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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Athletic teachings

Published: September 17, 2010
Section: Sports

Learning to play competitive sports is the best preparation I ever could have imagined for college. Far more than SAT scores or AP classes, there is simply no substitute for the practicality of lessons learned from a youth in sports.

Other extracurricular activities may very well teach students the same lessons, but I believe there are few others that can compare with the necessity of learning to overcome failure on our own.

Growing up, I played tennis and baseball competitively, but it does not matter the sport that one plays. Any will do the trick. While it is difficult to see at the time, sports provide a constant in your life that can always be there.

Going off to college marks a major change in an adolescent’s life, but the dependency of being able to spend a few hours each day doing what you truly love is a rarity most teenagers and college students don’t experience. There is a huge difference between what you like doing and what you love doing. Loving a sport or activity means that there is nothing else you would rather be doing in your free time.

Juggling the various demands of college life can be stressful. Students want to do well in their classes, participate in extracurricular activities, enjoy their social life and must also deal with family issues. Yet in all of this, sports provide an enjoyable way to forget about the other issues in our lives. For a few hours each afternoon, nothing else matters but hitting the ball over the net or kicking it down the field. Amid the chaos of college, sports provide the perfect balance.

And just as sports provide a healthy stress reliever, they also teach kids how to cope with pressure. Competing in the final minutes of a game teaches us the importance of enjoying pressure. We must learn to enjoy the process of competing, not just the end result. The same can be true in school. In order to succeed, the ultimate motivation cannot just be to obtain high grades but also simply to enjoy learning.

The value of a work-ethic cannot be overstated. Many times students get discouraged in class when they do not achieve as well as they think they should. Yet rather than looking at the real cause of their failure, they make excuses. Sports teach us that when we fail, it is our fault. It is our problem to solve. Sure, coaches and friends can help us, but ultimately we have to make ourselves better. It is our responsibility to work hard and improve our games.

In sports, just like college, and life, we must learn to enjoy the tough journeys and the struggle of working hard for a long-term goal. The ability to take instruction as advice, rather than personal criticism teaches us to focus on how to make ourselves and our team better.

Lastly, sports have taught me to focus on what I can control. In tennis, for example, you can always control your fitness, your focus, and your serve. These aspects of the sport are a constant. In a tennis match there are many things you cannot control. You cannot control how hard your opponent hits the ball or his style of play. Keeping the focus on the positives, on what I can change during a match, allows me to feel confident. When you lose that way, you know you still did the best with what you could control.

Whatever challenges college life may bring, athletes have a unique advantage. The largest reward from athletics is what we take for granted. We have learned lessons that no class can teach us.