Life of a (soccer athlete)

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From the soccer pitch to a writing one

By Sierra Kolodziej

You may be asking how we do it, or if this is even possible. Sometimes we are even unsure of how we will get through the day, BUT with the hands and hearts of our teammates, we find a way to persevere through each day. We hold our heads high and strive above and beyond to reach our potential.

Being a student-athlete is not easy. It comes with challenges, stressors, and setbacks. To be a successful student-athlete you need to have the dedication, determination, and motivation to persevere through each challenge life throws at you. The dedication required for balancing schoolwork and practice is the most difficult part of being a student-athlete. Everyone thinks it’s just an easy ride when you’re an athlete at the University of Regina. The thing is, they couldn’t be farther from the truth. It was very difficult for me to adjust to the changes and the intense schedule of preseason in August. I am from Kelowna, BC and making the huge transition of moving to a different province was not easy and being away from my family added more stress to the start of a crazy, eventful, and amazing rookie year.

I arrived at the University of Regina on July 28, 2019, everything was so much bigger and a lot more stressful, let me tell you. As I was moving my stuff into my dorm, my nerves and anxiety had never been worse. I was anxious about passing all of these fitness tests, timid about living on my own with some teammates and girls who I have never met before, and scared of letting myself, my teammates, parents, and my coaches down. All I wanted to do was be and do the best I could and show everyone why I belonged here. Honestly, it was very stressful at the beginning, but being a student-athlete has made me stronger and taught me how to work efficiently on the bus when hammering out homework assignments for each of my five classes, how to use my “free” time as MORE study time and understanding that any mark above a 75 per cent is pretty good.

Being a student-athlete has been one of the best experiences ever. I was astonished by how welcome I was when I came in as a rookie. I was unsure of what to do and how to act, but the girls and the team atmosphere was something that I will always remember and ensure that it never changes. The first few weeks and months of September were very hard for me. I was and still am taking a full course load while playing soccer. My first season with the team was an amazing experience. Being a rookie and starting almost every game was way more than I expected. I worked super hard all season to ensure that when I stepped on that field I was giving my team 110 per cent of what I had in me that day. When I stepped into that team locker room I was welcomed with open hands and even though I had never met most of these girls before I knew I was part of an instant family.

There are so many reasons why I wanted to be a student-athlete at the University of Regina. I grew up with athletics; my dad played basketball, volleyball, and baseball while my mom ran track, played basketball, volleyball, and soccer. I played every high school sport that was offered from grade 1-12. Soccer has always been my passion and it was my dream to play university-level soccer. I was the Junior Athlete of the Year in grade 9 and 10, I worked extremely hard to win the Senior Athlete of the Year in my grade 12 year and when the time came where I had to make a decision about where I would spend the next 6 years of my life I was flustered. I had other offers to play on a scholarship for soccer, but the University of Regina was an easy choice for me.

The University of Regina is one of the top three schools in Canada for the education program and that was really what caught my eye because as my mom would tell me:

“Choose the university for the degree that you want to pursue.”

I am now in a joint kinesiology/educatuib program where I will have a major in physical education and a minor in mathematics. With Regina being the only school to have this joint degree option, my mind was mostly made up of where I would begin my adult journey. Yes, the program was and is amazing, but I also based my decision on the team atmosphere and the coaches for the Cougar soccer program. I have never met a team that is more cohesive and determined than the Cougars. Both the coaches, Robert Maltman and Rob McCaffrey push me to my limits each and every day, making me not only a better player on the field but just a better person and friend to others in general. There are a few things I will never forget from both my coaches, never doubt myself, always play with a smile on my face and be SASK TOUGH!

In my first season with the Cougars, I struggled from severe pre-game anxiety. I would throw up before each game whether it was in the locker room or on the sideline before the start of each game, and it was hard for me to catch my breath and control my breathing. I had a major anxiety attack before our game against the UBC Thunderbirds and the only way I got through it was the support of my teammates. I will never forget when one of my close friends and teammate, Natalia McCollough, looked at me and said:

“Sierra you are playing because you have worked so hard to be in the position that you are in right now and nobody is going to take that away from you. Go show everyone why you are meant to be here”

When she said that I felt so much better, my anxiety levels were still high, but my confidence grew tremendously.

Being a Cougar is one of the best decisions that I have made so far, and I would not go back and change any part of it. I made more friends than I thought I would, I instantly had a family and a support system behind my back at all times and more importantly I was smiling and happy to be playing the sport that I love. None of this would have come without hard work, dedication, determination, and motivation. Every day I wake up and I give 110 per cent in that moment. Although, the workouts and practices feel that they never stop, hard work pays off. If there is one message that I could tell anyone, it would be, dream big, hold your head high and always strive that one step higher.

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