Before I started this journey, I never thought that playing a college sport would influence the person I am in a way this substantial. As a Dutch native, I have been playing field hockey in the Netherlands since I was six years old. In the Netherlands, college athletics does not exist. As a result, I decided to come to the United Stated to continue field hockey and earn a degree at the same time. I have always loved my sport, but my passion for it grew exponentially when I joined Lindenwood. I have been playing for Lindenwood for three seasons now and it has taught me so much. Yet, the one thing that stands out to me personally is the way it taught me to push myself physically, and especially mentally, beyond limits I never thought I could surpass.
One example where being a student-athlete taught me to push myself to a new level is when I had to run my very first fitness test as a scared, foreign little freshman. This test made me realize how special the bond of this team was and how much these girls would help me grow as an athlete and as a person in general. Before reading this story, you have to know that this fitness test is incredibly challenging and demands a lot of exercise and mental toughness. The reason why this test is so mentally challenging is because your mind will eventually tell you to give up because your body is too tired and has reached its limits. The hard part is to keep pushing yourself anyway and prove your mind wrong. I had practiced this test over the summer almost every day and there was not one single time I could even get close to passing it. So, naturally, I was very nervous to run it and had very little confidence in my ability to pass it.
During the last set, my mind told me to give up because I was so exhausted I could barely feel my legs anymore let alone keep running for another five minutes (which by the way felt like three hours). Two of my upperclassmen saw me struggling and started pushing my body forward to keep me from giving up at this point. As much as I just wanted to stop running, they wouldn’t let me. And you have no idea how much I hated them for it in that very moment. But the moment they dragged me over the last line and helped me pass the test, I could have not been more thankful. Never before have I experienced anything like this. The way my teammates sincerely wanted me to pass this test was just amazing to me. They showed me that what I consider to be limits is just a matter of perception.
This was only the very beginning of my journey and it set the tone for the rest of the season(s). Every practice, my teammates and I work hard for each other and try to push each other’s limits a little further.
Why We Do What We Do
Don’t get me wrong. Being a student-athlete is not always puppy dogs and rainbows. I think every student-athlete can relate when I talk about the crazy intense practices or the way too early morning lifts when you’d rather still be snoozing in bed. But it is for these few nerve-wracking, but crucial games, that make all of these early mornings and sore muscles so worth it.
It isn’t always easy to keep up with our busy athletic schedules and still perform well in the classroom and somehow maintain a social life next to all that. But to be frank with you, being a student-athlete is an incredibly unique experience that I (like most student-athletes) would not trade for the world.
To conclude, having teammates and coaches who are able and willing to push me to be the best athlete/person I can be is incredibly special. And it makes me one of the many fortunate student-athletes out there. I simply cannot thank my coaches, and especially my former and current teammates, enough for being who they are and continue doing for me.
All Photo Credit goes to: Lindenwood Athletics