I was a ‘green-blooded’ student-athlete in college. I played for the DLSU Lawn Tennis team for four years (2008 – 2011), and it was a memorable one indeed! We won ten championships overall and I had the opportunity to lead the team as a Captain for three years. Being a student-athlete is absolutely a privilege – not just because you represent a University through the sport you play, but also because you get a chance to study in one of the best universities in the country… with discounts/ perks or even for free!
But in spite the opportunities and privileges, looking back, I wish I had the following reminders when I was a student-athlete. If you are or will be a student-athlete, I pray that you get to ponder on this list.
- YOU SHOULD NOT IDENTIFY YOURSELF MERELY AS A STUDENT-ATHLETE.
I understand the “fame”, the “perks” and the “bragging rights” alongside being a student-athlete. After all, you feel extraordinary. You are not just the typical “homework and exams” student, you are the “homework, training, exams and tournament” student. You are campus-wide known as the student who plays (insert sport here) and your team is always featured in University newspapers. You hang out with fellow student-athletes, you even party with them. Your set of profile pictures were taken by official University sports photographers, and you receive hundreds and thousands of “likes” and “followers” because of it. Being a student-athlete is an identity that many would want to have or at least, experience. It is something you would want to put on your Twitter or Instagram bio (e.g. “The Student-Athlete”) – even more so if you are a Champion or a Grand Contender.
But I hope you understand this – you should not limit your life merely with the identity and prestige of being a student-athlete. The talent in the sport you play (or are good at) does not come from you. The opportunity to play for a reputable College/ University does not come from you either. Yes, you might think that you have worked (really, really) hard for it but you are not in control of the open doors that come along the way. You were not planted as a student-athlete because you deserve it, but because you need it. Therefore, use whatever talent you have to glorify the One who gave you such blessings – not yourself.
Your identity should be so focused on God that your identity in Christ will shine as you play the sport He has blessed you with. Don’t be the student-athlete who does not have any other purpose in life besides playing a sport. Be the student-athlete who would love God and others through a sport. After all, God won’t ask us about the number of worldly championships we have won. He won’t even ask us about the sport we play or which university we represented during college. We won’t be able to boast our identity of being a student-athlete to Him. What will matter is our relationship with God, and how we have given Him all the glory, honor and praise through the time, talent and treasure He has gracefully given us. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, it says “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.
- YOU SHOULD PUT GOD FIRST IN ALL THAT YOU DO.
I was the type of student-athlete who would risk anything just to accomplish what I want/ need to accomplish – both for academics and athletics. I would have sleepless nights for exams just to become a part of the term’s Dean’s List. I would train extra hours during the weekend just so I could sustain my kind of game. But graduating with all these awards did not make me complete. Yes, at some point, it made me happy but it did not make me complete.
I wish I knew back then that what I was doing was just plain selfish; self-seeking. I wanted to accomplish things for me. I was trying to prove myself to others. I was seeking me. I was (maybe) seeking God back then but I am pretty sure I was not seeking Him first. I would only seek God when I need Him, I was not seeking Him first at all times.
So I hope you understand this – you should not commit yourself in succeeding as a student-athlete because that is downright shallow. You should commit your life to the Lord and everything else, with grace upon grace, will follow. He even promised us in Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.
- YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU.
If there is one thing I kind of regret in college, it would be how I treated my team – not that I punched someone in the face, it is more on: I wish I have treated them with not just respect but with love.
I had great coaches. I had teammates who would encourage me and cheer me up. There were people in our University’s Sports Office who would support me all the way. Pretty much, I was blessed with a wonderful team and support system in college, but I was not very appreciative of them. Yes, I would do what I need to do with no questions asked, but I was not the kind who would genuinely see the good in others and appreciate them for the small things and sacrificial things they would do for me. I was so focused on graduating college with flying colors that I was not able to pay attention to the people around me whom God blessed me with.
So I hope you understand this – pay attention and be thankful for the people around you while God pursues your journey. Loving others (as in genuinely caring for them) is also one way of showing your love for God. He said in 1 John 4:20, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
- YOU CANNOT FIND HAPPINESS IN HAPPY THURSDAYS.
Alongside my student-athlete journey, I was a party girl – the arrogant kind of party girl. Back then, as stupid as it may sound today, partying with college friends was where I found comfort. It was a “stress-reliever” and something I would like to do in order to be “cooler” and “more accepted”. I fell for the many temptations that escalated because of my search for “belongingness”.
So I hope you understand this – you cannot find happiness in Happy Thursdays. Yes, you can laugh out crazy loud while you are drunk and you would probably enjoy the company of people who would shout “5 Minutes, walang malisya”. Yes, you could get fascinated with the attention you will be gett (especially from the opposite sex). But after the alcohol, the party and the crazy good time, there still won’t be peace within.
Your acceptance should come from God. Your assurance should come from the One who gave you life and sustained you your every breath. Remember, you are already accepted because Christ died and rose again for you. You should therefore commit your life on things above, not on temporary “fun” things. Even if people find you “KJ” for not partying with them and even if people tell you “Makisama ka naman”, do not fall for it. Focus on what Christ did for you at the Cross – that is where your belongingness should be. Start with praying and reading your Bible everyday – that is where peace is found.
- YOU SHOULD MAKE A CHOICE TODAY TO ACCEPT JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR LORD AND PERSONAL SAVIOR.
The one important thing I wish I knew back in college is that nothing will ever make sense if Jesus Christ is not at the center of my life.
I actually knew who Christ was. He is actually very popular. Even the people who mocked Him and crucified Him knew who He was. Everyone knows who He is but not everyone believes – not everyone is willing to make a choice to accept Him and have a personal relationship with Him.
When I was a student-athlete, I had the following perceptions: 1) as long as I do good and be nice to everyone, I can get to Heaven and God will bless me; 2) as long as I pray and go to Church, I can get to Heaven and God will bless me; and 3) I have a bright future ahead of me so I just need to have a YOLO mindset, God loves me anyway.
But I hope you understand this – Nobody on Earth is sure about tomorrow. We only die once (YODO! Ha ha ha!) and we do not know when, where and how it is going to be. And once we die, once our body decays or turns into ashes, we cannot come to God and tell Him how good of a person we are or how much good deeds we have done for other people. Any religion won’t matter as well. What will only matter is if we have truly accepted the Only Way, the Only Truth and the Only Life that God has sent for us – that is Jesus Christ.
The two questions I wish I asked myself when I was a student-athlete are these:
- Do you have a personal relationship (not religion) with God through His Son, Jesus Christ?; and
- Would you like to continue to live your life for yourself or for the One who gave it to you?
If you are a student-athlete or will be a student-athlete, I would like to invite you to pray this prayer:
Dear God, I realize that I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe You sent Your Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross in order to take the penalty of my sins. I ask Jesus Christ now, my Lord and personal Savior, to come into my life and to save my soul, and to guide and direct my life from this point on. In Jesus’ Mighty Name I pray, Amen.