canyons. Free weekends in the Olympic cycle included concerts or trips to the coast. I found that working extremely hard would reap fun rewards and if not abused, would allow these two middle years to be balanced and loads of fun.
The most enriching and enduring highlights over these two years at both ASU and my Olympic preparation, were the friendships that were forged. Year one is the relational foundation building year. Over the next two years you really build on those connections and form friendships that can last you a lifetime. Some of my closest friends are from relationships that were tried and tested in those two years. My advice to anyone going to study in the U.S.A.; place great emphasis on relationships, it makes your time away from family and friends so much easier to handle and you make memories that you will cherish forever.
Make sure to catch next week’s blog: The final stretch
All blogs are written by former student-athletes. If you would like to learn more, please leave a comment below and the author will respond to your questions.