This past weekend I got the chance to talk to four out of the five students who were honored by the MIAA as Athletes of the Week in their individual sports. From freshman Tarah Lang to “super-senior” Sam Allbritten, I got to understand a little bit more about just how much athletes put into their sports. It was universally stated that sports take a lot of hard work and dedication, but with perseverance the payoff is worth it.
First I talked to Sam Allbritten, the kicker for Hope’s football team. Allbritten’s story is interesting because although he was always a soccer player, he has to switch sports to abide by MIAA regulations since it is his fifth year. Originally Allbritten was not going to play any sports this year, but the football team needed a kicker, and sometimes former soccer players are chosen for these positions as they already know how to kick. “This is my first time playing football at Hope, so learning how to kick a football again was probably the biggest obstacle that I’ve had to overcome” said Allbritten. He explained that having his academics in line was one of the things that really helped him to succeed in athletics. According to Allbritten, “If your academics are in line, then your athletics and relationships are all going to fall in line, whether that’s with your family or with God.”
Next I talked to Daniel Keith, a junior on the swim team. Keith has been recognized as the MIAA Athlete of the Week four times in his career, this being the first time this season. After his freshman year, Keith actually quit swimming, but later continued to pursue his passion after six months off. “Getting back into the water was definitely one of the biggest obstacles, just getting back into shape and falling in love with the sport again,” said Keith. His parents’ unconditional support has helped Keith throughout his career. “They always cheer me on and encourage me,” said Keith. Struggling with both the individual and team aspects of swimming has been hard for Keith, but it has taught him a lot during his career. He stated that “there is so much to learn about being part of a team but also carrying your weight and doing your work.”
Tarah Lang is a swimmer here at Hope, and this is her first time being recognized as an MIAA Athlete of the Week. In the past, Lang has struggled with stagnant spots in her career, having to adjust her training regimen to get faster. To help her through this, Lang’s past coach pushed her to be better, even when Lang didn’t want to hear it. “She’s always been super supportive of me and encouraged me even when I didn’t want to be encouraged. She told me exactly what I needed to hear, even if I didn’t want to hear it,” said Lang. She emphasizes the point that swimming well takes a lot of hard work, and the only way to get better is to put in the training. In her past twelve years of swimming, Lang has learned that “in the end it’s going to be so worth it; you just have to get there.”
Finally, I spoke with Grant Williams, a diver who has also been recognized as an MIAA Athlete of the Week three times prior to this. Williams originally went to a Division II school for diving, but he decided to transfer to Hope as his previous school was not a good fit for him. “That kind of caused a big hiccup in my confidence, the sport and how I felt about everything,” said Williams. Coming to Hope created a fresh start for him to thrive in diving. Throughout all of this, Williams’s parents were his biggest supporters and encouraged him to stay active as a child. He goes on to explain that “diving is a very mental sport, and you kind of learn how to trust yourself more… your brain almost takes over.” As long as you are passionate about what you do, Williams believes that you can use the sport to better yourself as a person rather than just as an athlete.
I enjoyed talking to these athletes, and our short conversations gave me a lot to think about. It is important to remember that all athletes have a story of how they got to where they are. Each individual struggle is part of a bigger picture that will make them a stronger person and athlete in the long run.