A Typical Day
“Beep, beep, beep, beep.” My phone alarm goes off… I push snooze. “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.”
“Hey man, come-on get-up; we’re gonna be late!” I look over and my roommate is quickly dressing for our early morning workout. He’s a basketball player from South Chicago. He’s nice and funny—even if he’s not from New York! I’m glad he woke me up so I’m not late.
We arrive to the “Vitamins” courts and fields. SportsChallenge calls these early workouts “vitamins” because they say that just like vitamins, we need to do these workouts every day—especially if we want to get to the next level. These morning workouts are a combination of strength, speed and agility training. The training is that of elite college and professional athletes. The second we arrive, we are greeted by loud music and crazy energetic coaches…seriously, crazy. I mean how can they be so awake when it just got light out?!
I’m already tired, but my teammates and coaches are pushing me through. We did a complex series of ladder foot-work challenges followed by a mini-hurdle workout. After doing some form running, a few of us got to do some training with these parachutes—sprinting while having them on our back; it was really hard but kinda fun. We’re about to do today’s core workout with some planks, lunges and all kinds of pushups in weird positions. The strength coach and athletic trainer is crazy about these workouts; both he and his wife are like body-builders. He’s trained a lot of elite athletes. A kid from Richmond won the “vitamins shirt” this morning for his work-ethic and intensity; the shirt says strength, speed and agility big and bold.
Man I love breakfast and am I hungry. We enter the dining hall; it’s huge and looks like the Hogwarts dining hall from the Harry Potter movies. Sometimes, this whole campus seems like a movie-set. The food is amazing. I’m gonna have French toast, eggs and bacon. Their bacon is so good. Maybe I’ll also have some yogurt with fresh fruit so I can feel like I’m being healthy. There’s some sign about the milk and fruit being organic from some local farm. I sit and eat with my roommate and a teammate of his from Chicago along with two soccer players from California. We’re so hungry at first, we barely talk but then we start talking about school back home and our coaches. They were chill.
After breakfast, I head back to my room for my soccer gear. I lie down for about 15 minutes but I don’t fall asleep since my roommate isn’t here to wake me.
We just finished our dynamic warm-up. It was weirdly fun (if warm-ups can be fun). Our coaches are really creative and use a lot of the techniques used in their former college programs. They had one of the returning senior student-athletes (they call all of us student-athletes) lead part of the warm-up. He’s from Senegal and he taught us this Senegalese soccer chant which we did throughout the whole warm-up. It was kinda cool.
Each day we sign-up for “electives” which are crazy-specific aspects of the game taught in very small groups. I got my first pick today; four of us are going to work with one coach for the next 35 minutes on just one aspect of the game—receiving long-crosses. Since I play up top and often end up on the far post receiving long balls, this fits perfectly with what my coach back home said I must improve. We work over and over again at settling to our feet—from our chest, foot and even thigh—followed by a one-touch shot or pass. I got so many reps and a lot of good advice. My coach played forward in college and now coaches high level club soccer in Texas. He pushes us hard, and I’ve learned a ton from him.
I can’t believe I’ve already had two practices and it’s just after 11am. On my way to class, I make sure to pick up some food—a granola bar, a banana and some Vitamin Water—to get me through class before lunch. I talk to my advisor on the short walk from the field to class. Each of us has a specific coach assigned to us who serves as our advisor; they read our application file and everything before we get to campus. They spend a lot of time teaching us how to set goals—for the day, the summer program and even the school season ahead. My advisor is one of the younger coaches—he just finished his senior year as the captain of his college team in Ohio. He’s going to play professional indoor soccer this year while getting his next coaching license.
This is the third day of our leadership class, “Conflict Resolution and Sport.” I now know everyone’s name in the class; there are 14 other athletes in the class—boys and girls, basketball and soccer players. We have one dude from Haiti and a girl from France in the class; there are also some fellow New Yorkers—yeah-ah! We have two teachers, both coaches: A woman who is a college basketball coach at a university in Massachusetts, and one of my other soccer coaches who is from California. Before arriving, I was dreading class in the summer, but the class is really interactive and I actually like it. Each day we get introduced to a new leadership tool and then the last part of the class is spent debating a real team scenario and trying to figure out the best way to handle it. Today’s focal point is “composure” and the scenario is about a teammate who is getting really frustrated and losing control. We are debating what to say to him—during the game and again at halftime and then deciding if we might handle it differently depending on our role (if captain, new varsity player, etc.).
Lunch. Yes. Is four grilled cheeses too many? What about five glasses of gatorade? At least I went to the ridiculously big salad bar for a minute.
I’m halfway through my 1-on-1 meeting with one of the SportsChallenge college counselors. All three of the counselors are professionals—either high school college counselors or college admissions officials. I had already filled-out a survey about where I am in the college process (which isn’t very far; I just finished my sophomore year). He’s really helpful as he clearly outlines the entire process from start to finish. We spend a lot of time on the essay because I’m a little nervous about it. He reminds me to go to the evening college seminars offered later in the week—especially the one that teaches how to handle the college interview and the seminar on the college recruiting process—they have a panel coming in for this session.
I decide to skip the option of an afternoon nap and go have fun at the pool. The highlight was an awesome version of volleyball that a bunch of the other soccer players started on one side of the pool. Before I knew it, we were divided into teams; kids were hitting a beach ball over the flag line; and the makeshift game turned into a no-joke competition between soccer and basketball players. Even on breaks we’re competitive I guess. I got to know a few of the rising seniors from Maryland and Washington, DC who are staying in the older dorm.
The first part of the afternoon session begins with rotating stations including shot analysis. The coaches videoed me shooting and then the soccer Director took me to a classroom for a one-on-one meeting to break-down my video. He dissected the details of my shot and what I need to improve. I noticed basketball players in the classroom next door doing the same thing. It was helpful to see each part of my shot broken down in slow motion. Clearly there are a couple of changes that I need to make—especially in my approach footwork, but the Director seemed impressed.
We’re all tired, but the afternoon finishes with a mad-competitive 7 v. 7 mini-tournament with quick 15 minute games. Each game has a specific point of focus outlined by the coaching staff and is followed-up with a brief breakdown of our play. A couple of the younger coaches who are still playing in college, scrimmage with us making it even more intense.
I’m beat. I walk straight from the field to my dorm to shower—my three athletic sessions are over for the day. Then, it’s off to dinner where I will eat an entire rotisserie chicken and an entire pecan pie—well, almost.
Every night the entire community gathers in the auditorium for “Evening Leadership Forum.” The day is reviewed with leadership awards presented, important announcements made and public “appreciations.” The coaches then introduce and discuss tomorrow’s leadership theme. Each day revolves around a one-word theme and related leadershop tools that the coaches and student-athletes focus on—both on the courts and fields, as well as in the classroom. Today’s theme was communication. During one of our competitive drills today, coaches gave points for effective communication. I wonder what the leadership theme will be for tomorrow.
As I walk down the stairs to the auditorium for Evening Leadership Forum, I can hear the music. I enter, and a bunch of the coaches are lined up, dancing, and giving us high-5s as we walk between them…. seriously do they ever get tired? A few of the athletes join them and a spontaneous dance-off starts in the back of the theater as everyone else starts to arrive for forum. I think the New York kids held it down pretty well, but who knew some of our coaches had moves?! Tonight, the coaches did a hilarious skit to show the importance of perseverance both athletically and as leaders. (Tomorrow’s leadership theme is perseverance.) It’s funny to see our coaches, big-time college athletes, dress-up in costume to show the leadership theme. They gave away four leadership awards for the day—mainly for the “student-athletes” who best exhibited the communication theme. A soccer kid from Richmond won the boys soccer award while a basketball girl from my leadership class won a leadership shirt too—she’s from Indiana.
Sports Psychology class is the last structured part of today. After yesterday’s discussion and practice of pre-game routines, including breathing exercises, today was focused on how we handle mistakes. Apparently, professional, college and Olympic athletes use a technique called the mistake ritual which is basically a quick physical action (at SportsChallenge it’s brushing your shoulder off) used when you or a teammate makes a mistake during a game or practice. Instead of getting real frustrated or even angry with myself or my teammates, I’d use “brush it off” to remind me that the mistake is over and I need to focus on the next play. I’ll give it a try tomorrow.
Some of the kids have individual meetings with the college counselor or their advisor. I’m free and head to the cafeteria for our food and some more Gatorade. Each night they provide us with a snack, but sometimes a few of us will get together and have a pizza delivered. I’m really hungry again so tonight’s one of those nights. I share a pizza with some guys from Philly who are on my dorm hallway. We play some cards with a big group, by now there are dozens of kids in the cafeteria.
Back to the dorm…I’m bumming they are making us go back, but we chill on the couches in the living area. Guys tell stories about their teams and coaches back home. The coaches tell stories about their college teams. I want to play in college, so it’s real interesting to hear their stories and what they face. It seems like a full-time job—even for the Division III athletes.
Man, I gotta get-up soon for another round of vitamins. I can’t risk the snooze button on my phone tomorrow!
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