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