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BLOG: Challenges to Prepare for When You are a Student-Athlete

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

Becoming a student athlete is an opportunity of a lifetime and one that I was lucky enough to live through. It brought many memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. However, along the way, there were times that were tough and that made me a stronger person for it. During this blog post I want to talk about some of those experiences which will hopefully help you as student athletes.

The first one which we always talk about to our players is homesickness. Whether you are a student athlete that has travelled from foreign shores to America, or a domestic player that has moved out of state, homesickness is common. It was something that I went through when I first moved to America. The great thing about social media these days is that you are the click of a button away from a FaceTime to family and friends back home. However, on the flip side, leaving home and going out of your comfort zone is a big thing to do. When you see friends and family going about their normal life it is only natural that sometimes you wish you were at home with them. One thing I will say is that homesickness doesn’t last forever and you will get through it.

One of the reasons why we follow through the process with players, even once they are in America, is that we want to help them if this is an issue. Student athletes have an incredible support network of coaches, players and support staff but we want them to know that if they need us, we are there for them. I always talk about the first pre-season as been the toughest time for me as the intensity of training twice a day was something that I had never had to do before and left me feeling tired and homesick. It is important to realise that homesickness is always something that you can work through and I remember coming home for my first Christmas back to England and after a couple of days at home, I was ready to go back to America and get playing and studying again.

Discipline both on and off the field is also something that needs to be taken into consideration. As a student athlete you get used to a high workload both in training and in the classroom. When I talk about discipline, I usually talk about the discipline to get up and go to class and always push yourself to the next level. Especially during the Fall season, when you might miss class on away trips, it is important that you have the discipline to make up the work and not fall behind.

At the University of Montevallo, we were lucky enough to have away trips to Florida which culminated in us leaving on a Thursday morning and sometimes not returning to the early hours on Monday morning as we would have two games over the weekend. Obviously, while you are away you will miss class but it important that come Monday morning, however tired you are, you are in class and ready to go. This is the discipline that sets students athletes apart and is something that will stand you in good stead when it comes to finishing your degree and going into the working world.

The final aspect that I want to touch upon is the potential of injuries and how that might affect you mentally. Getting injured is part and parcel of any of sport but it is vital that you prepare your body correctly to give yourself the best chance of staying fit. This includes correct warm up and cool downs and preparing correctly on the nutritional side of things. However, if you do get injured, it can be a lonely time but it is important that you stay mentally strong and work as hard as possible to get back on the pitch as quickly as you can.

It’s important to remember that coaches can only take a certain number of players on away trips so if you are injured, it might mean that you are left at the college or university to continue your rehab while the team travels away. I was blown away by the level of care that was shown to me by the athletic training team to get me back on the pitch as soon as possible, but this doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a tough time. It is vitally important that you stay mentally strong as injuries don’t last forever and you push yourself to get yourself back to full fitness as soon as possible.

As I said at the start of this post, the opportunity to become a student athlete is one that should be grasped with both hands but it isn’t going to be all sweetness and light. You have to be prepared for the tough times but know that you will have the support network both at the college/university and at home to help you through.

My final piece of advice that I always give to players is enjoy every last minute of being a student athlete. Those 4 years go by in the blink of an eye and I wish that I was in a position to go through it all again. Grasp every opportunity you have to travel and broaden your horizons, and like me, you will have an incredible experience.

Jon Maloney

Head of Women’s Soccer - SRUSA

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