March 12th, a day where many collegiate athletes across the nation lost their season, including my own. I remember going through a spectrum of emotions, but mostly heartbreaking emotions. Not knowing that it would be my last practice seeing my teammates and my last meet of the season being February 22nd was extremely upsetting. Without even getting the smallest opportunity to say goodbye to some of our graduating teammates who I consider my family, it was the worst feeling.
Though I am only a freshman with many more seasons to come, every season is its own, and not getting to experience my whole first year as a student-athlete at The University of Illinois is something I have never imagined but through these difficult times, I began looking at it in a different sense.
It has been 103 days. 103 days since I began looking at the impact COVID-19 has had on me in a positive way. With the loss of the entire outdoor track and field season, I used it as motivation for myself. It was motivation to use this period of time to better myself as an athlete on and off the track. On the track by training every single day since March 13th, and off the track by keeping a positive mindset. Though we were not actually competing, I began to realize that if we were still in season, we would still be training, which is what I continued to do. My biggest motive every single day was that I still was competing. I was competing with myself to better myself as an athlete in all ways possible.
No, I am not a standout
big ten athlete, but that is exactly what I want to be. It is not something
that happens in days, weeks, or even months. It requires patience that I am
willing to have. I have gone through many mental and physical challenges
throughout my time as an athlete to the point where I began losing confidence
in myself. This year was different. It was the first full healthy season I had
that was going in the right direction, and I lost it. I am not where I want to
be, but I am dedicated to putting in the work to get there.
From March 13th to today, I am proud to say I have not missed a single training/workout day besides my off days each week, my time off from the outdoor "season," and summer training. I am blessed with the opportunity to run on a track and lift during this tough time. Though some days are harder than others, I am aware that the only way to get better is put in the work. I have used workouts from my coach to guide me in the right direction. I am fully confident that it has already made me a better athlete in such a short period of time. In just over 3 months, I feel stronger, faster, and healthier than I have ever been, and that is proven by the few PR's I have had.
As a pole vaulter, I am aware of my weaknesses, and I used to believe that the only way to vault higher is to vault, which I began to realize is not true at all. Doing high bar bubkas, rings, and rope drills are important and a key contributor to becoming a better pole vaulter, which is why I devoted two days a week to strictly doing pole runs, drills and working on my technique in the vault. Sometimes it is okay to go back to the basics. It wasn't until this past weekend when I had the opportunity to vault, that I noticed the difference doing these specific drills had. These little changes are what motivates me to continue working hard every day.
Just a few days prior to the announcement of canceling the season, I had a deep conversation with my coach about giving the multis a try. It has been something I have been thinking about prior to attending college because of my previous athletic background, and I finally had the courage to discuss the idea of it with him. The plan was that after we came back from spring break, I would begin incorporating the events into my workouts, giving it a try. Though it is unfortunate I was not able to work with my coach, I also thought that I could use this time off as a way to improve my skill in each of the different events, giving it a try on my own, and working just as hard as I am in the pole vault. I appreciate the support my coach has given me as well as many other coaches who coach different events at Illinois.
I have been keeping track of my workouts every single day through video, so I can go back and look at the improvements I have made since day one. Although it is with an uncertainty that we will have a 2021 season, I know I need to take it day by day by practicing and training like it is my last because there is no way of knowing when that day will be. I have goals in place for myself that I will continue working hard to achieve, but it all starts right now.
I encourage many high school and fellow college athletes to find what motivates you. Use that as a drive towards success. There are always ways to get better as an athlete, and believe it or not, that begins off the track.