For many Hope College athletes it can be hard to find people similar to them. Let’s be honest: no one has the same experiences as you, no one has the same family as you and no one can really understand who you are or what you feel. Athletics are one of the only things that connect you to others. This can often be a big issue affecting the mental health of college students, especially athletes who have had unique experiences that set them apart from others. If athletes have a place to share their stories and learn about other people, they can take comfort in the fact that every person has challenges to overcome and that they are not alone.
Thanks to many different to advocates for Hope athletics, athletes now have a space to do just that. Hope Athletes’ Journal is a blog in which student athletes can share their stories to help other athletes with challenging times, help coaches to better understand their athletes, and help fans to learn about the humans on the field, not just their numbers. While it may be hard for some people to relate to the stories of students who participate in sports in college, it is important for everyone to understand the struggles that come with being a student-athlete.
The posts on this blog are not necessarily directed toward one type of audience, so anyone can read these stories and understand them. At the top of the page is a story by Mitchel Achien’g, a senior who shares four lessons that she learned from missing fall training and struggling to balance school work and athletic training. Achien’g does track, competing in hurdles, triple jump and long jump. Because she was studying abroad in Frieburg, Germany, she could not train with the team last fall and had to miss the first part of her season. With this came many struggles that she eventually overcame, and she learned, “The training process is not all about the weight room and track. It involves maturity, discipline, leadership on and off the track, and emotional growth.”
A little farther down the page is a story by Jake Kozlowski about his return to football the summer after his father died. “I have witnessed the extent of which my body can be pushed, through my dad’s fight to live,” Kozlowski wrote. He expressed that during this hard time football was his “escape,” consuming much of his time while also making him a better athlete. Kozlowski also writes about the lessons that his father taught him, which apply both in life and on the field. One of the most important life lessons is to always have a passion. If you have a “why,” it can motivate you on your hardest days and keep you going when nothing else can. Kozlowski’s “why” is his dad, shown by the initials written on his wrist during every practice and game.
The next story is one of physical and mental recovery by Jacob Faustyn, a senior on the ice hockey team last year. Because his story portrays emotions so well, it is moving to any kind of reader. His first injury was a broken arm that took an eight-inch metal plate and nine screws to repair. One can easily see how this could set an athlete back, but this was just the beginning for Faustyn. He went on to injure his knee three separate times, the last one splitting his kneecap into two pieces. Because of his recovery process, Faustyn had to drop out of Hope for a semester, which pushed his mental health very low. Faustyn shares how he learned from his experience that “whatever you’re going through will reveal something to you.”
Aubrey Wilson shares how a traumatic brain injury took her out of volleyball forever, completely breaking her down and simultaneously building her back up in a matter of five months. What Wilson thought was going to be a quick head bump and then back to the game was actually just the beginning of a long road to recovery. Although this did take her out of the game forever, Wilson expresses that she learned so much in those five summer months of 2018 that will help her all throughout her life, including the power of God’s mercy in her life.
Finally there is a story by Jason Beckman, a senior last year who played basketball. He shares about his vulnerability and how God has stepped into his life and saved him. Beckman says, “I’m extending my hand. Extending my hand to help you, and extending my arm to wrap around you. I’ve been there and I will likely be there again.” It is evident that faith plays a huge role in Beckman’s life, helping him to overcome the struggles his past self placed in his way.
While not all of these stories may resonate with you, I encourage you to go take a look at the Hope Athletes’ Journal, if for nothing else than to better understand the people around you. You might just find a story that you click with, and I pray that these stories could help you overcome challenges in your life as well. If you have a story to share, please contact Eva Dean Folkert (email@example.com) to start helping others by sharing the challenges that you have overcome.