What Day is it?-Through the Eyes of a Student- Athlete

Regarding my sport, volleyball, I participate in the fall season of athletics. Fall is awesome in so many ways. Crisp cool air mixed with the excitement of starting a new school year and starting up the beloved football season. To my team and I, all that is great but it is even better because we start a new season of our sport. However, all great things come to an end.

What day is it? This is a common question that is asked countlessly by numerous people throughout the course of a 24- hour day. To most people, a simple, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday would suffice. Although these responses are indeed quite true, there are other answers that you may possibly receive from the other student- athletes who are surrounding you.

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After kicking back over Christmas break, spring is the time to get back into the grind of things and grow into the new team that is left after the seniors leave. To some, spring is awesome because spring break is right around the corner and soon after that is the end of the year leaving the sweet summertime bliss at one’s disposal. It’s easy to see the glory behind a timeline of seasons, but to an athlete there’s much more behind the glory.

“What day is it?”, one could say. Monday- but what they really mean is conditioning day. Get up and go to individual practice at 7, but life sucks because you have an 8 am so no shower for you. After being in class all day, come workout and do 20 sprints down the football field- it’ll make you feel good they say. Then go eat of course, but coach says to make sure we still have our hands on the ball everyday, so now go back to the gym and play for another 2 hours. When that’s done, do all of your classes’ homework assignments but make sure you go to bed at a decent hour because you have to get up again at 5:30 am to do it all over again on Tuesday. “What day is it?”, one could say. Tuesday- rinse and repeat.

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To a fall athlete, that is the second semester life that is lived. Being completely honest, it almost becomes a blur because of how repetitive it can get. Of course, nobody likes running until they can’t move or weight lifting before the sun rises, but you do it for the sport. While fall sports are priming themselves for the following season, at this time the swinter (spring and winter) sports are already primped and prepped for their season ahead. The myriad of minutes put in by all the athletes finally come together for what they’ve been waiting for. “What day is it?”, one could say. Friday- but what they really mean is game day. Wake up and go to class but obviously it’s impossible to pay attention because of the excitement that is coming in less than 8 hours. Big games flood us with nerves and anticipation throughout the day, making Friday completely meaningless except to the fact that it’s game day.

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Whether it really is Monday, Tuesday, Friday, or any other day of the week, there is a meaning and a series of events following each one. Sometimes they are awful and make you nervous for your life, but they are also thrilling and enticing. To anyone who doesn’t know the life of sports, I write this so you understand the life and the regimen athletes live by and what they really mean when answering the simple question of “what day is it?”.

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Death, Taxes, and Kawhi Leonard

If you ever get a chance to watch SportsCenter or the NBA on TNT, you are constantly ambushed with “LeBron James this,” “LeBron James that,” “Russ vs. KD,” “Carmelo vs Phil Jackson,” blah, blah, blah. It’s the same stories, night in and night out. For me, though, I watch basketball, particularly the NBA, focusing specifically on the athletes and their incredible skills and talent. In my opinion, one of the most underappreciated and least respected players in the league is Kawhi Leonard, the starting Small Forward for the San Antonio Spurs. Leonard is a growing force in the NBA, but still seems to not receive the attention he truly deserves.

Kawhi is the epitome of the San Antonio Spurs Organization: selfless yet a winner. Coached by Gregg Poppovich, the Spurs are consistently one of the best teams in the NBA. Playing alongside veterans like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi has slowly been developing his skills and thriving in the system. In 2011, he averaged a mere 7.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Flash-forward to 2016-2017, where he’s leading the San Antonio Spurs, currently second in the NBA, while averaging 25.6 points and 5.9 rebounds. He led the Spurs to a 2014 Finals victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He won the 2014 and 2015 Defensive Player Award, after locking down other superstars night in and night out.

With all the success he’s already achieved at such an early stage in his career, why is it that we do not focus on him as much? (Is it because the cornrows are going out of style?) No, it’s because he isn’t flashy or he isn’t arrogant. He simply gets the job done. “I don’t like to bring attention to myself. I don’t like to make a scene,” Leonard says. He does not have Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. He never argues a foul or demands for the ball. His teammate Tony Parker said, “Kawhi has never asked or expected anything. He doesn’t say much with his mouth. He does all of his talking with how he’s worked for the whole team.” Everything he does is focused on being great, on becoming the best he can be. Coach Gregg Poppovich said about Leonard, “He wants the greatness badly. He doesn’t give a [rip] about the stardom.” He spends hours in the gym, perfecting his craft and becoming better.

The key question, though, is how far will Kawhi Leonard go in his career? The answer is however far the San Antonio Spurs go. He is the rudder to the USS Spurs, guiding their success. Should the media give him more praise and attention? Maybe so, but he doesn’t want it. Should Israel Gutierrez interview him more following games? Again, maybe so, but only because his contract requires it. Where will you find him in the summer? No, not on a Banana Boat with LeBron James, but back in the gym in San Diego working to be the best.

Statistics from ESPN.com

The Life After Football

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NFL football players have spent thousands of hours in their life to practice the game they love.  When the game becomes too much for the players is when the real damage begins.  Players face the harsh reality of not having the benefits that the NFL has given them.  Adjusting to real life is harder for a large percent of retired football players.  Football is a violent sport that has led to many body, emotional and financial struggles.  A survey of 763 former NFL players conducted by Newsday in conjunction with the NFL Players Association’s former players division showed 61 percent said they found it difficult to adjust to daily life after their career, while 85 percent said they did not believe the NFL prepared them for the transition.

A player by the name of Wesley Walker, who was a receiver in the league for 13 years discussed the difficulties that football has put upon him physically and financially.  Walker had two surgeries, one was on his left shoulder to fix a torn labrum and rotator cuff.  He had spinal fusion surgery during which doctors inserted 10 screws and a rod to help stabilize the spine.  He also suffered an ACL tear while taking an awkward step at an autograph signing.  Walker is 59 years old, but he said it feels like I am 90 years old when I get out of a chair.  All of these are suspected to be a result from football and the ruthless contact that Walker received.

With all of the injuries that players suffer during their time in the league and after their time playing a majority of players say they would do it all again.  Athletes work day in and day out to perfect their craft.  When your hard work is rewarded by the chance to play at the highest level possible, I would do it over and over again even if I knew the consequences.

Citation: The Life After Football, Mark LaMonica