What I Learned Being a College Athlete During COVID.

Being a Student Athlete during your college years is hard, there’s no doubt about that. Attending university full-time while playing a sport and having a part-time job is one of the most stressful things I have ever done. That experience alone teaches you a plethora of life lessons. But, when you add into the mix a pandemic there’s a whole new group of lessons that life throws at you. Here are just a few that I’ve come to realize.

  1. The biggest lesson that this time has taught me is to value the little things in life. When my lacrosse season at Missouri Baptist University was canceled in April of 2020, I was completely heartbroken. I had spent over three years playing collegiate level lacrosse at MBU and I didn’t realize how easily something like that could be taken away. That kind of experience really taught me to value all those little moments while playing and it made me value the relationships I had made even more. Now that I’m at Missouri Western State University that lesson has made the experience of playing lacrosse again that much sweeter. Every moment has been a win in some way. Each second I’m practicing or playing has truly been a blessing to me.
  2. Taking care of yourself is another huge lesson I learned. Now as a student athlete you kind of already understand this point, but there’s something about a deadly pandemic that really drives it home. There’s two sides to this part. The first is this season really made me make taking care of my health even more of a priority because I not only wanted to care for myself, but I wanted to ensure that my family, teammates, and lacrosse season were taken care of. The second part involved mental health a lot. After being in lockdown for so long mental health became a huge priority for me. Making sure that I am in the right headspace to play and ensuring that my teammates are as well has become such a huge priority. Self care has never been more important than it is today.
  3. Compassion has been another thing that has been encouraged within myself I think. Taking out the sports aspect of my life, my team and the world in general has been through the wringer. 2020 and some of 2021 has been very difficult for everyone in a number of different ways. In that way this time ahs taught me to be much more compassionate about any one situation.
  4. Bravery is another huge area that I’ve grown in through this unpredictable time. Coming back for my fifth year of college lacrosse was terrifying. I went from a team where I knew my place fully. I understood the coaching style, I knew how each of my teammates played, and I knew what was expected from me. Coming to Missouri Western was scary for a number of reasons but the biggest reason had to be that area of the unknown. This was a brand new program, a brand new coaching staff, and a brand new team. Add into the mix a pandemic and it becomes all the more daunting. My love for the sport motivated me to take that leap of faith and it has been a roller coaster of ride since. Being a lacrosse player at Missouri Western constantly pushes my comfort zone and pushes me to be a little braver each day.
  5. As a student athlete you have find some kind of leadership role within yourself, that’s a known fact. Every student athlete I have come to know has some type of outspoken nature to them that their sport has instilled in them, whether that be golf or softball. Being a student athlete during the pandemic really taught me how to encourage that a little bit more within myself. This time is very uncontrollable and confusing at times. Because of that everyone has to take on some kind of responsibility and help steer their team into safety at times. Within my own team there have been countless moments where people of all ages and years have stepped up in ways that they probably wouldn’t have before.
  6. Things change everyday because of COVID. Practices and games get cancelled, team bonding sessions are done in small groups instead of as a whole team, and so much more. As both a student and an athlete you have to become ready to adapt to change because of this. In that way COVID has helped me gain so much life experience that I never would have fully understood before. Life is always unpredictable, but when you add a pandemic it can get a little extra crazy. Now I see myself as not just a more well rounded person, but also a more adaptable one.
  7. Life can get busy sometimes, especially with how volatile life is nowadays. As a student athlete, time management is the biggest key to keeping a level head. I learned the hard way as a freshmen in college how important time management can be when playing a college sport. Making sure assignments are done in time was always the biggest task for me especially when season rolled around. The pandemic has made this task 8,000x more difficult. Now I have to worry about getting my assignments done, doing all my COVID health checks, making sure that I have my masks, and so many other things. COVID has made my to do lists that much more important, but again it has given a teensy little taste of the real world that I didn’t really have before.
  8. This next lesson was something that I again already kind of understood, but it became all the more important during this past year. Making mistakes is what makes us human. Most people understand that fact. When you play a team sport, understanding that fact becomes all the more important. People make mistakes but the beauty of playing a team sport is that we help each other make up for those mistakes. We lift each other up when someone’s down, pick up their slack with no complaints when they’re having a tough day, and do our best to help each other improve everyday. COVID made this part of the job that much harder to accept. Like I said in the beginning COVID made life unpredictable. Which means you have to treat every single second like its your last on the field. It sounds overdramatic, but when you have that kind of mentality the mistakes hit you that much harder. Having the strength to bounce back from your mistakes while still playing like it was your last moment became much harder to do. You want your last moment to be perfect, but that’s just not possible. When you are able to have that 3 second memory it becomes so much more fun to play your sport. The fact that COVID has helped me learn that even a little bit has been amazing.
  9. Relationships you make on your team and at your institution become much more meaningful. Those friendships you make become lifelong and incredibly important. I think this has a lot to do with being isolated for so long. Having those little moments of joy at practice or film are so much sweeter. You realize how important it is to hold those people close in uncertain times.
  10. Finally, I have come to find that the biggest lesson I have learned from being a student athlete during COVID is that lacrosse is not my life. Again, it seems so obvious to me when I type it out, but when you’re everyday surrounds your sport for four years it’s hard to understand. Once that was taken from me it became so much easier to understand that I am so much more than a lacrosse player. Having this last year of lacrosse has been amazing yes, but COVID made me that much more comfortable with saying goodbye to my playing career after this year because I have finally understood that fact. It let me find out what I like to do outside of lacrosse, whether that’s doing goofy dances with friends, painting, riding bikes, or just talking with my family. Life became so much more enjoyable when I didn’t define myself as just a lacrosse player.