By Javaka Thompson Jr.
For everyone college is a learning process, but it is a lot more than math and science, especially for the athlete. It taught me a lot but there were a few things that I wish I would have known going in. As a basketball player, it makes sense that I would have five main points. I'll call them my "starting five".
The first is my point guard - time management. Playing a collegiate sport is a job, above and beyond the studies and the responsibilities of budding adulthood. Sometimes college athletes have one to three practices, an individual workout, community service, and a team meeting in a single day. It would seem impossible to fit it all in one day, but it does happen. The athlete will have to budget these activities with class, trying to study, trying to eat, and the other five minutes left of the day for rest! All jokes aside, time management skills are imperative for any college athlete. It will allow one to schedule their day and provide earnest attention to all the things that are important so that no task goes unfinished or overlooked.
My second guiding point is my off guard - priorities. It goes hand-in-hand with time management. With the short amount of time given in each day, it is important that the most important things are completed. There will be activities that will take precedence over others. One will have to sometimes take a step back and consider if it would be in one's best interest to go out to the party at the frat house or study for that physics test to maintain eligibility. It may not always work out in the most exciting manner but having in-line priorities does set up the college athlete for the most success.
We have our two guards. The most versatile player is our small forward - extra effort. Be it on the court, in the class, in public, or simply in relationships with coaches and teammates, extra effort goes a long way. It can be the extra 25 minutes of studying that gets the A over the B or it can be the hustle play that earns the starting spot. Extra effort is not really about wanting to be noticed but pushing one's self and knowing that the extra effort will be rewarded short and long term. Build a habit and it will show in every result; it could be the game winning play.
The power forward is cherishing the relationships that you make. These relationships, with coaches, teachers, and players alike do truly last a lifetime. As a Division-I student-athlete, I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. Treat them genuinely and cultivate them as if they were meant to last. College is a hard thing to try and do alone. A close team will play together and have a better chance of winning. A player and coach that are close will have a better chemistry and trust for each other. Cherish the chance to have that brotherhood/sisterhood.
The last player that I must mention is the starting center - pride check. Every player that comes from high school to college one was of, if not, the best at at their respective high schools. Come in with the understanding that nothing will be given and everything must be earned. It is a fresh start and one must earn the title of the best player through consistent practices and games. Check your pride at the door and leave it all on the field our the court.
These are my five starting players. I wish that I would have met this team as I started in college athletics - time management, priorities, extra effort, cherishing relationships, and pride check. This is a championship team! Emulating these players is sure to help any college athlete give a championship effort in their career.