This year I’ve had the opportunity to work with an outstanding senior, Buddy Brosky, who is not only a student at the Ross Business School, but also works as the student assistant for the University of Michigan football program. This week for Dr. Rob I would like to feature a piece that Buddy wrote for me as part of an independent study this summer. He interviewed several athletes who are in their senior year about what they would like to give advice to their freshman selves. I think he has provided an outstanding list of do’s and don’ts for student athletes. But he has indicated to me that he is willing to share this with my audience.What I present below is an abbreviated version of his paper. Please email me if you would like to receive the entire paper.
Advice Senior Student Athlete Seniors Have for their Freshman Self
By Buddy Brosky, Student Assistant for the University of Michigan Football Program
As a Student Assistant for the University of Michigan Football Program, I have found my true passion in life in coaching young people and helping them achieve their athletic and career goals. Working with some of the brightest minds in sports has not only given me an opportunity to learn what it takes to be a successful student athlete at Michigan, but it has also introduced me to some of my best friends and current roommates who are also student athletes at the University of Michigan. Every day I get to see firsthand what a life of a student athlete is like. I see the fame, hate, stress of managing a full course load with a rigorous sport schedule, and the tough decisions being made about pursuing a professional career as an athlete or trying to get a job after the pads are finally put away for good.
Before student athletes even make their way onto a college campus, it is important to understand the background of exactly where a student athlete at a Power 5 school is coming from. Student athletes that come to the University of Michigan are the best at what they do. Our students are former high school all-americans, Gatorade Athlete of the Year winners, and blue chip prospects that only a handful of schools have a shot of landing. In 2019, most of these students are verified by the most popular social media platforms before putting on their university’s colors. Often times, student athletes are already pre-labeled as celebrities after coming from prestigious and decorated backgrounds that their incoming classmates have a hard time understanding that they are normal people too. However, although they are no different than non-student athletes when getting to college on a personal level, the life they live is much different than that of a non-student athlete.
No matter what it is, student athletes live a much different life than the typical college student. Most student athletes come onto campus immediately after high school graduation; saying goodbye to friends, family, and their normal daily lives. Right away student athletes are thrown into a strict regimen of taking classes year round, training upwards of 8 hours a day, and still trying to maintain some normal social life of a college student. Most of the time these incoming freshman student athletes are coming to a university, like the University of Michigan from all parts of the United States. This means as soon as they step foot on campus, they are put through this tedious process with people they have never met before.
The point of this paper is to offer incoming collegiate athletes with advice from current student athletes going into their senior years. I asked rising seniors at the University of Michigan from football, softball, volleyball, and field hockey to participate in this independent study paper. Each senior was asked to write a letter and offer advice to their freshman self just starting to figure out how to manage the unique lifestyle that they were about to navigate through. They also were asked to answer the following three questions :
- Do you wish you spent more/less time on academics? Athletics? Social Life?
- What’s something you didn’t foresee that became a huge part of being a student athlete?
- Was there anything that you felt wasn’t as important as you initially thought when you first came to college?
Below, I have taken the research I have gathered from each University of Michigan student athlete that was a part of my Independent Study and I create a “Top 50” list of key advice that each student had to offer from their letter to himself/herself and based on answering the three questions at the end of the interview.
Top 10: Advice Senior Student Athlete Seniors Have for their Freshman Self
- Use trial and error to help you find what you love in school. We often times think of “trial and error” as running an experiment in a lab, but the truth is, college is also one big experiment. College is meant for you to not only compete at the highest level in athletics and find what you want to do for a career, but it is also a place for you to discover yourself. College is a place to take the classes you think would be enjoyable, but are too afraid to take them because you don’t know anything about that particular subject matter. “The next thing I want to tell you is that the first 2 years of college are so important in terms of classes. Not meaning taking the “right” classes but more so taking the wrong ones to find out which ones turn out to be the right ones. Don’t worry so much about your major so early and just enjoying trying everything. It’s the best way to find something you are passionate about.” PBThe most important thing we can take away from this piece of advice is the error portion. Especially as student athletes, I know failure is hard to accept. Nobody likes to lose or not strive to be the best at whatever we do. However, learn that it’s important that you find out what you want to pursue in school through finding the subjects you don’t like to narrow down what you ultimately want to pursue.
- Look adversity in the face and learn from it. For most people, coming to college is a brand new way of life for everybody. college is the first time many 17,18, and 19 year old kids are on their own. In college, you don’t necessarily have your parents hovering over you to make sure you are getting good grades or showing up to practice the next day after a game. It can become very easy for people leaving home for the first time to face adversity and run away from it because it makes us uncomfortable. However, it is important to understand that being uncomfortable is exactly what we need to grow. No matter what sort of struggle we all go through when we first come to college, we are all being tested to figure out who we truly are. Adversity is the one thing that you can use to put things into perspective. In athletics, we face adversity all the time. Teams may be down in the fourth quarter by a touchdown or on the brink of losing when the other team’s pitcher is a softball All-American. It is truly in these moments though that we find out the type of players and teams we want to be when the going gets tough. Understand that there are thousands of kids across the country going through the same process when getting dropped off at school on their own for the first thing. Embrace the initial struggle, look adversity in the face, and learn from it.
- It takes a village. SY Talked about this point in her paper and she could not be more right . There is nobody in this world that can be totally independent from the people around them and get through life. Whether it is looking back at your elementary school teachers or high school coaches, we are all products of how we grew up and the people that were in our life through those years. College is no different. Student athletes may be pushed harder by their coaches than they ever have been before and at times, the love for the game starts to feel more like a chore than the sport you were once so passionate about. It is important to understand that it is still okay to ask your teammates, coaches, parents, and whoever for help. Don’t feel that because you are older and playing at one of the highest levels in the world that you can’t ask for help. Take advantage of the resources you are so fortunate to have, especially at the University of Michigan, and don’t hesitate to talk to somebody if you need to get something off your chest or if you want advice on your future.On the other side of things, understand that winning anything takes a village. Whether you think so or not, your coaches are some of the best in the business if they have gotten to this point. Take these 4-5 years of playing college athletics as an opportunity to win as much as you can. In order to do this, you need to believe in your team. Understand that everyone in your program from equipment managers to head coaches are here for you to achieve one ultimate goal. You only get one shot at your career to play college athletics, so trust everyone around you to achieve your dreams. It takes a village to be successful and the earlier you realize that, the easier it is to focus on your job, position, and technique to do you part.
- Work Hard and you will be Successful. All of you have worked hard before coming to college or you would not be there. Whether you graduated high in your graduating class or practiced your craft over and over again until you were the best player on the course, you all have a strong work ethic. After reading each Senior’s letter, you may find a common theme within each paper. That theme is to work hard and everything will take care of itself. This can be a very stressful time in your life when first and second year student athletes are struggling to manage their time well and the weight of a thousand pounds feel like it is always on your back. There will be moments where something in school or in practice or at a party will somehow affect another aspect of those three things in your life that you may doubt your worth. If that feeling comes up, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are in the situation you are in because you are a hard worker and have big goals. One instance where I have seen this first hand is in football when young players struggle learning the playbook while attending Michigan’s Summer Bridge Program to get college credits under their belt. Often times something bothering the young athlete in school or in practice directly impacts the other and the player performs very poorly when it’s time to practice football. The few players that are able to make it through this process the least unscathed and bothered are the ones who no matter what is going on in their heads will always be the fastest player on the field and the hardest working. Put more simply, YOU control how hard you work. No matter what else is going on in your life that you cannot control, take full control of the things you can control and the rest will take care of itself.After every practice, Coach Harbaugh reminds the entire organization on the field that if you work hard, you will be successful. He constantly reminds people of this because often times people get caught up in the little things. When players, coaches, and staff members let the little things pile up and think about everything but the task at hand. By boiling down the game of football and life by saying “work hard and you will be successful,” Coach Harbaugh is able to take a very complex thing and break it down in its simplest form. As student athletes in the Football Program have offered up advice to their younger self, they talk about Coach Harbaugh’s simple advice and how that helped them get through the dog days of being a football player at the University of Michigan.
- It’s Okay not to be Perfect. This piece of advice came up a lot when we heard from Maddie, Alex, Andrew, and Sydney in their letter to their Freshman selves. Before coming to college, it can be common to find things came very easy to athletes growing up. Most of the time you are the best at what you do. Whether it’s sports, school, or even being a leader in the community, everything seems to go exactly as planned before coming to college. When you get to college, you will find that most of your teammates had similar experiences in being the alpha in their particular skill or craft. Coming to college can be not only a very humbling experience to start at the bottom of the totem pole, but it can quickly teach you to understand that it’s ok for things not to always go as planned.When MW was asked, “Was there anything that you felt wasn’t as important as you initially thought when you first came to college?”. She talked about how her ability to be perfect in everything she did end up adding copious amounts of pressure on herself that it was not realistic to have that mindset. This type of attitude made it hard for her to excel in class and on the softball field that it took a toll on her mental health. She is now the Captain of the Michigan Softball team and she says she feels a lot more relaxed with an ability to adjust to any situation that is thrown at her.It can be difficult to let go of a perfectionist attitude overnight when that is the exact attitude that helped you get to this point in the first place. The key to the transition is to be flexible in how you take on adversity (like point 2). Do not see adversity as a bad thing or a sign of failure. Facing adversity is the greatest thing that can happen to you as an underclassman because then you learn how to handle different events in your life in a positive way that will stay with you much further than sports. Like Andrew wrote in his letter (Appendix D), its ok to have a plan but be ready to adjust that plan on the way without taking a step backwards. Understand that it is okay to strive to be a perfectionist and have exceptional expectations in sports and in school, but don’t let it consume your life. Learn to shake off the small stuff and take imperfect moments as lessons that will only make you a stronger athlete and a stronger person.
- No moment is too big. One of the biggest reasons the interviewees came to Michigan was to compete at the highest level. Whether it is playing on Saturday night prime time television or in front of thousands of people at Alumni field, athletes come to Michigan to play in big moments. It is very easy for you to dream about these moments until the day finally comes and you feel that the weight of a thousand pounds is crashing down on you. It is normal to be nervous when it is your first time playing on the big stage. Understand that we all need nerves to perform at our highest level, but do not let your mind trick you into thinking the moment is too big for you to conquer.As learned first hand how she often times let the game control her and put too much emphasis on her performance. It wasn’t until later in her career where she self-taught herself how to separate the moment from her .I think this piece of advice is particularly important to young student athletes coming to college for the first time because many of you will experience a big moment where you might not succeed in the way you expect yourself to. Understand that failure is a part of the game, especially in these big moments when the best is playing against the best. You are all great athletes and have performed day in and day out, or else you wouldn’t be playing at a high level. No matter what the moment is, your athletic ability won’t change. Stay calm, cool, and collective. Separate your performance from who you are as a person and go conquer whatever is ahead of you. My last point is to look at big moments as another opportunity to get better and create your own Michigan legacy. Learn to shrink down the moment into something small that you can then focus on what you need to do without any internal thoughts hindering your performance.
- Remember, you are also a Student. Sometimes it may be hard as a first year to remember that the word “student” goes in front of athlete. When you first get to college in the summer going into your Freshman year, it is easier to go to class and make sure you are passing because workouts and other responsibilities aren’t as strenuous. However, when the school year kicks off, it is easy to forget that you are more than just an athlete. During the normal work week when school kicks off, you are a regular student from 8am-2pm. Use this time to decompress and live a normal life of a student. Take advantage of the little things, like making friends in class, asking questions, and focus your mind on something other than athletics.During the first semester in college, it can be tough to navigate going to classes on top of going through workouts and other team activities. The key is to get in a groove so you can find the right time to study and do homework outside of the time you dedicate to your particular sport. Additionally, don’t delay your major because you feel you haven’t been taking your academics seriously in your first few years. The quicker you find out what you enjoy in school, the easier it becomes to focus on your studies and eliminate extra unneeded stress you already don’t have time for. Equally important as it is to choose a major, you also have to take advantage of the academic support resources available to you. Even if you are a great student, academic support systems are there for you. Those staff members get paid to help you, so use them. In order to get the most out of your education while living the life of an athlete, you cannot be afraid to ask for help because it will help you in the long run.The most important takeaway these Seniors want you to take away from this point is to take advantage of getting your degree. Especially at the University of Michigan, you are getting one of the best degrees in the world. Eventually, your athletic career will come to an end. Even the exceptional athletes who get the opportunity to play at the next level will hang up their pads some day and need something to fall back on. Getting your college degree will forever become the backbone to your career no matter what happens in your athletic or other careers. Take advantage of attending a school with the largest alumni base in the world and use all the resources available to you as much as you can. Michigan sets you up for success. Don’t let that opportunity slip by.
- Cherish your Relationships. College is a unique part of your life where you get exposed to thousands of new people when you come to a brand new place for the first time. You are going to be going to class with people you have never met before. You will also be forced to practice with teammates you have never met before when you first come onto campus. It is important that you take your college experience as an opportunity to make new friends and cherish your relationships with your teammates, coaches, classmates, and other people you meet.For most people, college is the first time you will go to a place with diversity in races, religions, and many different ideas. At first, you might think it is hard to make new friends. You might think people are so much different than you because you might not look the same or come from the same background. It is okay to have these feelings at first because college is a big place that can be hard to make new friends. I encourage you not to make the same mistake I did my first few years and not let yourself make new friends. Like I talked about in my letter to my Freshman self (Appendix A), I was afraid to make new friends because I was so close to my friends back home that I felt like I was betraying them if I got close with other people. I could not be more wrong about my initial thoughts because the best part about college is meeting new people that you are going to live in the same college town with for 4 years and see almost everyday. Take the risk that you might be hesitant to take at first and make new friends.It is also important that you cherish your relationships with your teammates and your coaches. Your teammates and your coaches are going to be the people you spend the most time with during your college experience. Even if you don’t at first, learn to love them and learn to find out who they are as people. The relationships you develop in college will be with you forever. Out of every Senior that participated in helping write this paper, the thing they said they will miss the most after this school year is seeing the friends they’ve made over the last 4-5 years every single day.
- Just be yourself. The best part about college is you get to come into an entirely new environment where almost everyone you meet has no idea who you are or where you came from. This is a good thing because nobody is there to hold a grudge on you or know every single guy or girl you dated, like all your hometown friends tease you about. College is a fresh start for everybody. Embrace this as an opportunity to be yourself. There is no reason to ever have to lie to someone about your background or how you grew up. Like we talked about diversity in college, be proud of who you are. Especially as athletes, every move you make is under some sort of microscope. From getting tweets from thousands of people you have never met before to your classmates staring at you in the middle of a lecture because you are student athletes, understand that you don’t have to put on a fake identity. The greatest advice I have been given is “There are people in this world that are going to love you and there are people in this world that are going to hate your guts. Once you accept this fact and not worry about pleasing everyone, life gets a whole lot better”.This advice is particularly important to you as a student athlete. When you first come to college, you may feel intimidated to speak up in class about something you don’t understand because your classmates think you are just another dumb jock. Who cares? Be yourself. If you have a question, then ask! The same thing applies when you are on the practice field or in meetings. Never feel that you can’t ask a question because the coach may think your stupid or your teammates might think lesser of you after coming in as a “blue chip” recruit. Be yourself and life gets a whole lot more enjoyable.
- Have FUN! You only get one shot at your college experience (well, for most people!). When it is all said and done, have fun at this time in your life. Although you go to college to get a degree and play sports, you have to find time for your social life. Every single Senior who wrote you all a letter, talked about the importance of finding time, even if it is only an hour some days, to relax and do something other than the daily grind of life. If there is a party you want to go to, go to it. If your friends ask you to go out to a movie after practice, go! I am not saying that you should always drop everything you do and go party it up. However, I am saying that it is okay to let loose and go have a good time. Creating time for social activities is great for your mental health and can help normalize the whole transition process of going to college as a student athlete. You may forget the grade on that Biology test you got Freshman year, but I promise you, you won’t forget about the times you and your friends went to that pep rally on a Tuesday night in the DIAG. It is important to find something in college that you can feel is your getaway from all the stress of classes and sports. In the end, you are still a kid.
TOP 50 PIECES OF ADVICE FROM SENIOR ATHLETES TO THEIR FRESHMEN SELVES
- Use trial and error to help you find what you love in school.
- College is a place for you to discover yourself.
- Learn that it’s important that you find out what you want to pursue in school through.
- Finding the subjects you don’t like to narrow down what you ultimately want to pursue.
- Look adversity in the face and learn from it.
- Being uncomfortable is exactly what we need to grow.
- Adversity is the one thing that you can use to put things into perspective
- It is truly in these moments though that we find out the type of players and teams we want to be when the going gets tough.
- It takes a village.
- We are all products of how we grew up and the people that were in our life through those years.
- It is important to understand that it is still okay to ask your teammates, coaches, parents, and whoever for help.
- Winning anything takes a village.
- You only get one shot at your career to play college athletics, so trust everyone around you to achieve your dreams.
- Work Hard and you will be Successful.
- Work hard and everything will take care of itself.
- You are in the situation you are in because you are a hard worker and have big goals.
- YOU control how hard you work.
- It’s Okay not to be Perfect.
- Coming to college can be not only a very humbling experience to start at the bottom of the totem pole, but it can quickly teach you to understand that it’s ok for things not to always go as planned.
- Do not see adversity as a bad thing or a sign of failure.
- Facing adversity is the greatest thing that can happen to you as an underclassman because then you learn how to handle different events in your life in a positive way that will stay with you much further than sports.
- Learn to shake off the small stuff and take imperfect moments as lessons that will only make you a stronger athlete and a stronger person.
- No moment is too big.
- It is normal to be nervous when it is your first time playing on the big stage.
- Failure is a part of the game.
- No matter what the moment is, your athletic ability won’t change. Stay calm, cool, and collective.
- Look at big moments as another opportunity to get better and create your own Michigan legacy.
- Remember, you are also a Student.
- During the normal work week when school kicks off, you are a regular student from 8am-2pm.
- Making friends in class.
- Ask questions in class.
- Don’t delay your major because you feel you haven’t been taking your academics seriously in your first few years.
- Take advantage of the academic support resources available to you.
- The most important takeaway these Seniors want you to take away from this point is to take advantage of getting your degree.
- Your college degree will forever become the backbone to your career no matter what happens in your athletic or other
- Cherish your Relationships.
- Take your college experience as an opportunity to make new friends.
- Cherish your relationships with your teammates, coaches, classmates, and other people you meet.
- Your teammates and your coaches are going to be the people you spend the most time with during your college experience.
- The one thing Seniors said they will miss the most after this school year is seeing the friends they’ve made over the last 4-5 years every single day.
- Just be yourself.
- College is a fresh start for everybody.
- Be proud of who you are.
- “There are people in this world that are going to love you and there are people in this world that are going to hate your guts. Once you accept this fact and not worry about pleasing everyone, life gets a whole lot better”.
- Have FUN!
- You only get one shot at your college experience.
- Find time for your social life.
- If there is a party you want to go to, go to it. If your friends ask you to go out to a movie after practice, go!
- It is important to find something in college that you can feel is your getaway from all the stress of classes and sports.
- In the end, you are still a kid.