Column: Balance is key to success in school, sports, social life

Hope Leinen, Staff Writer

I can guarantee that any of your preconceived notions surrounding being a student athlete are either close, or so far from the truth. 

I am a junior defender on the Women’s Lacrosse team at GVSU, so I have personal experience with being a student athlete. 

First off, it’s not what some people may think. It’s definitely not all fun and games. I think a lot of people think student athletes put in a small amount of work and then play games, party and do poorly in school. However, this is so far from the truth. Being a student athlete comes with a high set of expectations from yourself, your team and so many others.

Lacrosse has been the one consistent thing in my life for as long as I can remember. It’s always been the one thing that I could count on to take my mind off school and anything going on in my life. 

However, as I transitioned into college, I had to learn who I was without lacrosse and how to balance my life as an athlete, student and friend. 

Being a student athlete is all about finding balance – one of the hardest things to find. At times, I feel like I still haven’t found it. Another of the most challenging things about being a student athlete is time. I feel like I never have enough of it. 

It wasn’t until this year that I started getting involved in anything other than lacrosse and school. Most of that is because I just wasn’t in a comfortable enough position in lacrosse to feel like I could succeed in other things. 

One of the biggest lessons that has helped me is accepting that my role on the team may be different than what I want for myself. At the end of the day, I am a part of a team that may need me to do, or play, a specific role to further our end goal. 

I had one of the worst attitudes my freshman and sophomore year when it came to playing time and my personal performance. I was extremely hard on myself, as I’m sure other athletes are as well, and I realized that I just wasn’t having fun anymore. 

This caused me to feel like I was failing at all other aspects of my life: doing well in school, maintaining friendships and my social life and getting involved with my community. 

For me, sports have always been a mental game – but I realized that this mentality wasn’t helpful at all. When I made a shift to prioritize other aspects of my life as much as my sport, I started having so much more fun and was able to get involved with other things. 

Something that I have recently been trying out is drawing a smiley face on my hand before practice. J.J McCarthy, the Michigan starting quarterback, does this to remind himself to just have fun. A lot of athletes struggle with this – the pressures and the performance expectation. At the end of the day, we perform better when we’re just having fun. 

My sport is one of the most rewarding things in my life, but also one of the most challenging. Sometimes I get drained and just want to lie in bed or be a normal student.

Then I remember all the reasons that I play. I love my team, the high of playing, the opportunities it provides me and the lessons and morals it teaches me to instill in my life. 

I wouldn’t have chosen a different college path if I could go back in time. Lacrosse has taught me the limits I can push and the heights I can reach.