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Notre Dame College, Humiliation, Pt 3

How did you go from being a division one quarterback to a division two punter and not even a quarterback?

It is hard to revisit my experience at Notre Dame College. For a while I would refuse to revisit it, I could not do so without feeling bitterness or extreme pain that tainted the overall experience. Ultimately, the feelings evolved into numbness and a sense of not being able to acknowledge the fact that the experience occurred. It was the only way possible that I could move on and live. I am grateful that today, I am able to speak of the experience in terms not tainted by feelings or numbness.

Commitment is something that must be fulfilled to preserve friendship and relationships. The impact friends have on our everyday life can be so great that decisions are often made out of obligation. Unfortunately, decisions made out of obligation to our friends can lead to a traumatic experience and or humiliation. However, adversity even of the worst kind leaves one with a lesson to grow from and become a better person.

Before graduating from high school and upon committing to Miami University, I gave my word to four friends/teammates/brothers who were going to be student-athletes at Notre Dame College. I gave them my word that if things didn’t work out at Miami I would join them at NDC and once again play football with them. January 2011, I committed to Notre Dame College accepting a full ride scholarship. Once again, I had a duty to fulfill and a commitment to something much bigger than myself. I can recall my best friend who I also happened to room with stating, “man I didn’t think you were serious about the promise you made last year”. Of course when I made the promise I wasn’t planning on a time where I had to follow through with it but when the time came I did and was glad…. At first.

 At the time I felt nothing more than excitement and a sense of happiness. I thought to myself “this is like a home away from home”. I had anything and everything a collegiate student-athlete could ask for. I felt like I not only belonged but more importantly I felt like I was wanted and needed. All was good. I was the big man on campus, only an hour away from my family and hometown, classes were manageable, and I was more than happy with my decision. The first year had a couple of bumps in the road but nothing that couldn’t be overcome by persistence and sticking to the commitment of the process for success.

Entering into the 2011 football season I was in a quarterback battle with a talented returner. Eventually I would not be chosen as the starting quarterback for the first two games, however, this would soon change during halftime of our second game. I became the full time starting quarterback and one of the team captains after leading the team to victory the second game. As the season progressed, I became more comfortable as a student-athlete and leader at Notre Dame College. We ended the season with a better record than the previous year and had a lot to look forward to going into the offseason. Still, things were going well and I was a happy or as the saying goes at NDC “Falcon for Life.”

Spring 2012 was what I have previously labeled the beginning of the end. My best friend had decided to leave the school for personal reasons. This crushed me and at the time I considered it betrayal and selfish. I recall thinking, “how could you leave when I came here because of you?” After that I was never the same. You see, he was the person who I could always count on whenever I needed anything. When times were hard and I felt the weigh of the world on my shoulders, he would make sure I didn’t falter. He never allowed me to do anything stupid or reckless. He cared about me more than I cared about myself. To sum it up in a word, he was my brother, and when he left a part of me left with him.

A couple of weeks before spring practice was to begin, I was punished for breaking team rules. Allow me to explain… One night my suitemates and I decided to host a little get together in our suite involving refreshments of a kind that weren’t permitted on campus. But we were too cool and too much of a big deal around campus to ever get caught, let alone written up. Well, we got caught. When the time of confession came my new roommate and I took all the blame. If I hadn’t then a few guys in the room would have been caught, they would have been immediately dismissed from the team and possibly school. So, knowing this and being a team captain I decided to take the blame.

A captain goes down with his ship. Our team policy was that if at any time a player got in trouble with the school or team, that player would automatically be moved down the depth chart at the start of spring ball. As always the first string gets more reps than the backups, this is a fact even if coaches preach otherwise. Accordingly, as the spring season progressed coach and I became more and more hostile. It seemed as if I was not getting a fair shot to compete for the position. Many Teammates including the three teammates I had made the promise to, saw and felt this was the case. Often times behind closed doors where they could not be heard by anyone of authority who could punish them, my teammates would say, “Rob I know how they are treating you and it is wrong, but things will get better.”

Things never got better, only worse and worse. At the end of spring ball and the semester before summer, Coach called me into his office and told me I was being moved to wide receiver but still staying as the punter. I wasn’t going to be given a chance to compete over the summer and into fall camp. The decision was made that my days of being the starting quarterback were over and done. So began the summer of 2012, I came home and broke the news to my family. Upon hearing the news and thinking about what comes next, my parents pushed me to transfer elsewhere and that I didn’t come there to be treated in such a way. Most of the summer I spent weighing out options and trying to decide what I should do.

Eventually I would return to Notre Dame College as a “full ride” student athlete. I put emphasis on “full ride” because this was the main reason I decided to go back. How could one not turn down a full ride scholarship being a student-athlete? Everything was paid for which meant upon graduation I had no student loans to pay back. Common sense would tell anyone to not pass up the opportunity of a lifetime. However, the price I had to pay for this decision was something that would become a lifelong lesson. A lesson that not many people consider as a good lesson because the impact it has on the heart and psyche of a person.

Humiliation has such a stinging ring to it when spoken. Try feeling it and experiencing it even just a little, I promise you or whoever experiences being humiliated that it will change your life and the outlook you have on life. Throughout the 2012 season at Notre Dame College there were times that I thought about getting in my car and just driving away to somewhere far away from there. But I didn’t, for some reason I was meant to be there at that time. I was meant to be that guy who transferred from a division 1 school where he won a championship, who then transferred down a division to become the quarterback of Notre Dame College, who then was knocked off his pedestal and brought down to become not even a quarterback let alone the starting quarterback at a school who couldn’t even break the five hundred mark of a football season. It was humiliating to show my face in public and know that everyone knew what happened to the once “big man on campus.” It was humiliating to be the starting punter every single game that season and after the game shake hands with our opponent and be asked by players and coaches “what happened to you being the starting quarterback” or “how did you go from being a division one quarterback to a division two punter and not even a quarterback?” Such questions at first angered and hurt me to the point of tears flowing down my face. Eventually the tears subsided as did the anger and hurt. What they became was nothing or a sense of numbness with no feeling at all. I had reached a point of no return and kind of died inside.

Friends, teammates, coaches, fellow students, etc. felt bad but did nothing to help. Not even those I made that promise and commitment to in high school, they knew and felt the position and psyche I was in but did or said nothing to me or anyone because they feared that what happened to me would happen to them. And so there I was humiliated and miserable. I needed some type of release from the hell I was in.

A week after the season I received a call from a past teammate and friend who had transferred from Notre Dame College (NDC) to Hiram College the summer of 2012. We talked for a bit just catching up on each other’s lives asking how things are going, then he asked if I would come down and visit him at Hiram College. I figured sure why not, it was somewhere away from NDC. So I visited him. We had a great time and I met a lot of good people… different people than what I was used to at NDC. People who acknowledged me and said hello and asked how I was. During the day we ate in the dining hall where I ran into a football recruit, he immediately recognized me and began talking to me. He asked questions about my experiences at Miami and NDC, then he asked my opinion on several matters. Of course I gave him my opinion, why not, what did it matter? It was just my opinion about what he asked me. Or so I thought…. Little did I know this conversation would cost me a full ride scholarship leading to my dismissal from NDC.

After the weekend on Monday coach called me into his office saying he needed to speak with me. Our meeting lasted for fifteen minutes and consisted of him asking if I visited Hiram College over the weekend, If I spoke to a recruit and what I said, and then my scholarship being pulled. That was the last straw, I was completely humiliated and a fool in most people’s eyes. However, a sense of relief and hope came over me as soon as I walked out of his office. I remember thinking, “its over… I was free.” At the end of the semester I left the place I once called home, my three teammates I made that promise to, and the worst experience of my life. I had been humiliated and broken. However, the lesson of humiliation and being humiliated was something that would be vital to me becoming a better person, a better student-athlete, and the leader Hiram College needed.

To be continued…

Written by Robert Partridge, follow Robert on twitter

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Miami University 2010: Commitment and Paying the Price for Success Pt 2

December 7, 2010, I committed to Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) accepting a full ride academic/athletic scholarship. Upon committing I didn’t know how much of an impact on my life this would make. While a student-athlete at Miami University, I was part of a team that made history by winning the Mid-American Conference championship and finishing the 2010 season with a record of 10-4. A substantial improvement from the year before where the football team finished the season 1-11. However, what is less known or advertised was the price that had to be paid by each team member individually. At the base of success is a degree of commitment to an idea or goal. It is often that the slogan/motto “there is no ‘I’ in team” is shouted among teams and organizations. Selfishness serves as a monkey wrench in the operation of collective actions. Individual commitment to the team is a necessity to success.

As I reminisce and think back five years ago, I cannot help but come to the realization that the overarching theme for my experience at Miami University surmounts to one thing. Commitment. Not only commitment to the institution and its football program but also and more importantly, commitment to the process of success while paying the price for success.

I understood as an eighteen year old freshman what it meant to be committed to goals/aspirations, the process of success, and the price for success. However, the commitment I was previously responsible to fulfilling was something I had rooted and engrained throughout childhood. In fact, this commitment only added to the childhood dream. College was an entirely different animal. An animal that I knew had to be confronted and dealt with accordingly. For though I made the decision and commitment to Miami University, I did so naïve/ignorant to the process and price that came along with success. I committed to being a student-athlete because that was what I was good at and that was what those around me expected of me.

 I was a collegiate student-athlete at Miami University for six months. During this time, I, like any and all college freshman, evolved in many aspects of life both positively and negatively. At the time my major or field of study was undecided, however, I did find a course or two interesting. Throughout my time at Miami I struggled academically. I continually asked for tutors and or academic coaches, never was I granted one. Nonetheless, I made it through the season and did what was asked.

Athletically, I competed every morning during practice at five a.m. I was privileged enough to travel with the team for away games and sometimes having the chance to play. Additionally, I was voted by teammates to be a member of the Redhawk leadership council, which was a group of guys who met weekly to discuss team issues and come up with solutions to produce positive outcomes for the program. These weekly meetings were the highlight of my week. I had the opportunity to get to know my teammates on a different level. Without the once a week leadership sessions I would not have made it through the season and semester. The lessons I would learn from those meetings I would carry  throughout college and still carry with me today.

I mentioned previously how I evolved while at Miami University academically and athletically, but I did not touch on how I evolved personally. The purpose of the next section is to speak of this subject. And so let us begin…

Academically, I was scratching the surface of becoming a student. Athletically, I was learning the intangibles and sharpening the skills needed to lead a program. However, though both academics and athletics are key subjects in a collegiate student-athletes life, one subject that is often times forgotten is personal development. While at Miami I failed to grow as a person and think about who I was becoming. Never did I tell myself “one day your football career will end and you will have to enter into real life”. Never did I question who I was as a person and what I wanted to become. While I was living the life of a student-athlete, I failed to embrace who I was as an individual. This was the something that was swept under the rug along the process of success. This was the price that I paid for success. Yes, I went out after games, hung out with friends, and tried to “live it up”, but not without second-guessing myself thinking “how could what I am currently doing effect the team and disappoint those who trust me to represent the program? ”.

Coach always told us that we as athletes (football players) have a duty to be great ambassadors for the athletic program and football team. Every action anyone or I committed either on or off the field was a representation of the team NOT JUST YOURSELF. Coach made this very clear by demanding before practices and every game that we “look around, to our left/right/front/behind, and say to our brother I TRUST IN YOU”. As a team leader (leadership council member), quarterback, and varsity player, I had an obligation to the team, both on and off the field. I assumed this duty upon committing to the institution whether knowingly or unknowingly.

            As the semester and season came closer to ending, as did my time at Miami University. And so upon the semester ending I made the decision to leave Oxford, Ohio. I would close a chapter in my life and begin anew. Though I would depart Miami, the lessons I learned while there wouldn’t depart me. Above other lessons, I learned what it meant to be committed and the price that came with it. I would carry this lesson with me to Notre Dame College.

To be continued…

Written by Robert Partridge, follow Robert on twitter

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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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