By Austin Brown, a senior team captain on the St. Mary's College of Maryland men's soccer team
When I was in high school, my coach handed a list of potential colleges for me to attend as a student-athlete. I remember going down the list of all the schools, and I remember seeing St. Mary's. For whatever reason, whether I was naïve, stubborn, or both, I crossed St. Mary's off the list. I put the possibility of St. Mary's behind me, and I moved onto other potential schools. It took a lot of persuading from my coach for me to go down for a visit during my senior year. After I visited, I was hooked. I did not visit another college after that. I applied early decision, and shortly thereafter I was driving down for preseason in mid-August.
As many of us know, playing a college sport is a commitment as well as a privilege. You have to be able to balance your own sport as well as your academics. On top of that, you are obligated to represent the St. Mary's name in the best light when you are walking around campus, talking to recruits, and when the team travels for away games and eats at Olive Garden.
Inevitably all of these games, practices, and other team-related activities get in the way of your academic work. I learned this the hard way freshman year. We had an away game at Christopher Newport. The next day I had a test to take, so I brought along all my notes to study on the way back. The game started at 7 pm, tack on a 90-minute game and a 3-½ hour trip back, you are getting back to campus past 1 am. On top of that, I could not focus on my studies sitting on a bus, whether that is due to us suffering a tough loss, or because those buses are not conducive to a productive work environment (especially when you are doubled up), either way I probably got real studying in for a grand total of 5 minutes. So I had to start studying at 1 am when we got back, tired and sweaty. I stayed up late, did not sleep well, and my preparation reflected in the results. Thankfully that was early on enough in the semester I was able to recover, but it did help teach me to manage my time more effectively. Interestingly enough, my GPA in season was actually better than out of season. I was just more regimented – go to practice, shower, eat, library.
Academics are definitely important, but college also offers the unique opportunity to expand your peer group, grow socially, and meet lifelong friends. In my opinion, there is absolutely no better way to do this than to be on an athletic team. You come to campus and, in my case, already have 26 brothers on the first day. Simple as that. It is not just the soccer team; this happens on pretty much every team from what I have seen. I still am in consistent contact with upperclassmen that graduated when I was a freshman, whether that be calling for advice (or a job) or just catching up, we are still in contact three years after hardly seeing them in person.
It is sad the last four seasons have gone by so fast; I have had the opportunity to meet so many great people, undergrads and staff alike. As with anything that is as great as playing a college sport, it does have to come to an end at some point. With that being said, I have no regrets about anything, and I am incredibly thankful to St. Mary's for giving me the opportunity to be a student-athlete, and a Seahawk for life.