Thompson Rivers University

Success, excuses and the student-athlete

November 28, 2018

Third year student-athlete Avery Pottle shares her lessons from on and off the volleyball court.

Student-athlete Avery Pottle majors in biology and minors in psychology. In her third year with the TRU Wolfpack Women’s Volleyball team, Avery believes that what you do when no one else is watching is indicative of character and is also the key to success.

“Excuses are like losses; everyone has them except for the champions.”

Excuses are often unconscious. We make them for ourselves so much in our day-to-day lives that we eventually don’t even realize how much we let ourselves off the hook. As athletes, we are always told what we are doing wrong. “The set is too tight,” “you blocked when you should have gone down,” “try hitting in the court once in a while.”

We hear phrases like these and countless others daily, so we choose to shelter ourselves from them. While this protects us in the short term, over time, we lean on these excuses and allow them to define us.

1) “You don’t have to try if it’s before 7 in the morning.”

Morning workouts, practices and meetings are all a part of the student-athlete lifestyle. Nothing feels quite like being dredged from a deep sleep when the alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. in the dead of winter. Trudging through snow and avoiding ever-present black ice on the pitch-black journey to the gym adds to the fun of the whole situation.

It’s easy to blame uncomfortable or undesirable circumstances for your attitude and behavior; for my first two years of university, I did. If I showed up relatively on time, I felt I was doing my part for the team. Here’s the thing: every time you step on the court, pick up a weight or show up for a video session, you earn a chance to improve. By appreciating those early mornings, and understanding the lesson behind the struggle, you can become better in every situation.

2) “It’s okay that I’m not performing at my best, I’m a first year.”

Nothing is quite as humbling as your first practice as a university athlete. You’re no longer the star of the team, or a go-to player – in fact – you’re barely keeping up. It becomes difficult to love the sport as you once did, and you start to make excuses for yourself.
• “I’m younger than everyone else.”

• “I haven’t had as much time on the court, or in the weight room.”

• “They just know the game better than I do.”

I convinced myself that those older players were better than me. That mindset held me back, and I spent far too much time watching from the sidelines. Believing in yourself and your skillset (regardless of age or experience) can make all the difference in the early years of your university career.

3) “I don’t have the time.”

My first-year go-to phrase was “I can’t do it; I just don’t have the time.”
Balancing four classes, three labs, two practices, and one workout per day makes for a full schedule. Throw games and travel times into the mix, and there isn’t much time left to the imagination.
I resisted anything outside of that routine, and as a result, missed out on some fantastic opportunities.  I didn’t have the time for professor office hours or community events, yet I found time for social media, Netflix, and sleeping in. Perhaps it’s not about being busy; it’s that we aren’t willing to sacrifice the “time wasters” all around us.

•    Wake up at seven am instead of sleeping in until nine.
•    Delete the games on your phone that you seemingly can’t live without.
•    Identify and prioritize what is important to you and leave non-essentials behind. You’ll be surprised by how much more you can accomplish in a day.

4)    “If I’m not at my best, I don’t need to play like I am.”

If you wait for your circumstances to be perfect, you’ll be waiting for a very long time. My first year was tough. I was sore, tired and sick. I was living alone for the first time. My practice schedule, training routine and my academic workload were far more strenuous than I had experienced in high school. I rarely felt fully healthy and injury free, and as a result, didn’t always play my best in practice.

Frankly, this imbalance impacted all aspects of life. I was waiting for a time where everything was perfect and put together, but that time never came.  It’s not about waiting for the ideal time; it’s about pushing through whenever possible.

Whether you’re having a rough day, week or month, you’ve got to show up, give it your all, and honor the commitment you made to your team. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be perfect but exerting that effort can bolster your confidence and enthusiasm. Pushing myself on those low days has helped me in all aspects of my life.

5)    “No one else is doing it, why should I have to?”

Whether you play volleyball, basketball, or soccer, you are encouraged to foster a team mentality. The team comes before the individual, and it’s about working as a group to achieve a common goal. You spend so much time together as a team, you become a family unit, and you rely on their guidance. While this support system is essential, it has the occasional downsides. It’s hard to stay behind to study instead of going out with the team or going for that extra workout while others choose to relax instead.

Ultimately, you must do what others will not, to do what they can’t. It is not always the most popular or fun place to be, but if you want to benefit the team, you must develop as an individual.
Going the extra mile might not always feel like it’s paying off, but you will start to see results for your actions. Whether that looks like being one of the top scorers in your league or becoming an Academic all-Canadian, all those little things you did when no one else was watching will come to light.

By being conscious of our excuses, we allow ourselves to push past our pre-conceived capabilities. Maintaining a positive mindset and managing your time can have a significant impact, not only in your first year but throughout your university career and beyond.


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