If you were ever a NCAA athlete in America I’m sure you and your fellow athletes had a name for the students at your college that were non-athletes like “regulars” or “normals” and after waking up at 5am for a 6am mandatory summer workout with your team, you wanted to punch the “normal” student in the face sitting next to you complaining about how early that 8am class was.
Although I absolutely loved being a student athlete I longed to live in the shoes of a “normal” for a week or two where I could skip class without having an athletic director checking to make sure I was in attendance and without repercussions, go out on a Monday, Tuesday, and a Wednesday without fearing of not being able to perform the next day in practice or at a match, having friends outside my athletic circle that I could randomly meet up with just because I had free time and a flexible schedule, and so many more daydreams on top of that.
Anyways, to get to my point, after dedicating four full years and semester of hard work and giving every I had to The University of Texas volleyball program, I am so happy with my choice to not graduate early in December and stay my last spring semester and a summer class. Not only was I taking classes, but I was still under scholarship, and you know what that means.. still collecting scholarship checks.
It was honestly the best semester of my life and I got to feel like a real college student that had no care in the world. Ok, obviously not every non-athlete has an easy path and many are working more than one job to pay their way through college and have to face student loans after graduation, but their is still so much freedom outside having 6am workouts, 1pm practice, 4pm lifts, 7pm study halls with tutor sessions, and games on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
After the last ball dropped and my college career at Texas officially came to a conclusion, I packed up my locker and began my life as a “regular”
I made friends in class and we hung out outside the classroom
I was not only able to make friends with people in my class, but also follow up with hanging out with them outside of the classroom and we had some of the best times.
I was also able to commit more time to group projects without having to jet off to practice or go to bed early so I can prepare for our game the next day.
I made friends that I still keep in contact with even after graduation.
I got to explore the beautiful Austin, Texas.
Austin, Texas is honestly one of the funnest, never dull, beautiful, interesting, and most awesome cities to live in and explore. I knew it was great when I decided to commit to four years there, but I would have never known all that was out there if I didn’t stay behind after volleyball to find out.
I was able to support Texas Volleyball from the stands
I got to go back and support the girls as they took on off-season scrimmages and began pre-season. It was nice to watch and cheer from the stands.
I got fat, but the food new found food joints were delicious
Clearly, I didn’t get obese but I did acquire a few extra pounds as a was trying out all these new food places that I had never been to in Austin.
I got to sit down enjoy drinks without fearing of being sluggish the next day in the gym. When you’re working out by yourself it doesn’t matter how engaged you are or what kind of body language or awareness you bring to the atmosphere, but with a team all these things are important and it effects everyone.
Out on the town with Mom
I was able to hit the streets with my mom and take her too all the fun places and even to places that I haven’t even been yet. One of my favorite experiences. First time drinking and having a girl night with my mom.
I took my first weekend road trip to Galveston, Texas with some of my other “last semester” athlete friends. It was her birthday and since we were “normal” we could make last minute plans just because we could.
A weekend on the beach, yes please.
Inviting friends to visit
Friends came in town to visit and I was able to show them a good time
Go out on a Tuesday, why not?
Self explanatory, but being able to go out just because we wanted to was a really freeing feeling. No fears and no one to reprimand us if they caught us out and had practice the next day, because we didn’t
No cares in class
For some reason I was just more relaxed in class. I didn’t have to think about scouting reports, the things I wanted and needed to work on in practice, or anything else. Just school.
Walking slowly around campus
One of my favorite things was taking my time walking from class just because I could. Usually in season I would be power walking so I could make it to dining hall in time to eat a quick lunch before I had to go to practice. So being able to walk without a schedule, a place to be, or any worries was awesome. I was able to appreciate the campus and take it all in before I had to say my last goodbye.
And power walking in the Texas heat isn’t fun at all. Pit stains.
They said these would be the best four years of our lives and I didn’t understand that until this last semester. We had no cares, just going to school and living life. Not that I didn’t love playing volleyball, but this was a different kind of fun and freedom.
If I wanted to play sand volleyball with a group of friends I could.
If I wanted to attend the kite festival or a Blues in the Park concert that I heard about, I could and I did.
Ride a moving bar.
I honestly have no regrets when it comes to the decision I made. I say all this because so many American athletes leave early to play overseas and sometimes don’t even graduate before leaving because they want to start playing and making money ASAP or they are getting pressure and feel they need to make this move quickly.
Of course every situation is different for everyone and also every correct choice will differ for each athlete, but from my experience I would highly recommend taking one semester to be a “normal” college student and live life before you are swept away overseas.
Here is all the stuff I brought with me after living 17 hrs away in Austin, Texas for four years. I packed up my car and crammed stuff in every space and waved goodbye to the beautiful and amazing Austin, Texas.