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Monday, April 17, 2017

Track Babies

For those of you who did not know, I am an avid sports enthusiast. I come by it honestly, having two degrees in Sport Management and spending almost every waking hour involved in sport or with people who participate in sports. However, it goes much deeper than that. I've been playing sports since I was old enough to walk and watching sports since I was old enough to sit in front of a TV. My first love was Michigan football, which I got from my dad who is a dedicated fan and Michigan alumnus. As I've gotten older my sports interests has only broadened. The most recent broadening of my horizons took place when I became an academic counselor for a sport I didn't have much knowledge of when I started. I work with basketball, which I played so I know it like the back of my hand, women's soccer, which I had some knowledge of because I have friends who played, but track and field was a completely different beast.

I never watched track when any of the championships or the Olympics were on TV and never knew anyone who was a track athlete so I didn't have any interest in watching or learning. That all changed when I started at Western Carolina. From my first days I became instantly close with Tamilia, who is a jumper and pictured below. She talks to me about everything under the sun, including track, so being able to understand what she was actually saying to me was obviously important. A lot of the other track athletes were scared of me or didn't like me at first- there again with the RBF- but this was a concept that was foreign to Tamilia. As the school year progressed she really became the reason that everyone warmed up to me and why I have such a strong relationship with my student-athletes now. She helped me to not be so serious all of the time and showed me that it is okay to smile and laugh every now and again. 

Now something I quickly learned about the "Jump Squad," as they commonly refer to themselves, is that when you get one, you eventually get all of them. And that's exactly what happened when I started working with men's track later that year. Soon I was looking after the entire squad. Don't be fooled though, I was not welcomed with open arms; they were not excited about me and, quite frankly, I was not excited about them. But I knew I had a job to do and to get them on my team I was going to have to relieve some of the tensions and build new relationships.

Flash forward to last weekend to yet another track meet with these people, and all of the athletes not pictured, and you would never know it hasn't always been love and family. We've laughed together, we've cried together, and we've grown TOGETHER. They've taught me about loyalty and believing in yourself despite any obstacles and have shown me that I have found my purpose in life. I can't imagine my life without having worked with the athletes I have. The majority of them were freshmen or sophomores, a couple were a little older haha, when I met them. And by the time I leave them in a couple weeks I will be nothing, but proud of them men and women I have watched them become in the past two years.

I think the best part about these people is knowing this isn't where the story ends. They know no matter where life takes all of us I will always be there for them. Whether they need a recommendation letter, are freaking out about school, or need some perspective about life they can always call me and I will be there to listen. Each of my athletes has challenged me in some way, and Kev, JD, and Boogie, who are pictured below, are no exception. They are like the little brothers I never knew I needed or wanted, but now wouldn't trade for the world. Those challenges and learning moments I have experienced, however, have made me better, both personally and professionally. They have prepared, hell even excited me when I'm not freaking out, for the next chapter. I have them and their unwavering encouragement and belief in me to thank for that.

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