September 10, 2009

Getting Used to a New Family: The Volleyball Team

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We all had a lot of expectations when we came to Cornell — of the school, of the experience and of ourselves. As incoming freshmen, we were all excited to explore the possibilities of college life, but at the same time nervous and unsure of how it would really pan out. Many probably panicked over whom they would sit next to in the dining hall for their first meal, whether they would like their roommate or not or when they would make new friends. But when I arrived on campus, 16 best friends were here to greet me. They were all girls who I had talked to frequently over the summer, who had answered all my questions and who shared a love for my favorite game. This is my team, and yours — Cornell volleyball. The affability of the group was apparent long before I stepped on campus. Because we’re at Cornell, their academic brilliance was a given. And when I walked into the gym on the first day, I saw that their athleticism was incredible.
I have 16 people in my new family, 16 athletic, strong bodyguards on my side. Therefore, any trepidation I had as an incoming freshman of tearful first weeks, roommate mismatches or intimidating professors certainly hasn’t materialized. None of the hallmark horrors of college have yet to come alive for me at Cornell.
The worst I have to fear is the hike from class back to RPC for lunch or my stinking laundry pile (the college version of the monster under your bed). But really I can’t complain, since the upperclassmen drive us back to North Campus after practice, and my athletic gear is laundered for me everyday.
College is a series of ordinary events simultaneous with life-shaping decisions. It’s as simple as your daily routine, and as complex as the courses you choose to take that direct your future career. Volleyball too, is both an everyday task, and a long-term effect on the players’ lives. The focus and discipline involved in practice and technique are the ingredients to success this season, these four years and life.
When I traveled thousands of miles across the country to Cornell from my native California, I thought my traveling was over for a while. But this past weekend I spent six more hours driving to our nation’s capital with the team for our first tournament at George Mason University. As much as it was strange to already be leaving the “gorges” Ithaca that I had recently inhabited, the trip to DC was an awesome chance to get to know everyone on the team even better, start our season of intense matches and tour a place full of history.
There are seven freshmen on our team, so there has been a lot of learning and a lot of soaking in. But luckily for us, we have 10 upperclassmen that are more than willing to help us along the journey. They tell us about the professors they have had and share the stories of teams past, but most importantly, they embody the purpose and mission of an athlete — to go hard, to compete and to have fun. And really I think those same three rules go for everyone, athlete or not.