So I am going to officially close Chapter Two of the In Their Shoes Project with this post about some of the things that I have learned this year with this group of amazing people.
I have learned:
Most student athletes are equally concerned about their academic success as their athletic success
There are some people who think that athletes only care about their sport and don’t take school seriously enough. I saw a lot of students throughout the year who were anxious and stressed about their school commitments because they take them very seriously. Maintaining academic commitments while on the road is especially challenging. When we were at the national championship and our flight was cancelled due to a snow storm and we had to stay an extra night there were no “snow day” celebrations just lots of panic about academic requirements, deadlines, what faculty will say/do, etc. These women cared about school, doing well in school and achieving their academic goals.
Doing something really, really well requires hard work, commitment, determination, grit, strength and courage…not just talent and skill
This really needs no explanation…probably something that I always knew but this year reminded me in a very big way.
Team connection and willingness to be vulnerable and supportive of each other off the court…translates on the court
When you are vulnerable it helps develop caring and closeness and trust. You create a circumstance where people know you, care about you, and have your back. The best teams are made up of people who really know, support and have the backs of their teammates on the field, rink and court. You know how your teammates think, you know where they will be, and you know what they need from you. It makes you stronger as a team.
If you commit to give your best, you need to give your best until the final buzzer – no letting up, no giving up, no slowing down – regardless of the score
The lesson is don’t give up no matter what – go hard until its over. A lesson for all of us when things are tough or it looks like the outcome is not going to go our way.
Winning is way more fun that not winning
It just is.
No matter how good you are – you can always be better
This is a good lesson for folks who are well established in their careers and life. Even if you have achieved success and you are well aware of, and confident in your strengths. You can be stronger, you can do better, you can learn new skills and approaches. You can even become better at doing the things that you are the best at.
It is okay for there to be pictures out in the world where you don’t look at your best – especially if they are of you being bad ass
Okay this is the lesson that will reveal my insecurities. I do not like having my picture taken. I am rarely happy with any picture of myself because I want to believe in my head that I look better than it turns out I actually do. What I was not prepared for was how many pictures are taken at sporting events and that they all get posted publicly. No one is deleting the ones where people do not look their best. None of my teammates care about this – there are pictures with closed eyes, grimaces, sweat, etc. – they don’t care because they are doing something hard and physical and badass – who cares whether you look good doing it? I have been schooled!
Giving and helping others makes people feel that they matter – having opportunities to give and help makes you feel like you matter
One of the best part of this year for me was having the opportunity to just be a support for our students whether that was asking how they were, filling someone’s water bottle, holding a door open, giving someone a ride, writing a letter of support, making a phone call about an academic issue, listening to their stories, etc. I felt like I mattered to the team because I was able to do the only thing I could do which was be there for them and help in anyway I could.
I learned lots and lots of other things about students, their experience, basketball, what coaches do, and the impact that winning teams can have on building excitement and spirit within a campus community. It has made this year incredibly rewarding and memorable for me.
Our public affairs folks at Ryerson made a video about the In Their Shoes project (link here) but they shared with me some of the footage that was not used. One of my teammates Faatimah was asked what she would like to say to me if given the opportunity and this is what she said…
Her comments are very personal but I share them as I wrap up this experience because she created the perfect list of what our students need from us (and their friends and families) – actually these are things we all need from someone.
- They need us to step up
- They need us to be positive role models
- They need us to be there
- They need us to listen without judgement
- They need us to be strong
- They need us to bring out the best in them
- They need us to be part of their support system
Much love and thanks to Sarah, Savanna, Devanae, Cara, C’airah, Nicole, Brian, Michelle, Kareem, Siki, Mariah, McKenzie, Faatimah, Sofia, Sam, Rose, Tashana, Carly, Kate, Sherwyn, Jaime, Katherine, Keneca, Aliesha, Jerome, Laura, Jason, and Jodi for accepting me, for teaching me and for allowing me to have an amazing year.
I will be back in August/September with Chapter Three of the In Their Shoes Project – thanks to everyone for following along.