A Letter to Every Collegiate Athlete / by Tamara Pridgett

What Every Collegiate Athlete Should Know:

When you sign your National Letter of Intent the emotions that typically ensue are a mixture of nerves and excitement about starting a new chapter in your life. 

Your school of choice has sold you on what they have to offer. That is why you signed the letter in the first place, right?

Whatever your reasons may be to signing your life over to your school of choice for the next four or five years, you’ve bought into the mission of the athletic department, the program of your sport, and most importantly the training. 

On your recruiting trip they show you the latest million dollar facilities, the weight room, the academic services, the newest dorms, and all the gear you’ll be receiving.

You’re in love.

So was I.

But what they don’t show you is the adversity you’ll more than likely face. The injuries, the team "drama", the stress of managing school and your sport.

They don’t show, or tell you nearly enough that your sport does not define you.

Yes, your sport has gotten you to where you are, but it is not the end all.  

My last four years at The University of Arizona have been life changing. I have grown as an athlete and as a person. With only two more guaranteed collegiate track meets I’ve spent the past few weeks reflecting on my time as a Wildcat.

I’ve had a rough season. Scratch that. I’ve had the worst season of my life.

Coming onto this team I had goals, like most athletes. I planned on breaking every short sprint record, being an All-American numerous times, and going pro right after college.

Besides being a two-time All-American and part of the school record setting 4x100 meter relay and 4x400 meter relay teams none of that happened.

What I’ve gotten out of this experience, and what I pray all athletes get out of their collegiate experience is first:

An education.

We are so quick to overlook what this really means. Go ask a friend who isn’t on an athletic scholarship how much they pay for school...Google the percentage of people who obtain their Bachelor degrees. 

To be honest, not once have I ever looked at a tuition bill.

That alone is amazing.

To be able to say that I am graduating from a Division 1 institution with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication and most importantly NO DEBT is a blessing.

Do not take the education you will receive/are receiving for granted.

You are a student first, and an athlete second.

But what does that really mean?

To me it means preparing for your future.

Don’t choose the “easiest” major. Concentrate on a field that speaks to you. That challenges you. A field that if tomorrow you were told you couldn’t compete ever again you will enjoy.

Second.

Being able to share my talent and love for track and field with fans, and inspiring someone to go run is a wonderful feeling. No matter how bad you think you are, children seem to look past that. They see us as superstars. They see us how I see Beyoncé.

Having children go crazy for me even though I am an average sprinter makes my heart smile. Interacting with them and hearing that because of me they want to participate in track is so fulfilling. Take the time to speak to them, to take a picture with them. Remember how you were as a child with your favorite athlete(s).You never know what you may inspire that child to do for simply being kind.

These are the moments I want you to cherish, because when all the fame and recognition fades the influence that you have on children and your community remain. 

My advice to all of you who will be beginning your career as a collegiate athlete in the months to come is to take advantage of all the services your athletic department and college offers you. 

Plan for you future. I cannot stress that enough.  It’s never too early to begin thinking about life post athletics. Whether you are done after four years or are fortunate enough to turn pro, one day you will be done.

 

Build a support system.

Make friends outside of the athletic department.

Get involved in the community. Give back. 

Respect your team and your talent.

Hold onto your happiness.

I’m not trying to kick you off of Cloud Nine, but there are going to be times when you want to quit. There are going to be times when you question what you’re doing and are ready to walk away from it all. 

But these next four years are also going to be some of the most amazing experiences of your life.

Be present.

Don’t worry about the future.

Enjoy every moment of your athletic career because it goes quick.

 

& most importantly, Congratulations.