The value of sport for student athletes

Olivia Doak

Being a student athlete is a big commitment. Games, practices, workouts and team meetings take up time normally being spent studying or with friends. But there are reasons that I, and other athletes, make those sacrifices to play the sport. And that’s because being a student athlete is not something I do-it’s something that I love and it’s part of who I am. 
However, volleyball was not always such a positive part of my life.
I was 11 when I played my first club season of volleyball. My coach was intense and a yeller, which made 11 year-old me shy and insecure. On top of that, it was my very first year and I was still learning how to play the game. Throughout the season, I never understood why I was yelled at and sprinted everyday for not being good enough. 
But I stuck with it because I wanted to play for the team at my middle school. And when I did, that’s when I first started falling in love with the game. 
The whole school would come to our games, and I loved traveling to different schools. Because we had all club players, we steamrolled every team we played. And it was fun. Not just because we won every game, but for other reasons, too. 
I loved being on a team. I discovered the bond you develop with your teammates, and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It’s amazing to feel the closeness born from spending so much time together and sharing the same passion for the game. Your teammates know you in a way no one else, parents, friends, or partners, ever will. That’s something really special; and it’s something I have grown to understand and cherish the longer I’ve played the game. 
When I started playing in high school, volleyball became an escape from the stress in my life. For three hours a day, all I thought about was what was happening on the court. Nothing else crossed my mind and nothing else mattered when I played but the game. I was able to pour all my energy and focus into what I was doing in that moment. 
Even then, my experiences playing volleyball were never perfect. Not every team I played on got along or won a lot of games. Sometimes it wasn’t fun, and there were many times I just didn’t want to go to practice.
But I always went. And until I made the decision to play in college and until I started playing at Augie, I never fully understood why I never skipped practices or quit along the way like others I knew. And most of all, I never fully appreciated everything that the sport has given me. 
I never quit because I loved the game. Even when others around me did quit, the thought never crossed my mind. I never considered it because volleyball became quite literally a part of me, and you can’t quit being who you are.
Because of how big volleyball is in my life, it’s changed who I am as a person. It’s taught me to be determined and to never give up doing what I love. 
It’s also taught me to be selfless and to work with others. If someone plays over you, you support, help and encourage them in any way you can because you want to win and you want what’s best for your team. It’s also taught me about trusting my teammates to do what I can’t so that we can achieve our goals together.
My experiences playing volleyball have pushed me so far out of my comfort zone and changed who I am that I don’t know what kind of person I would be if I hadn’t played the sport. 
By being a setter and learning how to run the offense, I’ve become confident and assertive, and I’m not afraid to stand up for myself. I’m adaptable and willing to learn new things because that’s what I do in the gym everyday. I’ve become a leader who values making everyone feel included and respected because of my experiences on teams that weren’t inclusive. 
And that’s why the sacrifices I’ve made to play the game don’t feel like sacrifices. And for all student athletes, our sport is more than an extracurricular activity, or something we do for fun. It’s a way of life, and it’s who we are.