College is full of firsts: first time being away from home, first time sharing a room and first time having unlimited access to Mabee’s chocolate chip cookies. College is a major change, and despite a one week orientation, many freshmen find themselves lost trying to navigate their transition from high school to college. Finding the appropriate balance between your academic life and your social life helps ease the college transition, but that’s easier said than done — especially when you’re a student athlete.

First-year athletes have to balance the regular transition to college with the transition to playing a college sport. While each Trinity athlete is excited to wear the Trinity uniform, it’s daunting to look into the stands and see their peers as a blinding wave of maroon.

College athletics are played on a bigger stage against better competition with higher stakes. For athletes, one thing is clear: college sports are a whole different ball game.

In college, everyone is skilled, everyone is strong and everyone is competitive. Hailey Coleman, a first-year on the women’s basketball team said, “the college team definitely pushes you to get better, knowing that everyone’s stronger or at the same level … everyone wants to be here.”

Alec Salazar, a first-year player on the men’s basketball team agreed, “In college, it’s just a higher level of competition, better competition and a more serious game.”

Similarly, Mac McCord, a first-year on the men’s soccer team stated, “… the level of competition and talent in college far surpasses any high school team. Having said that, the passion to play in college is far greater and much more enjoyable since you’re in a more competitive environment.”

First-years are playing against both better teams and teammates. A competitive practice environment allows a team to improve their skills and develop a tough mentality.

“Everybody’s there with a winning mindset. Everybody’s very confident and very focused. It forces you to compete against both your opponents and your teammates,” said Anna Gilliat, a first-year from the women’s basketball team.

Collegiate athletics are both a physical and mental game, therefore expectations for success are directly related to a teams’ mindset.

“Whenever we compete, the standard to win is set at an all-time high. Every single game here at Trinity should be a win, nothing less … mentally we have to also be the most confident version of ourselves. The team creates a supportive, yet fearless atmosphere that allows each individual player to channel a ferocious mentality at all times during the game, and that is what helps us win,” McCord said.

The coaches and upperclassmen’s role is to facilitate these kinds of practice environments: ones that allow for positive energy to coincide with aggressive competition, and produce success.

“We have really good coaches who bring this positive energy everywhere, and I feel like each of the upperclassmen have a really strong element of leadership. Our upperclassmen always encourage all of us no matter how we play, which creates this connection with each other where you have everyone pushing you,” Gilliat said.

According to Trinity athletes, the transition for first-year athletes is difficult, but with this adversity comes the opportunity and privilege to play and learn at Trinity.

For many of these athletes, both Trinity’s academic and community reputation contributed to their decision to attend the university.

“Trinity is academically one of the top schools in the nation. It was a no-brainer for me to choose a top academic school with one of the best soccer teams. On top of that, we are all a family here: the school is full of a tight-knit group of overachievers that lookout for each other,” McCord said.

Arguably, the success of Trinity’s athletic department is partially due to the relationship between its athletic and academic departments.

“Our coaches told us that Trinity has a good reputation on campus and with professors, so the coaches expect us to uphold that, which obviously means attending classes and doing work,” said Tara Lujan, a first-year on the women’s soccer team said.

Playing sports in college is not easy. Despite challenges, these first-year athletes relish the opportunity to wear Trinity across their chest, ultimately contributing to a legacy bigger than themselves.

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