Playing a college sport is a privilege that an athlete should never take for granted. Sports provide a competitive outlet and life-long friendships, but most importantly lessons that encourage discipline and resilience.
Upon reading Adm. McRaven’s “My 10 Life Lessons From SEAL Training”, I was surprised that I was able to apply them to my life as a student athlete. McRaven is a retired United States Navy admiral who served from 1977-2014. He is a respected individual with a published book and a multitude of awards and badges from the military. In 2014, he recited the 10 lessons for a commencement speech at University of Texas at Austin.
I am not saying his 10 lessons are perfectly comparable. Navy SEAL Training is definitely much more grueling than being a student-athlete. However, I think these lessons hold true to anyone, especially to student athletes and my experience as one.
1. If you want to change the world, start making your bed
My mom has annoyed me with this one since I was probably tall enough to reach the top of a bed. Nonetheless as a college kid, you do not have your mom telling you to do that. There is something important about starting off your day right, or as my Chemistry professor “planting happy seeds”. This easy, controllable task can set a better tone for your day, and your life.
2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle
You cannot be successful without your team by your side. As someone that loves to be on my own and independent, being on a team has helped me learn the value other people. If I am ever feeling down, I know I can look to my teammates for the support that I did not know I needed. When the team is working together and helping each other out, we win. It is as simple as that.
3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers
The best matches are when Geneseo Volleyball plays with heart. Chances are the “size of our flippers” or our skill level, are relatively the same every time we play in a season. What makes us play harder and stronger is when we have a passion and drive like no other.
4. If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward
Even when we lost SUNYACs last year (2018), we keep moving forward. It does not matter how much we prepared for and how much work we put in, it is the way life goes. We are on to the next title, no need for complaining or talk of last year.
5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses (form of punishment in SEAL training if you fail to meet physical standards)
The pain of punishments build our inner strength. Serve or Sprint is a game that we hate because of this. Let’s say the rules for that day are everyone has to make their serve in a certain area AND in a row. It is likely that we will fail and face the punishment. Although that is discouraging, it tests our composure, conditioning, and inner resilience.
6. If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first
If you want to win you have to take risks in volleyball and in life. As a hitter, game point can be a stressful yet empowering situation. I will never forget the in-season game point I had against New Paltz when they passed an over pass. I had the decision to either hit it or step off the net to pass. The decision to be aggressive solidified the game win, and contributed to our undefeated SUNYAC season.
7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks
There are people constantly trying to bring you down, but “if you hope to complete the swim you have to deal with them”. There is no hiding from your opponents in volleyball. If you want to step on the court you have to face the other team. If you want to have an impact, rise to their level or take a seat on the bench.
8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in your darkest moment
There are times when you feel down in volleyball or in your outside life. I think of that week that happens every season where you have like 3 tests and 2 and a half hour practices every day. Your body is sore, your brain is racing with ideas, and you have a big tournament weekend. That is the time to do your best. Show the world that you can stay composed in this time and effortlessly allow your preparation and skills shine through.
9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your head in mud
Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed with almost any emotion, you can usually find me singing or humming. You cannot take life or the game of volleyball too seriously. A mistake, loss, or rut is not the end of the world and laughing (or singing) it off will only ease the blow. In addition to that, the calmness you demonstrate is contagious to the rest of the team.
10. If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell
In SEAL training, there is a bell that you can ring if you would like to quit. How easy my life would probably be if I could just quit school, volleyball and all the other extracurriculars I do? Easy, but not satisfying. I have learned that I live for the challenges and obstacles that provide these lessons for me. I strive to constantly better myself, learn new things, and hopefully accomplish something like a SUNYAC championship.
Can’t do any of it if you ring the bell.