Tag Archives: student-athlete

Student Voices: The Short Version

Sarah Gibson ’17 graduated in May  2017 with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering and the Honors Fellows distinction. In the post below, she describes the determination and effort that went into being successful in and out of the classroom, as well as the support she received along the way.

Once upon a time, there was a high school senior who dreamed of competing in college athletics while pursuing an honors distinction in engineering. Naturally, everyone else thought she was a little crazy.

I am, but that’s only tangentially relevant to this story.

My name is Sarah Gibson, and I am a former biomedical engineering student and swimmer in addition to being the loudest and proudest member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2017! A WHOOP!

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Sarah Gibson ’17

Looking back on my time at this amazing university, I am left with two overwhelming impressions. Firstly, where did the time go? Secondly, did I really just do that?

That, for clarity’s sake, being the trifecta of graduating from engineering in four years while competing, representing the United States in World Championships, and being honored with far too many awards as a scholar athlete.

Now I’ll admit these were things I’d dreamt of, but in all honesty, my doubts outweighed my dreams quite exponentially. Picture this: my test scores were decent, my best times mediocre. Outside a burning hatred of being told “no” and a stubborn streak that went on for light-years, I wasn’t a five star recruit by any measure. Fortunately for me, there was a coach willing to take a chance on me, so I packed up my bags and headed over to Aggieland.

I’ve heard it said that many people discover who they are during their college years, but I spent more time discovering who and what I wasn’t. For example, I wasn’t able to keep up in practices for the first year or so. Throughout that first semester, every night I’d flop down in my dorm room and think “you’ve finally bit off more than you can chew, honey”, quickly followed by “there’s no way I can finish my homework and study for that test” with a dash of “I wonder how much Buc-ee’s pays its employees”.

I share this – not because it’s kinda funny after the fact, though it is very much so – because I know it is easy to look at someone successful and say “gee, I’d love to be like that if only <insert relevant qualifying statement of choice>”. That’s just an oversimplification.

I struggled every day. Whether it was getting through sets or staying awake in lecture, everything took tooth-and-nail clawing to reach the goals I had set for myself; however, I would be remiss in attributing this to myself alone. My friends enabled my achievements.

From my honors family coming to watch me at dual meets to the other BMEN-ites sharing notes and, more often, food, my classmates at Texas A&M provided the support I needed to be the woman I aspired to. Let’s walk through a typical day for illustrative purposes.

It’s 5:00 AM, my phone alarm blaring. I stumble out of bed, grab my things, and head over to the Rec for practice. We begin at six o’ clock exactly, so I have around twenty minutes once I’m in the locker room to review notes, check my email, and eat a meal bar before workout begins. My teammates arrive, and we mumble and grumble about it being too early and the water too cold. The clock strikes six, and the workout begins.

If you’ve never trained in a competitive sport before, I’m not sure how to describe the utterly jaw-clenching, body-aching, oh-dear-lord-make-it-stop pain of workouts. To those of you who’re nodding along, you know what I mean. It’s a deep burn, an exhaustion that turns even the most menial of tasks into Herculean trials, both physically and mentally. It’s the kind of tired where you come home and flop onto your bed, only to start sobbing because you remember all the assignments due tomorrow that you haven’t even touched yet.

Okay, so that last one might be a little more me-specific, but you get the picture. Workouts last two hours on paper, and a little longer in practice. After swimming, it’s time to head over to the weight room for our morning lift. That takes another hour out of the day, so it’s 9:00 in the morning and we’ve done more work than most people will do all day, before the average college student has rolled out of bed. Not bad for a bunch of meathead jocks, right?

Off to class, already three hours deep in physical and mental exertion, is it any wonder athletes have such a hard time being present in the classroom? I was fortunate to have friends in class who would lend a hand by helping me stay awake or letting me look over their notes. Honors classes helped in that regard by being smaller and more focused, so paying attention required less effort on my end. I also deeply enjoyed getting to know my professors, who are hands down some of the most interesting people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

After surviving class and getting assigned several hours of homework that I mentally defer until the weekend, I go back to the Rec for another two hours of workout. Then, I scrounge up some dinner, try to study, and go to bed before 11:00. Before long, the alarm goes off and the cycle begins anew.

Add, atop the grueling training schedule, the absences of in-season competition, which takes several weeks away from student-athletes, and it become apparent that while representing your school is an incredible honor, it is also fraught with obligations and expectations. I know, without an iota of doubt in my heart, that I could not have achieved the success I have without the support of my friends and colleagues. The Honors Program provided an opportunity to make those connections with people I otherwise would never have met, to which I am grateful.

Why embark on this journey if it’s so difficult? Well, although I admit to enjoying the simple things in life as much as the next person, something about reaching beyond what’s safe – what smaller minds may dub “unattainable” – makes the success all the more sweet. Without having chased my dream, I would be less than half the woman I am today, let alone the caliber of athlete and scholar

As I write this recollection from my hotel room in Budapest, where I await the beginning of the pool swimming portion of the 17th FINA World Championships, my phone is constantly buzzing with well wishes from friends around the globe, but with a noticeably higher concentration of Aggies than average. It is with their belief and support that I can step forward on the international stage without being crippled by fear.

After all, what’s a 100 butterfly when compared to solving partial differentials on three hours of sleep?

To view Gibson’s athletics roster profile, visit http://www.12thman.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=3399 

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Student Voices: Honors and Athletics

In the post below, molecular & cell biology and applied mathematical sciences double-major Antoine Marc ’16 describes the challenge he took on as an Honors Student and student-athlete during his time at Texas A&M, as well as the enrichment and growth that resulted from that challenge.

Howdy Y’all!

I am Antoine Marc, a current senior about to graduate next week, Whoop! As part of my final swan song to the university, I wanted to talk about my undergraduate journey both as an Honors Student and a student-athlete.

Honors Fellow Marc Antoine ’16
Photo Credit: TAMU Athlet ics

 

I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Texas A&M Men’s Swimming and Diving team these past five years. Five years? Yep, I’m a super-senior, taking my victory lap and enjoying A&M before I become an alum. It’s definitely being a unique experience being a student-athlete here, but it still came with its challenges. Ironically enough, I didn’t come to A&M for athletics. I enrolled at A&M as an Honors student with a goal to attend medical school. However, I couldn’t give up swimming. I dedicated my entire high school and the most of my middle school years training in hopes of competing at the NCAA level, but unfortunately, I wasn’t recruited by many Division I schools. Nevertheless, I decided to give it one more shot, and I emailed Coach Jay Holmes about a try-out. Luckily for me, he accepted. Now came the hard part, balancing life as a student and a student-athlete.

As a freshman, I lived in the Honors dorms, Lechner Hall, with my fellow Honors cohort. I decided to participate in the random roommate matching system that A&M provides. Things started off great, but as expected for young 18-year-olds living on their own for the first time the good times didn’t always last. I woke up early and had a strict schedule to adhere for athletics while he was laid back, was part of a band and worked best at night. Naturally, our schedules clashed, and that didn’t make things easy for either of us. After a couple of disagreements, we decided to make the best out of our living situation, and we managed to come up with compromises between each other’s habits and schedules. In the end, living in the dorms was a maturing process, and I learned a lot about myself as an individual.

The main challenge for a student-athlete isn’t the athletics. It’s the academics. Even though I came into college with good grades, college was a definite wake up call. Classes move fast, and once you realize you’re behind, it’s even harder to get back on track. With athletics, it compounded that effect. Balancing my time for Honors academics and athletics amidst a busy schedule was challenging. My daily routine consisted of long nights finishing homework and studying for exams knowing I had to be awake by 5:10 a.m. for practice the next morning.

During each fall, I trained non-stop to get into competitive shape, and each spring, I traveled around the country for competitions, missing days, even weeks, of school at a time. In my first two years of undergrad, I quickly got swamped and didn’t manage to get the same grades I was accustomed to in High School. However, it became easier after I decided to reach out for help.

Antoine prepares to compete in a meet versus Georgia at the TAMU Rec Center

One of the main advantages of Honors courses are the small class sizes meaning I could talk to my professors on a regular basis. Almost all of my Honors professors went out of their way to accommodate my competition and training schedule to arrange extra office hours if I needed it. The best example I can give was in my Organic Chemistry course. Our class was around 35 students, and every week instead of having assigned online homework assignments, we had weekly problem sets. Our professors encouraged a collaborative effort to solve these more complex homework assignments by scheduling an 8-11pm group session on Tuesday and Thursday nights. He would be available for questions while we work on the problem set together. Don’t be fooled, to finish these problem sets you needed to have all the students working together, attacking the problem from different approaches. Dr. Bregbreiter would have a gleeful smirk on his face when we got something wrong, but his unconventional methods of teaching made us actually learn and understand the material. Balancing swimming and Honors coursework was definitely a challenge, but looking back I’m glad went through it.

One of the unique things I’ve been able to do during my undergraduate career is holding the title as SEC Student-Athlete Representative. Because of my involvement in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, an organization on campus with a goal to facilitate an inclusive relationship between the NCAA, Texas A&M student body, and the student-athlete population, I was chosen to represent the entire SEC conference as a student-athlete representative.

As one of three student-athlete representatives for the SEC, I was able to travel to various conferences and meetings across the nation to discuss the current state of the NCAA with regards to treatment/opportunities for student-athletes. At first, these meetings were incredibly intimidating, to say the least. Usually, I was in a room with around 20 different upper administrators from various universities.

Antoine at the SEC Spring Meeting in Destin, Florida as part of his work as SEC Student-Athlete Representative

To set the scene, I was sitting next to the President of the University of Georgia, the Athletic Director of Florida, and the Commissioner of the SEC was across the table. During the meetings, everyone looked at me for input on their proposed legislation and ideas for future legislation. It may have been ignorance, by I candidly described my experience as a student-athlete, my thoughts on what was working and my feedback on what needed improving. Fortunately, they liked what I said, and I kept getting invited back to similar meetings to discuss new NCAA legislation. This past January, at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, the entire NCAA voted on those new proposals.  All except one passed! I am extremely proud of my work with SAAC and the SEC. Advocating on behave of all student-athletes was my way of giving back to current and future student-athletes, so they might be able to have an even better student-athlete experience than I did.

Overall I am very fortunate to have been an Aggie. This University and the University Honors Program has given me so much and enabled me to pursue my passions both as a student and a student-athlete. I couldn’t have asked for a better undergraduate experience.

Thanks and Gig’em!

To see Marc’s athletics profile, visit http://www.12thman.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=3445.