Five things I learned about being a college athlete- by Kelly Mankowich, UMass Lowell Field Hockey
I’ve played all sorts of sports my entire life. My parents were both athletes in college, so it was inevitable that my brother and I would follow suit. I tried out for just about every sport there was: soccer, lacrosse, softball. I even almost signed up for track one year (running has never been my strong suit). I played all of these before finally finding my niche: field hockey, which I now play at Umass Lowell.
Sports have taught me many valuable life lessons. Sports make a person stronger mentally, teach you to respect others and make you realize that a little bit of competition can take you a long way. Here are five ways that collegiate sports have changed me for the better.
I will be the first to admit that there were points throughout my sports career where I have been so weak. Mentally, I couldn’t handle the criticism, and at times it made me question my choices. In college, that all changed. I now feel mentally stronger than I have ever felt, and I take criticism as motivation to do better.
College athletes aren’t just normal students. You have to get used to new things, just like the other students, but there is so much extra pressure put on your back that sometimes it can break you, and it will. Over time, stress becomes easier, because as a college athlete, you learn how to control it in ways you have never thought of before.
You become more independent when you go off to college, whether you are playing a sport or not. But as a collegiate athlete, maturity happens much faster. You have to go back to school early, motivate your teammates, travel a lot, and do things on your own while trying not to ask for help because that competitiveness in you tells you that you’re going to figure it out. You may only be eighteen when you first go to college, but you must become extremely independent the moment you step foot on campus.
I found out the hard way that not being very serious and joking around has its consequences. Freshman year of college I thought I could just do what I did in high school. I thought I could joke around, play, and win. I quickly found out that was not the case. Throughout my freshman year, I slowly started to mature, bit by bit, and by sophomore year I came in as a completely new person. I began to realize what was important. I didn’t even notice that I was becoming an extremely mature and independent person until people started telling me.
As an athlete, you sometimes ask yourself, “Are these people really my friends? Or just my teammates?” In college, there is no doubt about it. These people are your friends. Maybe not because you chose them or you have a lot in common, but because you are always together. They are some of the only people you see, day in and day out. You barely have any time to make other friends. Unlike high school, the bonds you make during college last a lifetime.
As I go into my final year of playing a highly competitive sport, I see all of these changes in myself and in my teammates, and honestly, it’s a great sight to see.
-Kelly Mankowich, Umass Lowell Field Hockey
Kelly Mankowich plays field hockey for Umass Lowell in Massachusetts. She is a Senior Communication major with a double minor in Marketing and English. She plans on pursuing a career in sports and media after she graduates. You can find out more about Kelly here- Instagram
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