Opinion: Open your ears and your mind: What you learn as a student athlete can make the difference

Published 3:34 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2023

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

You are not invincible. No matter what you are being promised and guaranteed in life, it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye.

This past weekend, we sadly saw that realization hit two popular universities that ended with three deaths and an arrest.

At the University of Georgia, an offensive lineman and recruiting staffer were killed in a car accident, while in Tuscaloosa, at the University of Alabama, a 23-year-old woman is dead and with Alabama basketball player Darius Miles allegedly involved and charged with capital murder.

That all less than two weeks after Damar Hamlin almost died on the football field due to cardiac arrest.

Some of those have more to do with this column than others, but all make the same point—it can all be gone in a flash.

When we are young, that’s not necessarily at the forefront of our mind.

We aren’t thinking about what can happen. Instead, we have this sense of invincibility.

Of course, we don’t want to live in fear. That’s no way to have a healthy and successful life, but student athletes in high school and college can use these examples to take advantage of the resources that are available.

Namely, heeding the advice of coaches and guardians.

While, yes, this can relate to every individual on planet earth, athletes are placed into situations that many of us non-athletes aren’t placed into at such young ages.

Being on time to practice, studying plays and your opponent, working together with teammates to achieve a goal, ultimately facing adversity and disappointment and finding ways to overcome it and managing the attention and pressure of success.

With all of that, it’s very easy to let it get to your head and avoid the learning process of it all.

It’s easy to start viewing yourself as invincible and deserving because of your stats, recruiting success and the work you’ve put in, but you should never view yourself as too good for advice from your coach or guardian.

They are ultimately trying to prepare you for what’s ahead and show you that it won’t be a cake walk.

Yes, everyone wants to win and likes to win, but coaches have a love for helping kids as well, especially at the high school level. They don’t make loads of money and only a few can win championships. They sign up for the job because of the difference they can make.

And that difference is shown by how you, the student-athlete, makes decisions after you leave their care or the care of the family in your home.

Ultimately, the average high school athlete is not going to go on to play in college or at the professional level. Rather, they’ll prepare to enter the world of getting a degree or finding employment.

How you carry yourself through that process, whether it’s continuing to play sports or not, the decision-making skills you learn from those who care about you will ultimately decide your success.

Some aspects of life are out of our control, but what we can control is making good decisions, being respectful and working hard to achieve our goals.

That process starts now by opening your ears and your mind to the advice of others.