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An Account of a Collegiate Student-Athlete’s 5yr Experience: Part 1

Someone or something inspired me, like many young people. Sooner or later, this someone or something evolved into a burning desire or dream of sort that I could not go a day without thinking about. We all have fallen under the spell of such phenomenon that has captured the heart and consequently directed our actions with the purpose of making the dream into reality. No matter how little or large said dream may be, the pursuit of making the dream into a reality can only be justified by the dreamer.

Some of us are fortunate enough to see our dream become a reality. Others let go of the dream and are able to shift focus elsewhere either by creating a new dream or abandon the act of dreaming altogether. Through commitment, humility, and resilience the dream that made up my childhood came true. Personally, becoming the starting quarterback of the storied Massillon Tigers was my dream come true. Since I can recall, all I ever dreamed of was becoming the starting quarterback of the team my father coached and the only thing I knew growing up. However, the purpose of this writing is not to narrate the process of my childhood dream becoming a reality. Rather the purpose of this writing is to share what came after the dream, the trials and triumphs that constituted a five-year journey, and ultimately made me into the person I am today.

I, like most recent college graduates, am adjusting to this thing commonly labeled as the “real world” or simply put… Life after college. After five years of being a collegiate student – athlete at three different institutions (Miami University, Notre Dame College, and Hiram College) I have matured and come to the realization of what defines my passion. The time to utilize the lessons I have learned throughout my youth and experience as a student- athlete up to this point are now being put to the test.

I am aware that mistakes are evident and will come as I begin and go through the next chapter of life. However, the key difference is now I can’t accept points off for a late assignment submission nor can I merely run a gasser for every minute I am late for a team meeting. For in real life, a late assignment submission or tardiness to a meeting could result in termination, unemployment, and lack of an income to payback student loans.

My name is Robert Partridge; I am a recent graduate of Hiram College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and a minor in public leadership. I desire to develop student-athletes through strategic leadership development and tactful team building. Since graduating this past May 2015, I have meticulously researched ways in which to best grasp, understand, and mend to my liking; the “Real world”. I have found a full time job that I am blessed to have and am learning lessons from everyday. However, not a day goes by that I don’t think about what burns inside constantly evolving into what could be labeled a dream or something along those lines. For now, it is my duty to stay committed to the job and team of co-workers.

At times, taint thoughts formulate within my mind of what other job I could be doing; but I quickly diminish these, for it would be humiliating for such thoughts to produce an attitude and ultimately, actions. When times like these occur I think back to my playing days, more specifically, a time when I had to be resilient and overcome adversity for not only myself but also more profoundly, the team collectively as a whole. Having revisited such a time along with remembering the process and what it took to overcome adversity, I then am able to relate it to myself currently in the work place and do what needed to be done to refocus and execute the job.

As previously mentioned in the previous paragraph, “I desire to develop student-athletes through strategic leadership development and tactful team building”. Accordingly, over the past several weeks I have meticulously researched and sought out people who can guide me in the direction needed to go for my desire to come into fruition.

Several weeks ago, I came across one person in particular who compelling caught my attention. Dr. Mark Robinson is a global leader, pioneer, and expert in “Personal Player Development”. The weekend of my birthday I had the privilege and honor of speaking with Dr. Robinson in a phone conversation. Dr. Robinson and his words of wisdom not only inspired me to write this discourse, but more importantly, the result of my time with Dr. Robinson was a sense of direction and spark to a much needed idea. Thus, I am morally obligated to give thanks to him and dedicate a great part of this discourse to him. Thank you, Dr. Robinson.

In a recent interview with fitacrosscultures.com, Dr. Mark Robinson profoundly stated, “The sport industry needs to stop using athletes only for their skill, but start to support them to be better people. It’s a challenge because it’s an area that is often overlooked. Athletes sacrifice a lot of their free time to get better players that they could invest in their own development”.

Being a former student-athlete at three different institutions of all three NCAA divisions, I confess that Dr. Robinson’s words are indeed true and shine light on a key issue.

Furthermore, Dr. Robinson’s statement provides a lens to another key question/issue that I consider vital to understanding the nature of a collegiate student- athlete’s personal development. As collegiate student- athletes go through the college experience and assume roles amongst their team, athletic program, and institution certain tasks are demanded of them. Such tasks include becoming the best athlete possible, hosting recruits, going to class and doing the work ask of them by the instructor, and being a good representative of their team/program both on and off the field. Ultimately, their task is to develop themselves as a student-athlete so that in turn the program is developed so that it can attract recruits in the future.  After all, collegiate sports are a multi-million dollar business and the more a program wins the more revenue the school brings in and is able to attract students. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality of the situation.

I assert that the problem a number of collegiate student-athletes are faced with is not only the “sacrifice of their free time” but more problematic and conflicting, the athlete sacrifices personal development and a loss of self-identity past his or herself as just an athlete. In other words, while collegiate student-athletes pursue and achieve objectives and goals set forth by their athletic teams, programs, and institutions; the student-athlete loses track of his or herself personally.

The price can be seen among “thousands of NCAA student-athletes who struggle with the emotional and physical transition from a life centered on athletics”. This is a topic that must be deeply considered, spoken of, and dissected rather than abandoned. Statements such as, “Unfortunately, we don’t really talk about it very much or prepare athletes for it” are disgusting, vile, and not acceptable.

In this discourse, I will share with the reader my collegiate student-athlete experience with the intent of helping solve the issue of loss of individual student-athlete identity and resolving the conflict of collegiate student-athlete transitioning into the “real world”. To do this I have structured the article into four installments.

In section one, I will begin by giving an account of the time I spent and what I learned while a student-athlete at Miami University (NCAA, division I). Next, in section two, I will discuss my student-athlete experience and what I learned at Notre Dame College (NCAA, division II). Following this, in section three, I will provide a narrative of time spent and lessons learned while a student-athlete at my alma mater Hiram College (NCAA, division III). To conclude this discourse, in the fourth installment and crux of the writing, I will take the previous three sections along with their themes, and correlate them with the above issues and conflicts intending on providing a possible solution…..

To be continued…

Written by Robert Partridge, follow Robert on twitter

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