The Scratching Post

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To play, or not to play

Seniors reflect on their decision to continue sports in college

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I (left) prepare for my next event in the bullpen at TPCC (Go Tigersharks!)  in Saline Michigan.

I (left) prepare for my next event in the bullpen at TPCC (Go Tigersharks!) in Saline Michigan.

I (left) prepare for my next event in the bullpen at TPCC (Go Tigersharks!) in Saline Michigan.

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As a six-year-old, I wait to swim my next event at Travis Pointe Country Club in Saline, Michigan

For a majority of my high school swim season, it felt like I had to choose whether I was going to continue my swim career after high school or not. It tore me apart. It didn’t help any that right after high school season, the day before Thanksgiving, Colorado State emailed me that they had capped their roster. Life was going really well if you couldn’t tell. To make matters worse, I had also had a meeting with one of the Arizona State coaches just that morning and felt like I blew it. I thought it was over and there was no way I was swimming there.

In some ways, today, I still feel like there is no way I’m swimming there. I have a lot of fears that I’m going to have to face when I get to ASU and try to walk on. But, I feel that I’m not done swimming, that I have only scratched the surface of what I believe I can accomplish in the sport, and I just can’t imagine my life without swimming — not yet anyways.

 

Jordyn Bunning shared that sentiment saying that she could not imagine being done with track after high school.

“It was a pretty easy decision because I love track and I couldn’t picture stopping my senior year,” she said.

Jordyn Bunning, along with Lauren Katz, Ryan Kim, and Nicole Pieper will be continuing their respective sport in college. Bunning will be continuing her track career at Washington University in St. Louis, Lauren Katz will continue her cross country and track career at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Ryan Kim will continue his soccer career at Oberlin College, and Nicole Pieper will continue her softball career at St.Thomas University.

Choosing a college is already tough. Deciding which school is best for your major, where you feel most at home, and so many more variables factor into the decision. Now, throw sports into the mix, and you have a whole new set of variables.

It’s important to make sure that you click with the team, like your future coach, and find the program that is right for you. Some athletes are recruited and others are not.

All four committed athletes were recruited for their respective sport. I was recruited as well for swimming and track, but mostly swimming. Unlike those four, I wasn’t very heavily recruited. I had to reach out to almost every coach. I thought of myself as more of an “afterthought” to most schools.

That hurt. Watching all my swim friends be recruited, while I was and am super happy for them, was hard. Was I not good enough? Did I not do enough to get my name out there? So many questions ran through my head all the while I still had to perform in school and in the pool.

My advice, however, to anyone being recruited is to enjoy it. Seriously-have fun with it. You could have the chance to have your visit to a particular school be completely paid for by them, and get to spend time with the team. It can be stressful, but you’ll only get recruited once, so take it all in.

To anyone not being recruited, try not to worry about it too much. You might have to put a little extra work in, but get your name out there and show them why you should have been recruited. Use it as motivation to get better.

Not too long ago, Baker Mayfield, a walk on quarterback at two different schools, was the first overall pick in the NFL draft (I know it’s Cleveland, but give them a chance)  just a season after winning the Heisman. There is always an under- the- radar player that no one sees coming. Anything is possible.

 

Although, sometimes you are recruited, but decide that you don’t want to continue playing in college. Max Lyle has played football almost his whole life but has decided to quit after high school.

“I decided not to play in college because my dream has always been to attend a big university, and I wanted the college experience I have always dreamed of,” he explained. “I felt that playing football at a small college would not have fulfilled that.”

Tatiana Guletsky shared that thought, as well. She said that her major, architecture, requires a lot of time and effort and that she has to prioritize her career.

“This was a difficult decision because I love softball, but I won’t be able to play forever,” Guletsky said.

And that’s just it. No one can play forever. Derek Jeter recently retired from baseball, Kobe Bryant retired from basketball, and Tom Brady’s going to retire at some point (I mean, he has to right?).

I’ve thought about quitting swimming multiple times this year already. I’ve thought about no longer walking on, what happens if I’m cut from the team, and so much more (I’m a bit of an overthinker-it’s terrible, don’t do it). I’ve even already thought about transferring for swimming and I haven’t even gotten to Arizona yet!

However, I feel that I can’t leave the sport without having given it my all-without doing absolutely everything I can to make a Junior National cut, to make the Arizona State swim team, and so on. I don’t think I could ever admit to myself that I’m done with sports until I have done absolutely everything possible to be the best I can be.

My dream has always been to be the best. The best swimmer, runner, or whatever I do. I constantly dream of being the story of the under-the-radar athlete who makes it big time, like Baker Mayfield, Tom Brady, or even Scottie Pippen. But then, reality sets in. I realize that the odds of me being that story, much less walking on at Arizona State, aren’t great.

Sports are an important part in many students’ lives. They can’t imagine life without them. But, all good things must come to an end.

So, whether my swim career ends in the middle of August, four years from now, or somewhere in between, I will look back at my career smiling. I’m grateful for all the people I’ve met and have become closer to, the lives I have positively impacted, and am truly proud of all the things I’ve been able to accomplish.

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