Life in the fast (pitch) lane at Cleary University

So maybe you’re considering Cleary as a choice to continue your passion of playing softball but are still torn if it is the right choice for you. I know when I was in your shoes I had someone to clearly define the daily tasks, roles and responsibilities of a CU softball player. I wish I could tell you the day in the life a CU softball player is easy to define, organized, consistent and easy to follow but this is anything but the truth. Our days are typically far from consistent since scheduling practices is tricky between our coaching staffs careers, our facilities availability, school functions, and Michigan’s bipolar weather. However, I can break it down into a general guideline for what to expect when you sign your CU letter of intent.

 

Fall and Spring:
Most likely in your first year at Cleary you’ll be attending class on campus from 9 am to 4:15 pm on Tuesday and Thursday. Even though it may be 8 am when the sound of a blaring alarm wakes you from a dead sleep, skipping class may seem like the best and most logical decision. This is sadly not a keen option since word is likely to get back to coach. So usually with your new signature granola bar and water bottle in hand, you pack up your things for the WHOLE day and begrudgingly head to class you’re dreading. As soon as class ends you will head to Cleary’s bathrooms (since we do not yet have locker rooms) and changed immediately for practice. From there you will likely car pool with teammates to our “home field” about 8 minutes away at Parker Middle School. Practice typically starts promptly at 4:45 so be sure to shove some food down your throat and get those painful metal cleats on ASAP. Practice usually runs until 6:45ish but if coach is in a good mood and feels practice was productive you can bet to get out 15 minutes early. Typically on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays as soon as practice ends expect Shane, our schools speed and conditioning coach, to show up to literally kick your butt for about a half hour to 45 minutes…SIGH.

Most girls on off-days of classes end up working in order to pay for gas, food, and their living situation whether that’s most commonly off-campus apartments or the very expensive dorms Cleary has to offer. However, that’s when we don’t play games. This may sound easy but we play an upwards of 20 games in the fall and in the spring we get scheduled for an upwards of a whopping 60 games. However, expect Michigan weather to do it’s best to dwindle game days in the spring to closer to 50. On game days in fall we for some reason play A LOT in Grand Rapids. Because of this, on game days usually we have to leave around 7 or 7:30 am in order to arrive around 9:30 or 10ish. We then have about an hour and a half to two hours for our pre-game stretches, warm-ups, snacking, pre-game talks, and team bonding. Unlike most high school game days, we ALWAYS play at least 2 games a day with about a 15 minute break in between each game. As most of you may already know, expect each softball game to last about 2 hours. This means if we are scheduled for a double header for noon expect to be leaving the field around 4:30 by the time everyone is packed up off the field and on the bus. From there we always go out to team dinner which feeding 26+ people at a time varies drastically on the restaurant or fast food chain of coaches choice. You can expect at least an hour for each team dinner. So finally it’s nearing 5:30 or 6 and you’re back on the bus and ready for a shower and your own bed. We will arrive back at Cleary around 8 or 8:30 depending on traffic, making for a very long and tiring day just to be followed by usually studying and homework then just to repeat it all again the next day bright and early.

Winter:

As many of you may already know, winter is considered our off-season, however in college sports there truly is no off-season. We still put in work 3-5 days a week depending on the time in the winter. However a rough draft of what our winter schedule is as outlines below:
Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays are workout days that occur either bright and early around 7:30 or 8 am for about 2 hours or in the late afternoon like 6 to 8 pm. Expect to be so sore that climbing the stairs to get to your dorm or apartment will be a struggle. On Tuesdays and Thursdays you will usually be getting ready late for a practice at 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm which will be a full indoor practice at Legacy in Brighton, about 10 minutes from Cleary or 20 from the apartment complex many girls reside in. This gets rough when the following days workouts are bright and early in the morning.

As you can see you will put in a lot of work year round. During the fall and spring season you will have games sporadically throughout the week and almost guaranteed every weekend, all weekend. While this can make for very long days and weeks, expect every waking moment to be preparing for the excitement, stamina, skill and adrenaline that will be needed for game days when you will be representing yourself, family, friends, teammates and Cleary as a whole on the field. While it is a lot of hard work, time and dedication, there is no explaining the feeling of getting to put on a Cleary jersey and knowing you get to put your blood, sweat and tears in every game when you test yourself and team against the other college athletes across the country. While it may get hectic to do all your homework, studying, cleaning, and social life in between so much softball, you will somehow mange to make it your new norm and make new memories every single day.

If you want to be apart of something bigger than yourself and this sounds like something that interests you visit http://www.cleary.edu/choose-cleary/ and apply today! From there a simple email to one of our coaches, either coach Bailey, coach Meadows, or coach Marty will suffice to get the ball rolling and get you more information so you can slide right into our program.18449713_10210915193009578_8232738299420904659_o

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The take away on being a college athlete

 

Many times when the going gets tough I wonder what my life would have been like if I didn’t chose the path I did of being a student-athlete at Cleary. Maybe I would look more like a girl or at least more put together as opposed to a jock in her navy and red Cleary gear everyday who had to dress for the practice that immediately followed class. Or what it would be like to go the gym for a social and self-fulfilling purpose as opposed to a mandated obligation. Maybe I would binge-watch Netflix a lot more and have much more money to spend on going out and for campus food like Starbucks and Qdoba. Maybe my friend group would be a bit more dynamic then my fellow teammates and I’d have a lot less sleep-deprived days. Practicing 6 or 7 days a week along with packing in at least 20 games in the falls followed by around 50 games in the springs is no joke. Cramming for a last minute exam is a lot harder when you have a double header 2 and a half hours away in Grand Rapids. Honestly, it is a grind and one that takes being mentally tough and patience you really don’t have. I will be the first to admit that I have surrendered to mental lapses and became envious of my peers who have the time to join campus groups, go out to dinner with friends, have extra time to study, who have the time to get an internship to jumpstart their careers, those who go out at night and can live the normal college life.

However I am usually quick to snap out of it when I realize I am living the athlete’s ultimate dream, pursuing my passion, and am fueling my old dreams. At times like these you have to remember why you started and how far you have come. Reminisce on how much hard work was required to get you where you are and how many friends and experiences you’ve gained. Not to mention why you still play. Is it to make yourself or your family proud? Is it because of your passion for the game? For me it’s both of those and the fact that I play for the little girl who picked up a bat and never looked back. The little girl whose biggest dreams was to be a Disney princess and a college softball player.

Sure it’s awful hard to juggle everything but that is what makes it so great and so rewarding. Between the morning workouts, having classes all day, cramming for exams, going to a three hour practice and hours worth of travel time, nothing can top wearing Cleary Softball across my chest and playing for my school, coaches, teammates, peers, family and myself. I promise you it is so unbelievably gratifying and will transform you into someone who can conquer the world with their perfected and tested time management skills.

So even though I may have missed out on the cliché American college experience, being a collegiate athlete is something only a small percentage of students can say they have been and it is truly life changing and no amount of parties, Netflix, or Qdoba can change that. What can I say; the life of a student athlete has taught me so me things that a classroom or textbook could never and while this can be can be overwhelming, it is so very worth it.

The balancing act for student-athletes

We all know college will give you a run for your money…Literally. Going to college is tough but throw playing a college sport in there and it’s down right difficult. Many student athletes make rookie mistakes at the beginning of the year that are nearly impossible to reverse and save your grade and GPA last minute. The last thing you need is to under-prioritize being a student and wind up sitting the bench because you put yourself on academic probation for the semester. Below are a few tips and tricks I learned first hand that have helped me along the way:

  1. Ask your coach for your schedule ASAP
    Most coaches have the vast majority of the season mapped out months in advance so before you schedule any classes make sure to get your season schedule from your coach. Then you can evaluate your athletic schedule and base your academic schedule and classes around that. For example, maybe you notice you have games almost every Monday, Wednesday and weekends, instead of taking classes Monday through Friday it would be smart to take Tuesday and Thursday classes and anything else online. This is especially helpful with practice since it would cause unnecessary stress to take a 3:00 class if you know practice starts at 3:30. This way you do not have to stress about missing a ton of classes or in class assignments.

 

  1. Communication is key
    Make sure every single one of your professors know that you are an athlete for your school. You would honestly be surprised how many professors are willing to work with you when they actually are knowledgeable about your priorities outside of the classroom. Moreover, by following step 1 above, you can give your professors a copy of your schedule if you know there will be conflict between your schedules. Trust me, your professors will greatly appreciate this and be much more understanding if you have to miss an important lecture or test day. Not to mention, tell your coach about your academics if necessary. Your coach can easily email your professor verifying that you will be missing class or you need an extension because of road games or even if you need a test rescheduled because of last minute make up games.

 

  1. Form study groups with other athletes
    The great part about fellow athletic peers is that they 100% understand the struggle of finding free time to do homework. Meeting up after practice with other athletes in the same class as you or better yet with teammates who are or who have already taken the class can help you study or explain parts of the course you may be uncertain about! Take advantage of being surrounded 24/7 with your teammates. Soon enough your study group on your team can fill bus rides or overnight hotel stays with study or homework sessions.

 

While the pressures of preforming to the best of your ability on the field coupled with fulfilling high academic expectations can be overwhelming, being proactive can give you a jump-start to accomplishing your athletic and academic demands. Best of luck!

Trials and tribulations of a college softball player

There are SO many things that they didn’t tell you when you signed your letter of intent. No, I am not talking about how the school lunch sucks or how temptations are around every corner, which teacher will give you a run for you money, how to best study or anything like that. More specifically, most colleges make their campus, school, and overall daily activities look like it’s all rainbows, sunshine and daisies. THIS IS NOT TRUE. While most of you may be sitting there reading this like, “yeah no sh!#, Sherlock”it’s the hard truth. Going to college, and especially Cleary, is not like in the movies where it’s all party all the time, skipping almost every class, and nothing but good times and good vibes. Here is the real, raw and uncut version of the trials and tribulations of colligate athletics.

If you’re an elite or serious athlete in general you know one fact by now, as Michael Jordan said, most people do not play sports because it’s fun. OH NO. Most actually have come to the point that they resent it by the time they play in college, if you haven’t yet, you’re bound to get there so embrace it now. All the missed family event, missed birthday parties, missed social gatherings, missed important classes, missed final exam reviews, missed graduations, missed proms, missed adventures with friends and overall experiences can weigh on an athlete, their social life, and especially how others perceive them. However, it is our life. Entirely and completely. If you do not already, in college you live eat and breathe your sport. I truly do not know who I am without athletics. The sport truly is your identity; it embeds part of itself into your hardwiring and leaves a scar. We thrive off of the singles, grand slams, team bonding sessions, great workouts, a conditioning practice where you lived to tell the tale, the 24 hour bus rides to Florida, the never ending chants and cheers, your teammates, inside jokes, the painful as hell cleats, the extra sprint you ran because you couldn’t stop laughing at you teammates, the Gatorade, the close games, the pre-game jitters, the sunflower seed, the scars and bruises that became our personal collection of “trophies”, ALL OF IT. You live for the team that becomes your family whether you like it or not.

Let me make a few things clear right off the bat:

You will get so tired you literally want to cry
You will get emotionally drained
You will get pissed at a coach
You will fight with teammates
You will fall short sometimes
You will cry from the pain
You will doubt your skills
You will be exhausted
You will struggle
You will lose

There will be days you will forget why you even play.
There will be days your body will go numb because you’re so sore.
There will be days you want to quit. DON’T

 

IT’S WORTH EVERY SECOND

  22

What is the hardest trial and tribulation you may ask me? They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at the picture above this. That was just five days ago in Akron Ohio when I was hugging my fellow captain senior centerfielder as we received the second place trophy in Nationals. Nothing will EVER describe the feeling of your body shaking, heart aching, tear filled eyed as you watching your rivals receive the first place trophy that you and the 22 other girls standing beside you have literally work every single day for the last 9 months for. Yeah there’s next year, unless you’re a senior, but that doesn’t matter. Any kind and comforting words from others seem to hurt more than help. You lost the biggest game of your life. Second place is the worst feeling you will have in your athletic experience along with your very last game. You lost. Point blank. All the hard work, motivation, blood, sweat and tears, the hours staying after practices hitting, the blisters you get from the constant swinging, the throb in your arm, the aching and soreness in your body that joins you the first day of the season only to leave after the season, it all added up and brought you this far just to fall a couple base hits short. Just like that you’re second place. To be fair, you and all your teammates put in all the work to get here and no one, and I mean no one, can take that away from you. Second place is good but it’s not first.

           There are and will be plenty of thing they won’t tell you when you sign your letter of intent. In a few words, being a college athlete is a lot like receiving second place. IT IS NOT EASY AND THERE ARE PLENTY OF TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS. It can be one of the hardest things you have ever encountered and most times you will feel like you or you team deserve first place but certain situations, games, plays, hits, practices, coaches and even players can make you feel like second place. Being a college athlete means the sport is first and the rest of your life comes in second place. No school will tell you playing college sports means you come in second place but it’s the truth. The sport will have to take first place as you, your body, your family, friends, and even school becomes second. With all of these triumphs and tribulations you rarely hear about,  for the athlete that stays focused, driven and keeps things in perspective it will make them stronger, better and mold them to become the best that they can be, not just in their sport, but as an overall person. Maybe second isn’t too bad.