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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before my First Day of Preseason

Do the workout packet!

You may be under the assumption that if you sit on your couch all summer and use your fitness packets as a placemat on your dining room table come mid-August, you’ll be in shape to pass your fitness tests. My dear friend, I regret to inform you that you couldn’t be more wrong. Self-motivation every day will pay off when you’re on the line running 120’s and crushing it while your teammate, who may not be as fortunate, is struggling to avoid going into cardiac arrest. However, even if you’ve been working hard all summer, there’s no way to avoid test anxiety, so what if you pee your pants during the beep test because you’re nervous? Move on; I promise you’ll laugh about it later.

How to navigate the weight room.

Struggling to figure out how to navigate the weight room can be pretty tricky, especially when you go at a time when all the athletes in the center know what they are doing, but you don’t. Your best bet is to roll through with your entire team, so you claim dominance. Either that or lift after your 7 am practice, which you’re bound to have. Have your assistant coach or trainer give you detailed lift instructions and demonstrate correct form so that you don’t throw your back out…I’ve seen it happen to 19-year-olds. Finally, act like a boss and refer to your recent excessive need to overeat in the dining hall as “making gains.” FYI – a good DJ on the team makes the lift more enjoyable.

How legit you’ll feel as an athlete.

Throughout high school sports and travel teams, you usually are issued uniforms; you get dressed at home and drive to the games with your parents. You will play the game, get back in the car, and drive back home. The world of college sports is very different; the athletics facilities are unchartered territory for most student-athletes before you get recruited onto a team. You get a locker room, an athletic training room, an abundance of gear, and even a crew that does your laundry. You also get Gatorade water bottles or huge coolers that make you feel important, at the very least. Even though the facilities and equipment may vary from school to school, it’s pretty cool to be treated as though you are a professional athlete. 

Day 3 of the preseason, …everything is going to hurt.

Perhaps by day four, if you’re incredibly ambitious and overly prepared, the day will come when you will start to feel it. Yeah, that warm-up you thought was easy will now feel like your muscles are burning. Two-a-days put an enormous amount of physiological stress on the body, and no one seems to care that you can’t make it up the stairs to your dorm. You must push through! There will also come a day when you wake up, and you are no longer sore… I can’t tell you how this happens, but it does, and it’s wonderful.

How much you will love/hate pool sessions.

When you arrive at the pool in your swim attire, you will probably be dreading complete submergence in the water. You dip your toes in to test the temperature while others on your squad are jumping right in. Your coach warms you up with a ridiculous amount of laps… you are struggling even to remain afloat. He/she then requests you isolate and use your legs, then arms, and then she suggests you’ll be doing something “fun” – aka relay races. Some crush the laps while others can barely make it through. You think it’s all over, and then your coach brings you into the deep end where you finally see the white light. Your life is officially over as you attempt to tread through the water while removing sweatshirts and sweatpants that are soaked in water. Sometimes, however, pool sessions are incredibly helpful for easing the pain of sore muscles.

That you’ll spend every moment either in the dining hall, on the field/court, or in your bed.

In season, your life really will revolve around your sport. Especially during the preseason, you’ll bounce between three main domains: the dining hall, the court/field for practice, and your bed. You’ll treasure the small amounts of leisure time and spend it either alone or with teammates just complaining about how you have no idea how you’re going to participate in another practice. Hopefully, your school has a great dining hall because student-athletes eat way more than the NARPs (Non-Athletic Regular People).

You get to know your teammates, sometimes too well.

With the vast numbers of fun facts you have to come up with for team bonding activities, you learn a lot about the people on your team. Many hilarious stories are shared, and countless inside jokes are made. Your teammates are the ones you go to when you need to make plans on the weekend, or when you need someone to talk to. You make fun of each other, but it’s always in the best way possible. The information you share with one another is either endearing, hysterical and sometimes downright gross.

Weird rituals your team passes from generation to generation…

Your team will most likely have some odd things they do either before games, practices or throughout the season in general. Do not be alarmed; most activities are optional, but you’ll most likely want to participate. These are the things that make your team unique and stand out – whether it’s certain songs, dance circles, or handshakes. My best advice is to be open to being silly and comfortable around these people, and you’ll have a blast. It’s also really cool to watch things change your freshman to senior year; some things remain the same while some weirdo’s add new traditions for team members to carry on.

One-on-One meetings.

Individual meetings with your coach are inevitably a tad awkward, if not more. This depends a lot upon factors such as the strength of the relationship between you and your coach, as well as your coach’s personality. Some of the most important things to remember are:

  • Come ready to talk about something specific; do not leave room for awkward pauses
  • Be comfortable talking about whatever concerns or issues you are having and be honest; press for honesty in return
  • Don’t be afraid when you enter the room, act confident in carrying out the conversation
  • Lastly, humor helps a lot. Don’t be afraid to form a great relationship with your coach and stop by to tell them a funny story or catch them up on your week. Open communication is a very successful tool, especially in a team setting.

In the end, it’s all worth it.

Not every day will seem perfect, but on those days, try to remember all the things that are associated with the sport you love. Your passion for the game should always override any negative feelings you may develop. One of the biggest takeaways from college sports is gaining a second family; this means additional siblings, parents, grandparents, and pets. These amazing people will provide you with a ton of tailgate food and necessary hugs. Additionally, you are cultivating friendships that will last a lifetime. In the end, the memories that you’ll have and cherish from collegiate sports are far greater than anything you’ve ever experienced on a team before. The last thing I wish I knew before my first day of preseason is to cherish every moment because four years will go by in a flash.

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