Last fall I began my freshman year at UC Berkeley, excited yet extremely nervous. The biggest question I had going into the year was, “How could I do it all?” How could I manage practice, classes, homework, social time, sleep, and eating and get it all done well? I quickly discovered in my first couple weeks that it is impossible to balance and do everything perfectly all the time. There are days where you rock at lacrosse yet cannot get through a considerably “short” sociology reading assignment in fewer than three hours. Or there are days where you will finish your work early enough to get a good night’s sleep and still cannot manage to play as well as you want during morning practice. The days of success and chaos quickly taught me my biggest lesson as a student-athlete: whether one tries to be a perfectionist or not, making mistakes and messing up will happen, and that is okay. As soon as I realized that messing up is a part of the path to success, I replaced the pressure that I once put on myself to not fail with new pressure to grow in areas that I found essential to being a student-athlete, such as the skills time management and communication.
In high school I started to learn how to manage my time with lists and calendars, but as I entered college solely making to-do lists could not cut it, for several reasons. Firstly, time management is so much more than writing down tasks and deadlines; it is a self-reflective quality. Only you know how long something is going to take you to do, the best location to do your best job, how much sleep and food you need in order to fuel yourself to continue this day by day. Secondly, to-do lists and planners imply permanent structure, and realistically many days following the “list” of what I planned ahead to do was impossible because of factors I couldn’t control, such as the weather, sleep, eating, mood, family, and friends. This brings me to emphasize how important it is to realize that the plan one makes for his or herself each day rarely will ever go as perfectly as planned. Being flexible and allowing oneself to cut into other activities to finish more important ones, or even just throw some off the list, can be necessary. For example, many days I would tell myself I should finish reading a couple chapters before my class at noon, yet after a hard practice that just was not realistic.
Being an effective communicator is also critical to succeed in a challenging environment. Freshman year is overwhelming with the newness of it all. Naturally I was confused and a little overwhelmed and I knew I needed to ask for help. I learned that communicating with teachers, advisors, resource groups, teammates and coaches is be able to do everything on my own. That is how you begin to do well when you do not know what to do. Be proactive and be clear and honest with yourself and others. People are generally understanding, but you need to give them a reason to be. If you can show them and explain to them that you are trying your best and need help in a certain way they are much more likely to give it to you. For example, surprises, as my coach said to our team, are not a good thing. If you are struggling in a class that is fine, but you must communicate with advisors and coaches so they can help you. Bad surprises on report cards are not excusable.
Overall being a student-athlete means learning how to physically and mentally deal with stressful times and failure, all while having fun. You grow with the sport you love. It has taught me a lot about failing and learning and how to react positively to both outcomes. I have just begun to fully appreciate the necessity of time management and communication and still need to learn much more about these and other skill needed to succeed in school, sports and life.
- Caitlin McCarthy Interviews Kate Graham
At the end of Kate Graham’s senior year in high school, Kate received a customized award to recognize her accomplishment of a being a three varsity sport athlete for all four years of her high school career. Kate Graham then graduated on to UC Davis where she started for their Division-I lacrosse team as a freshman. Unlike many high school lacrosse players that choose to specialize in lacrosse and dropped all other childhood sports to hopefully increase their chances of being recruited and being a stronger player, Kate decided that her passion for water polo and basketball was just as important as her lacrosse recruiting process. Her choice to play more sports rather than more lacrosse is arguably the reason why she has so much potential as a college lacrosse player and why she did not burn out.
Question: What were the perks of choosing to play three varsity sports all four years of high school?!
Answer: I loved playing three sports. I was always jumping from one sport to the next— I played water polo in the summer and fall, basketball in the winter, and lacrosse in the spring and summer. Playing multiple sports mentally and physically had a positive impact on me for several reasons. Mentally I was always excited to be playing the in- season sport. Whether it was being able to see my friends on the team or just playing the game, there was never any dread to go to practice or boredom of the sport. Physically I was always able to stay in shape throughout the year solely because I never had a full month of an off season. Though one might assume the constant stress I was putting on my body would injure my body, quite the opposite happened. Playing multiple sports gave the different muscle groups I used in each sport a healthy amount of time to be strengthen, as well as giving them healthy breaks. Another of the biggest advantages I got from playing different sports was field sense. I was able to apply the tight passing lanes of basketball to feeding in the fan in lacrosse. I was also able to use my clearing vision as a goalie in water polo to make smart decisions in transitions in lacrosse.
Question: Did you feel like playing other sports increased your potential in lacrosse in college?!
Answer: After distributing all my time to three different sports from elementary school through high school, college felt different. For the first time I spent all year playing the same sport, and I loved it. It allowed me to fully develop my lacrosse skills at an age where I knew playing well every game mattered much more. I had a lot of room to grow as a lacrosse player because this was the first time I had ever focused solely on lacrosse.
Question: Do you think playing multiple sports in high school helped or hurt your recruiting process?
Answer: Choosing to play water polo and basketball certainly gave up a lot of time I would have spent going to recruiting camps during off season and doing wall ball, but many college coaches liked that I was a multi-sport athlete. From a coach’s perspective it showed that I can learn other skills, and that they had more to work with when I went to college. It also further showed that I was used to dedicating my time to sports year around.
Question: Was there ever a moment where you wanted to play a second sport in college?
Answer: I had thoughts at the end of my senior year to play water polo at the next level. But lacrosse was the only sport I played on a club team and had help being recruited, so it was the only sport I ever truly considered playing in college.