Five Midwesterners, one German, one South African, and one coach who loves to talk about poop. We are the Hillsdale College women’s track and field sprints program.
We went to Coach Towne’s house last night for dinner. His wife prepared a delicious meal and his nine-year old son entertained us while we drilled him with questions about his young love life and crazy dad. When I got home I thought about how it was nice to be in a home — not a classroom, a weight room, or another college house, but a real home with a real family.
We didn’t talk about our training or upcoming meets. We didn’t talk about our grades or exams. We just told funny stories and got to know each other a little bit better.
I thought about why this was so great. I mean, I’m with these people nearly every day. We train together, travel together, some of us even live together…we’re with each other all the time. What made those few hours so much different?
Like most things in life, I think it boils down to perspective.
Track is the one thing that brought us all together. Just the other day Carmen and I were talking about how if we didn’t have track, we’d never see each other and chances are, we probably would’ve never been friends. (That is a very sad thing to think about.) Track is the one thing that brought seven girls from three different countries together. It’s a special thing.
But it’s not the only thing. We are all more than sprinters, which means our lives and our identities lie outside of the track. We all have different things we’re passionate about and other goals for life after Hillsdale track and field. I want to be a writer, Carmen wants to be a vet, Kajsa wants to work in international business, Zoe wants to be a nurse, Melanie wants to be a psychologist, Abbie wants to be physical therapist, and Alanna may want to be a chiropractor (depending on whether Abbie can persuade her otherwise).
I am confident that we are all going to leave here and do awesome and exciting things, but for right now, we are students, and we are athletes. And this whole student-athlete thing can be pretty consuming. If we don’t take a moment every once in a while to step back and forget about track and take a break from school, we’re going to lose our perspective. What I mean is, if we get too focused on school and track, our vision will grow pretty narrow and our lives will be centered around grades on exams and times on the track.
While great grades and fast times can be rewarding, they won’t leave Hillsdale with us. There is a bigger picture. There are greater things that matter.
The lessons I’ve learned on the track and the classroom will follow me when I leave this place. The friendships I now have and the memories we’ve made will leave too.
If we let our success as an athlete become the sole focus of our training and competing, these four years as a student-athlete will feel long and lonely. But if we take time to enjoy the great friendships and good times, we just might find that there’s more to our sport.
Sitting around the dinner table and laughing in the living room because of a goofy game reminded me that these people are more than my teammates. In Coach Towne’s “real” home, I felt like we were a real family. These aren’t just the people I train and race with, these are the people I laugh with. These are the people who encourage me when I need it most, love me when I feel down, and cheer me on in whatever I’m doing. They are my family.