Thursday, April 17, 2014

Guest Blogger Cierra Gaudet Talks About Her Experience As A Collegiate Student-Athlete

uOttawa Minto Sports Complex

I have had the absolute pleasure to get to know Cierra over the last few years. We have fostered a friendship over the mutual disdain of several course (sorry professors :P), in particular this last year. She is an extremely smart and hard working young woman. She gives a considerable amount of volunteer time. And, she is an accomplished athlete while doing all this. So, without further ado... Cierra's own words...

Since the land before time (or so it seems after so many years!), I have been devoted to furthering my education and dedicating a lot of my time and energy to sports. I was born into a loving family that has supported me from day one of my athletic career; however, I learned very early on that being a student-athlete came with very high priorities, a large amount of responsibility and crucial time-management.

Growing up, my mom valued education very much (and still does) and so she pushed my younger brother and I to achieve high grades in school. I enjoyed learning and so I would always strive to get the best grades in my class. When I was younger, I dreamed of getting a scholarship and so that was continuously on the back of my mind throughout my junior high and high school years.

My dad is a sports fanatic and he was a phenomenal athlete during his prime years. For as long as I can remember, Sports Center would always be blasting on the televisions throughout the house. He pushed my brother and I to train hard every day. My parents were really great role models (and they still are!) and I love them for everything they've done for me since I entered this world.

However, being a student-athlete wasn't all fun and games. A lot of the times it was very frustrating to say the least. I gave up a lot; birthday parties, movie dates, beach days, shopping sprees, house parties, outdoor concerts, junk food…etc. I had no free time to waste. I was in school for 8 hours a day, training two hours after classes and then catching up on all of my homework at night. In high school I became obsessed with my grades (probably more than I should have been) and so I didn't want anything less than a 90%. I spent countless hours at my desk studying and almost just as much time training. At some point I became very stressed and irritable. Nobody would want to be around me, let alone put up with me on a regular basis. Therefore, this led to further sacrifices, only this time I began to sacrifice my training if I was worried about school. It made me angry to do so, but at the end of the day, my mom reminded me that I was a student-athlete, meaning that being a student always comes first.

Eventually, during my senior year of high school, I realized that I wanted positive memories rather than negative ones. I realized that my family and friends shouldn't be getting pushed to the side. I began to make myself schedules for the week and I would plan activities in advance to have something to look forward to and keep me motivated to finish everything on time. My grades didn’t suffer and I began to realize that studying less was actually more. I looked at good quality studying over bad quality studying and began to realize that I could actually achieve what I wanted to in three hours instead of eight. I also realized that this was the same for my training. All of a sudden, I had more free time for myself to do what I wanted and my quality of life sky-rocketed! I graduated high school with top academic honors, athletic recognition and my scholarship!

Unfortunately, during my first two years of university, I was stressed all the time. I missed out on pretty much everything and lived as a hermit in my dorm room. I forgot about every lesson I had learned in high school and was frustrated with my grades, my training and my schedule. Fortunately, I had a good support system of family and friends and after taking a few excellent classes from a professor who specialized in sport psychology and quality of life, I began to fall back into my positive habits. I began to make time for myself, reconnect with old friends, strengthen relationships with my family members and pretty soon I noticed that my grades and my athletic performance were back on top. Again, I was just trying too hard and not focusing on the big picture. 

Now that I’m almost done of my undergraduate degree (only two exams left), I've realized that when things seem super stressful, they probably aren't AS stressful as they seem, but it’s all in how we perceive the stressor in the first place. In the last two years, I've realized that pushing myself to the point where I get sick is useless and that there are more important things in life then grades and sports. What we should strive for first and foremost, is being a good quality family member, friend, sibling, cousin, teammate, parent, coach…etc. There will always be time for learning and training, but life itself has an ending and so I want to share my time with everyone who’s helped me grow into the person I've become along the way. In my head, I always thought being a student-athlete was impressive, but now I’m realizing that being a student-athlete was just the foundation to instill a lot of good life skills, lessons and values that have served me well over the years. I've loved every minute of my career, but more importantly, I love the person I've become because of it. Now I’m ready to give back to others!