You only get out what you put in.
It’s a concept I’ve been grappling with recently—a common thread that has showed up often in my life, both within and beyond athletics.
This past weekend, I competed in the Atlantic Sun track and field indoor conference championship meet in Johnson City, Tenn. I almost hesitate to use the word “competed,” though. In both throwing events, I only mustered tosses that were between six and five feet below my personal bests.
If I had taken my best shot put throw from my sophomore year and the best weight throw from last year, I would have scrapped up a couple of points for the team. My actual performance was essentially good for nothing.
I think some people underestimate the ebb and flow of college athletics. Analysts look at senior-laden teams and automatically think, “Geez, they will be good this year!” But it’s not that easy.
Two years ago, Belmont men’s basketball team returned all but one starter from the team that nearly toppled Duke. By all accounts, it was supposed to be another NCAA tournament year. It was not. The Bruins went 20-13 and were eliminated in the conference semifinals by East Tennessee State.
As a college athlete, once senior year comes around, there are other things to worry about. (Especially if you are a perennial walk-on, like myself, who receives no scholarship money.) Athletes aren’t immune from “senioritis” or the stress that accompanies entering the “real world.”
About this time last year, I realized I should probably start saving money. I took a well-paying job at a summer camp—which helped my bank account, but left little time for summer training. This school year, I’ve held down three jobs while sifting through postgraduate employment opportunities.
Quite frankly, there are more important considerations than how far I can throw a wrought-iron sphere.
I’m not trying to make this read like a list of excuses for my personal shortcomings. In fact, there are dedicated people out there who can balance athletics, school, and jobs; kudos to them.
But the point is, this whole college sports thing is a lot more difficult than it looks. College careers are not perfect crescendos. Sometimes, they are more like bell curves.
I don’t look back on my college career as a disappointment. I probably didn’t reach my potential—and I certainly didn’t put in the hours needed to be a champion.
I got out what I put in—no more and no less. And if that same theory holds up, I feel pretty good about what’s in store for my life after college.
Pierce Greenberg, Vision sports editor, is a senior journalism major.