Through my experience playing in the NFL and being a union
representative for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I saw first-hand what
happens to athletes when their playing days come to an end and they
haven't prepared for their second career. A very small percentage of
athletes make it to the pros. Of those who do, a smaller percentage
play long enough to retire comfortably for the rest of their lives.
In the NFL alone, the average career is only 3.5 years. You don't qualify
to become an unrestricted free agent (where the big contracts are
usually signed) until you have played four years.
There are a lot of sad stories about pro athletes who didn't prepare themselves
enough for life after their sports career is over. Don't let that
happen to you. It is a long shot to play professional sports. However,
going to college, playing the sport you love and getting a great
education will provide you with an incredible experience that will carry
you through the rest of your life.
No matter what sport you play, your coach develops plays that you use to help the team win. Most
teams have a playbook. Being a student-athlete and trying to have a
game plan for college requires its own "playbook." The NCAA has done a
great job trying to take the burden off of athletes and parents by
creating a game plan to follow. The process to get into college can be
overwhelming. However, using the Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete is a very smart thing to do.
Have you gone to NCAAStudent.org site? It is a really cool interactive site.
It is essentially a playbook with information about being an NCAA
The site itself was designed to look like a playbook. It is a three-ring binder that "is dedicated to helping you
understand the balance between academics and sports required of every student-athlete for a successful life in school, and out. Here you can learn about the NCAA, download the Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete, and discover how you can go pro in something other than sports."
When you go to the site, the first words that you read are: There are over
380,000 student-athletes, and just about every one of them will go pro
in something other than sports.
I really enjoy the emphasis that the NCAA has put on "going pro" in something other than sports. The
inside folder pocket has an envelope with pictures that open to the
television commercials they have played.
I certainly was not aware of the Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete
when I was in high school and there wasn't an interactive website for
me to review. The site and its design effectively simplify the
This playbook discusses:
Core Course, GPA, Tests, Special Conditions
NCAA Eligibility Center
Questions to Ask as You Consider Colleges
Information for Parents and Guardians
Details for High School Counselors and Athletic Administrators
The media gives a lot of emphasis to professional athletes and thus every
kid wants to grow up to be one. I can tell you personally that although
it is a great experience, it sometimes is not all that it is cracked up
So check out the site, read it, download the playbook
and follow it. I am confident that if you follow the plays in this
Harvards Laura Brady talks about being part of a team - and some of the tradition that goes along with it:
I still remember like it was yesterday the sound of my alarm clock going off at 8:45 a.m. five-mile run at 10 a.m.
Should I eat breakfast? Which sneakers should I wear? How should I pace myself? The five freshmen, including myself, headed down to the rink that cold morning for a five-mile running test with the team.
The captains that year, Nicole Corriero, Kat Sweet and Julie Chu, along with the rest of the team, were stretching and warming up as we hustled to the locker room to get changed for our final preseason testing. We all joined together as Corriero spoke in a serious tone Alright ladies, lets get this done as a team and then we were off.
We left the athletic area at what seemed to be an unbearable pace with the upperclassman yelling at us to run faster and I thought to myself that there was no way I would be able to keep up for five miles. We crossed the bridge and took a right along the river. Then suddenly, not three minutes into the run, we turned into Leverett House and continued to sprint up the stairs to the seniors room where food and snacks were waiting for all of us. There was no five-mile run, what a great surprise. I thought to myself, This is Harvard hockey.
Coming in as a freshman - not really knowing what to expect - can be a very scary thing.
I remember arriving on campus, moving into my freshman dorm, trying to meet as many people as possible and feeling completely lost. I wondered what my teammates would be like, whether I would get along with my roommates, what kind of classes I was going to be taking and how I was going to avoid getting lost around campus. All these thoughts were rushing through my mind as I unpacked my bags and awaited my roommates arrival.
Fortunately for me, although these are valid concerns, I soon realized that having a team to rely on made this transition much easier. I was excited to meet my teammates, especially those in my class as I would be spending the next four years with them. After meeting the other freshmen hockey players, Brenna McLean, Jessica Mackenzie, Adrienne Bernakevitch and Sarah Vaillancourt, I no longer felt alone or lost. The five of us would grow over the next four years and become best friends. We were all excited to meet our other teammates, but even more excited about embarking on a journey for the next four years.
The seniors on our team my freshman year went out of their way to take the five of us under their respective wings. We were always in their rooms, watching movies, hanging out and it was great to have a group of upperclassmen to ask about hockey, school, and other aspects of college life. Even though we spend most of our time during the week down at the rink or on the bus for road trips, I found that I still devoted the majority of my free time to hanging out with my teammates.
Having this core group of friends to rely on was the most helpful thing as a freshman, with my teammates constantly supporting me through tough times and pushing me to be the best person and teammate I could be.
After four years, and now moving into the role of a senior helping our teams new members each year in the same fashion, I can sincerely say that although I have enjoyed many aspects of campus life, my experience at Harvard has been defined by our team culture.
I am sure that other teams have different team cultures but according to my experience, I have found that team traditions and team bonding such as the five-mile run prank discussed above, are just as important as our training both in terms of team success as well as maximizing the Harvard experience. Our team culture emphasizes the importance of every member of the team working for each other toward one common goal. It is just as important for a player on the first line or a player on the fourth line to take part in this effort.
Unfortunately, I am struggling with a serious back injury which has prevented me from participating on the ice so far this season. As difficult as it is for me to sit in the stands as a senior captain and watch practice and games, I still feel very lucky and fortunate to be a part of such a great team and be surrounded by my best friends.
Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned at Harvard is the importance of being able to play as part of a team. It is a skill that requires a lot of work but the rewards are vast. Not only is it a skill that is necessary for future success but more importantly, many of the strongest friendships I have made over the past four years have been Harvard hockey players. I am so grateful to be a part of such a hardworking, funny, caring, inspiring group of people and I consider these girls my family. It is a weird feeling now looking down at the freshmen thinking that just three years ago, those inexperienced eyes used to be mine. Now I am responsible for keeping these traditions and to uphold the culture of Harvard hockey, so that one day, they too will make the freshmen wake up early for that five-mile run... or some other prank. Weve got to keep new recruits on their toes!
(Check out http://www.thedoubleazone.com to stay up to date on whats going on in collegiate athletics on and off the field. Ive been a big fan of the blog for almost a year nowupdated regularly and interesting material.)
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