On Wednesday, April 11, the UC San Diego athletic department recognized 12 student athletes at a luncheon held in the RIMAC Annex Dugout Room. Although every Triton athlete is known for their exceptional performance on the playing field and in the classroom, only a select few were chosen to be celebrated on National Student Athlete Day. On top of succeeding educationally and athletically, recipients were also congratulated for their contributions to surrounding communities.
I was one of the 12 individuals picked to achieve the award, and was beyond honored, to say the least. As we all congregated Wednesday afternoon, I was flattered to share the special occasion alongside 11 other amazing student athletes and incredibly supportive faculty members, coaches, and professors. It is moments like these when you feel as if all the hard work on the field, day in and day out, and the dedication to the constant grind has paid off.
Carrying the title of a student athlete is an unbelievable privilege. People are often quick to compare it to a full-time job, when in reality it is more closely related to balancing two, arguably three, careers, in addition to working overtime almost every single day. As a student athlete we are expected to excel in our sport, maintain a high GPA, tend to our aching bodies and create a social life all at the same time. It sounds impossible, but despite the rigorous challenge, we all seem to find a way to make it work out one way or another, and when it does, it is the greatest feeling in the world.
Waking up at 5:45 a.m. for weights, sweeping buckets of water off the tarp after a night of heavy rainfall, missing multiple classes due to travel trips, taking tests on the road, and loading up on caffeine to finish a paper before the clock strikes 3 a.m. on a night before game day are only a few situations student athletes are accustomed to. Nonetheless, it is enough to question why anyone would choose to put their body and mind through such exhaustion. The answer is simple — the passion to compete and the dedication to a sport we all fell in love with as little kids.
Softball is, without a doubt, a game of failure. It is more mental than physical and you have to be willing to accept the fact that you will fail more often than not — a game of high risk, high reward. What makes it all worthwhile in the end is the ability to look back at the stressful recruiting process that enabled me to get here in the first place and to honestly admit to myself that I am living my dream. There is no other place where I receive the same adrenaline rush before games or sense of belonging and comfort. There is no other place I will experience the unparalleled feeling of hitting a walk-off double in the bottom of the seventh, stomach filled with butterflies, or a diving play up the middle to prevent the game-winning run from scoring. There is no other place that will humble me with challenge beyond challenge.
Nothing compares to the ongoing demand and respect the game of softball requires. It has helped me become the person I am today, granted me with a group of lifelong friends, and an adventure to forever look back on. To see my proud parents in the stands after all their love and support through the uneasy process, and the multiple road trips down Interstate 5 to Huntington Beach showcases before college ball, I can finally say I have made it.
Being a student athlete means being a part of something so much bigger than yourself and representing not only a university or a program but the alumni who have created the foundation before you even existed. It is about stepping outside of your comfort zone to find qualities within yourself you never knew you had and building character through both the struggles and the successes to utilize later on in the real world. It is about pushing yourself to unexpected limits and celebrating the small victories towards your overall arching goal. And lastly, it is about fulfilling the best four years of your life with the drive to be a better version of yourself both physically on the field and mentally off the field.