Memoir of an Athlete, Brandon Ballard, Part One

The successful journey of the current student-athlete begins and ends well outside of the realm of their performance in their perspective setting of play. History is being made, and records are vanishing due to the millennial student-athlete as well as the black millennial student-athlete. All student athletes that make it to the college level share the same feelings of accomplishment knowing they are the select few that will have the opportunity to continue their athletic career beyond high school or club play.

I genuinely believe there is not a universal comprehension of the stories behind each and every student-athlete that make this enormous accomplishment come true. A student-athlete must meet all sorts of guidelines before they have the choice to accept the opportunity to be a collegiate student-athlete based on their athletic abilities. I remember when my high school counselors and coaches informed the team that it was time to complete the NCAA Eligibility Center, diploma, and standardized test score requirements if you were serious about performing on the next level. Of course, I had no idea things like this existed, but I completed the task because that’s what it took. There are plenty of student-athlete stories that stop there. Not because of their athletic ability but because they couldn’t meet those three requirements stated alone. Who’s to say they shouldn’t have the opportunity to better themselves because of those requirements when they’ve made it so far already.

An important entity we should not overlook is the background of a student athlete, which includes their personal development. Student-athletes come from single, two-parent, legal guardian upbringings from all races and environments, which play a huge role in the personal development of the student-athlete entering college.

The personal development portfolio student-athletes carry with them through their journey is often dormant because their sports desires either over influence them not to speak to someone about their personal growth needs or they are unaware such resources even exists.

Fortunately for me, I was raised by both of my college-educated parents (my mother, who ran track) in a single home with a general sense of self-love and thankfulness to have a solid personal development foundation. Although they were college graduates, the dynamic of being a college athlete in this generation is different, so the foundation they provided me with had to be tinkered with, once I finally made the decision to attend Florida International University, located in Miami, FL and run track their as a walk-on my freshman year.

However, coming out of high school in 2012 being named the “Student Athlete” of the Year I was not informed of the opportunities to personally develop myself that would surround me being a student-athlete in college. The general sentiments of “You made it!” seems to plague college student athletes, not knowing that college is only the beginning. Advising the high school student athlete of the resources they can use to network and build their inner-being before they are sent off to college is critical.

Personal development is needed at the collegiate level. The dynamics my university offered were everything a high school athlete could imagine. However, if it weren’t for my upbringing and constant contact with my parents, my grades would’ve been atrocious. Resulting in me never earning the scholarship I was aiming for since making the decision to go to FIU. Your coaches can control you while you’re at practice and your adviser can guide you through the educational process but when you are alone with your “friends;” who is responsible for providing the personal development facets needed to help you become the best collegiate athlete you can be?

The Freshman Year Student-Athlete Experience

I walked on campus in Miami, moved into my dorm by myself, and was immediately the new track guy.  I had the identity as the new track guy before people could even get to know my name. Maybe because the first day I had arrived I was given an FIU Track and Field hat and rocked it all throughout freshman orientation, but truly it was because I was a student-athlete amongst regular college students. Athletics was number one from the beginning; I was there to perform, get the scholarship and get the degree. I was unaware of the type of advantages I could receive being an athlete and a student.  I separate the words for a moment to emphasize the difference between a collegiate athlete to a full-time student. As an athlete, I was exposed to all the other athletes from different backgrounds and immediately shared bonds and built friendships/connections.  But from my vantage point, the rules and regulations for us are different to the non-student athlete.

My fellow athletes and I walked around campus with a particular mantra about ourselves; you were an elite athlete. At my school, there was a little less than 50 thousand students enrolled but only about 350 student athletes, who for the most part all stayed on campus at a commuter school.

We were loud and proud about our FIU, wearing the gear we received. Of course, we were grinding working our butts off to be the best athletes we could be, but that constant appeal of being the athletes on campus in Miami, FL of all places can be mesmerizing. Too mesmerizing for some as I had probably lost more than two dozen teammates to the “Miami Animal” of endless fun and women/men. I was close to losing my opportunity as well, with a couple of run-ins with the campus police that could’ve ended terribly.

 

Read Part Two

 

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