Paying Our Dues

I sat in an interview the other day with a fellow teammate and classmate Liza Heap about how our season has been thus far, the tremendous success of our underclassmen, and what it means to be a senior on a history-making team. Although I walked out of that room more sentimental than I did walking in, it was just what I needed as those few minutes shifted my mindset to a different way of looking at things.

As seniors, we hear time and time again to “leave a legacy.”  While I fully believe in the powerful intentions behind such a phrase, it is not necessarily about leaving a legacy for the ones whose days as college-athletes are numbered. That probably sounds a bit ludicrous. Shouldn’t everyone want to leave a legacy? Doesn’t everyone want to be remembered in some way? Of course. Every human being craves satisfaction of this capacity- and it isn’t a bad thing. But to me it is less about the legacy and more about doing the things that even allow legacies to happen. If we are focused on the legacy- the end result- we turn a blind eye to what is right in front of us. We forget about the people who helped us get there. And at the end of the day, we have completely eliminated our ability to see the big picture clearly.

This big picture I speak of is what brought us here and what has kept us here over the last four to five years: Drake University. We are not to be motivated by leaving a legacy, but by paying it forward to the place and the people who believe in us with everything they have. As seniors especially, it is our last chance to pay our dues. We could easily go through the motions, be satisfied with a free education, be content with our teams success, believe our legacy has been made and move on. And even though there are somewhat negative connotations attached to “paying our dues,” it is far from negative. We don’t HAVE to pay our dues- we get to, and we want to. These dues are paid through a game we love and for a university we are privileged to represent.  It’s pretty simple, really.

I firmly believe that legacies transpire through unwavering belief in who you represent. That is how legacies are made and I would go so far as to say that is also how they are defined. Drake University is the one thing that brings us all together- the wins, the points, the history, the legacy- that all seems to fall into place.

I Smell Basketball Season

At last, basketball season is upon us. I could go on for days about reasons why we do what we do and why we work day in and day out nearly all year-round. For fans, the excitement is a different type of excitement. It is being able to follow their teams, cheer for their teams, and anticipate the madness that March often brings. But for players, there is a little more to it than that. Here is a Top 10, in no particular order, about some of the best parts of being a basketball player at Drake University.

  1. The student section: you make game day so much fun no matter how many of you there are. Absolutely no better feeling when the students can be a part of our success or have our backs when things aren’t going as well.
  2. The game lights: the Knapp Center is hands down my favorite place on campus. I will miss playing in the Knapp Center more than anything. That place is electric even when it’s empty.
  3. The community: the students, the fans, the city of Des Moines, the Drake faculty, and anyone else I’m missing that associates with Drake basketball. I have a hard time believing the support at other Division I schools is as amazing as it is here.
  4. The relationships: the people I have met playing basketball here are people I will stay in touch with the rest of my life. It is hard to explain what happens when you spend every waking second with your teammates. We’ve been through the best of times and the worst of times. Let’s just say that type of bond is an unbreakable one.
  5. The traveling: even with poor weather conditions, a stalled charter bus, or a delayed flight, traveling to and from games is so much fun (but more fun when we win). I would not trade the memories I have made on road trips for anything.
  6. The pride: there is just something about wearing a Drake jersey that gives me pride in every sense of the word. Especially after going on five years, you recognize the value of what this university stands for and has to offer.
  7. The city: I am not surprised so many Drake graduates end up sticking around Des Moines after graduation. Although I’m biased, it is the place to be.
  8. The off-season: I probably should put quotation marks around the word off-season. We are always at work whether it’s in the weight room, watching film, or mastering our craft. It can be exhausting, yes. But you look back on every minute spent getting better with no regrets.
  9. The process: even when things are not so glamorous, it is the process that gets you to the top. One day at a time, one practice at a time, and one game at a time have to be the focus.
  10. The blood, sweat and tears: the good, the bad, and the ugly make success that much more fun. You learn to take failure with a grain of salt, as hard as it may be, and find ways to move on. Even when I have the worst day, I remind myself how lucky I am to be doing something I have loved forever and for a school I have undoubtedly fallen in love with.

Tough Love

As the famous Tina Turner once asked, what’s love got to do, got to do with it? If I had to answer that question in respect to life and college basketball, love has almost everything to do with it. Tough love has everything to do with it.

Tough love is something- regardless of our backgrounds and many walks of life- we all experience. Some of us fail to appreciate the value in it simply because we don’t know any better. Some of us deem it as mean or unfair. But others recognize the act of tough love as the trigger to the growing pains that often decide our fate.

I can honestly say I have viewed tough love through the eyes of a pessimist, a “victim,” and someone who truly sees the beauty in being challenged. However, it took me a long time to recognize the latter concept. Tough love is something that has molded me, and continues to mold me, in everything I want to be one day.

It is one of those necessary evils at times. If we don’t have anyone to get in our face, to tell us what we are doing is not good enough, or to give us feedback that isn’t always positive, what would we have to shoot for? Essentially nothing. Tough love comes in many forms, but the end result is always the same for those who recognize its value. These people respond to tough love in a way where sympathy is far from the answer.

Does tough love hurt? Can it get your panties in a wad? Absolutely. But before you react, listen. Tough love is so easily lost in translation. Chances are the person dishing it out is someone who cares deeply for and believes in you more than you think is possible. Whether it is coming from your parents, your friends, your siblings, your teammates, or your coaches, tough love is a privilege.

And when we realize exactly that, we begin to respond less negatively and more positively. We begin to listen and not react. We begin to embrace what is being said and not resist or deny it. And most importantly, we begin to think more of the people who show us what tough love is and not less.

Stuck in the Future

It seems like at least once a day, I log on to Facebook and there are an assortment of  articles ranging from “Things I Wish I Knew at 18” or “Top 20 Ways to a Happier Life” on my newsfeed. More often than not, I’m a sucker for this genre of writing. It sheds an interesting perspective on-simply put- the past. We all have skeletons in our closet small and large. It seems that so often we get caught up in what has already happened, what choices we made, or how happy we used to be. But as I head into my 5th and final year of school and basketball, I find myself doing the exact opposite.

I am constantly looking ahead. Part of it is excitement, and the other half is disbelief. To think that my days as a college athlete are numbered is absolutely mind-blowing. To think that in nearly 10 months I will be giving my senior speech is a tough pill to swallow. And to think that I will be off and headed into the real world is hard to imagine. Knowing that one day my time playing college hoops will be over leaves a pit in my stomach.

Hence why I can’t stop thinking about that ‘one day.’ Many of us are engrossed in the past. Many have learned from the past. Some of us, like myself, are caught up in the future. And some, like myself, are learning from the future. Before you jump to conclusions about whether or not this is possible, let me explain.

To me, having the slightest awareness of our future allows us to live in the present. But not just live in the present: cherish every single part of it both good and bad. Basketball is all I have ever known. Knowing that it is the closest to being over than it ever has been is one of the best realizations I’ve experienced to date. It has led me to an even greater appreciation for the opportunities I’ve been given and the people I’ve met along the way. I know I mention the ‘people’ as somewhat of an after thought. But they deserve every bit of credit, and probably more, than I will ever deserve: my family, my teammates, my coaches, and Drake University. They are the reason behind my gratitude and always will be the reason behind it down the road.

So yes, what I’m saying is that I am stuck in the future. But maybe that’s the secret. Have you learned from your past? Love it. But you can gain something from what you know of your future, too. Take what you have now and make the most of it- because one day, you may not have it anymore. And that goes far beyond the basketball court.

Happy Easter

There are a lot of sacrifices that come with being a Division I college athlete- and the biggest one is giving up family time over the holidays. We play in a Thanksgiving Tournament every year, and usually get around three days for Christmas compared to most students month-long break. However, Easter is one holiday I have been able to be home for for as long as I can remember.

It is funny how fast just one holiday away from your family can put things into perspective. I can tell you with 100 percent confidence that I cherish every minute I get to spend with them. There are no other people in my life who have been with me through the thick and thin, who I can always rely on and who support and push me in everything I do. Family truly is forever. Happy Easter!

March Sadness

March Sadness: a self-diagnosed illness in which I am currently undergoing. Being a basketball player, it is always my hope that we prolong our season in March. Unfortunately, we lost in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and I found myself catching the action from my couch. But even so, it does not get much better than March Madness- the epitome of college hoops. The upsets, the clutch performances and the cinderella stories are something I look forward to every year. My favorite player to watch this year was Doug McDermott. He carries himself with class and grace even when he is arguably one of the best players in college basketball history. He is one that has every right to let everyone know how good he is, but instead he just puts the team on his back and does his thing. There is no doubt he will be a fun one to watch in the NBA. While the championship games on both the men’s and women’s side are a thrill, there’s a sense of “March Sadness” that comes with it. I am already looking forward to next year!

The Student-Athlete Experience

My working experience ranges from an internship at the Iowa State Fair this past summer in which I promoted a program called Iowan of the Day, to writing a column in the Drake University Times Delphic school newspaper, to partaking in a student ambassador outreach program for a nonprofit organization called Team IMPACT. I am also a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Council social committee and the Student Alumni Association senior week council.

On the basketball court I pride myself on being the “spark plug” of the team. If my experience as a Division I athlete has taught me anything, it is that pouring your energy into other people reaps unbelievable rewards. There is no greater feeling than representing a cause much bigger than oneself.