Dear future collegiate athletes,
Get ready. Tie your laces. Pull your ponytail a little bit tighter. Step up to the plate. Right here, right now. The time has officially come to live your childhood dream of competing at the highest level you can. It’s terrifying, liberating and exciting all at once.
Oh, let me introduce myself. My name is Mary Jane McNary, and I was a part of the Glenbrook South Class of 2020 and a former editor-in-chief of The Oracle. Now, I play field hockey at the University of Iowa. Since I have officially finished my first year of being a Division I athlete, I want to share some advice that I’ve gathered from being a part of one of the top teams in the country.
Whether you will be a collegiate athlete, or an aspiring athlete, I hope this finds you. I hope you can hold onto these words and run with them:
You are meant to be here. You are here for a reason. Even if it might feel physically and mentally impossible, it’s not. You can do it. Take it all in.
Let me elaborate. There will be nerves when you step foot onto the turf, the court or the track. It is terrifying. What I’ve learned is that everyone is just as terrified. I urge you to recognize the feeling and hold onto it. Look at the nerves and know that those nerves don’t control you. The nerves will propel you. The nerves may never leave, whether we like to admit it or not.
Things will seem overwhelming, so take it piece by piece. Break practices into pieces: focus on just the warm-up, then one drill at a time. The jump in the level of play seems daunting, but if you break the practice up into pieces, it’s much less intimidating.
There will be times of frustration and moments of doubt. You’ll feel like you aren’t good enough to compete at this level or that your skill isn’t improving. You’ll run until you want to vomit and still feel like you didn’t run as fast as you should have. In those moments, give yourself a break, reward the little moments. Showing up to practice, making a hard pass, running past the 50-yard line and cheering for teammates are all moments worth rewarding.
Degrading your progress will not propel you to success any faster. Believing in yourself will. Trusting yourself and the process will guide you to success. You will not excel in collegiate athletics without 100 percent confidence in yourself. Reward the little wins in practice and life.
Whatever role you play on the team, whether you are a starter or get thrown in the game here and there — embody that role in its entirety. If it changes from practice to practice (which is likely), hold onto each role and run with it. That role your coaches put you in is a part of you. It doesn’t matter if your role is the most valuable player or a freshman still learning the plays. Whichever role you are out in, think to yourself: I’m going to do this for my teammates. You will not achieve any success if you don’t put every bit of effort into being the best you can be in that role.
I urge each of you to take it all in. The early mornings, the tears, the turf burn, the wins and the losses. During the warm-ups of the Final Four of the National Championship, I knelt and felt the blades of the damp turf between my fingers. The National Championship is where every aspiring athlete dreams to be. University of Iowa field hockey made its last appearance in the Final Four 12 years ago; we made history. I took a deep breath, looked at my busted turf shoes, and thought to myself how grateful I was to be where I am. All the tears, pulled muscles, and conditioning is worth it. I realized that I am a part of this team for a reason.
Please, don’t forget to take it all in. When in doubt, look down at your feet. Let your feet serve as a reminder to be present and ground yourself with your relentless hard work. Relish in all that you have accomplished and all that lies ahead.
You are on the team for a reason. You can’t be a champion without trusting yourself.
Mary Jane McNary
Class of 2o20