Monday, October 22, 2012


There never seems to be a grey area when it comes to transitions. Meaning they either run smoothly or they are doomed from the get go- odds are always 50/50. So when transitioning from summer mode back to super- busy-semester mode how do you make sure the "odds are ever in your favor"?
This summer I took a leap of faith and applied for an internship in Alaska with the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and much to my surprise was accepted into the competitive program. I jetted 4,000 miles, merely days after my last final exam of the semester, on a 16 hour trip that landed directly into a fast paced summer of living, laughing and lifting fifty pound feed bags. For the next three months, I lived with about 10 interns in a single-wide trailer and worked with about 18 interns from all over America. All but two interns (myself and a Hawaiian intern Claire) are still in school and knew when the summer was over it would be back to early mornings and mind numbing study sessions. Needless to say all summer we worked hard during the day and played as hard as the graduates come night time (which in Alaska is still daylight).
As the summer season began to close that familiar uneasy feeling of adjusting to a new set of classes and professors began to rear its ugly head. Reluctantly I began watching chemistry study sessions on my laptop as well as reading up on my classes and emailing professors. I'll tell you now this sort of preparation was new to me, but I was determined to be on my game this semester. It could have had something to do with getting to spend time with so many college graduates and/or having a roommate who actually cared wether I studied or not.
Whatever the reason, my transition into the coming fall semester has been my smoothest to date. Even with missing the first day of classes, thanks to another grueling 14 hour excursion, I don't feel like I'm stepping into the year blind and clumsy. It's like I always say, confidence will get you everywhere in life, well that and a strong wifi connection.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Kaleidoscope of Courage

                 I've been thinking a lot about courage lately.  The dictionary tells us the noun -courage is the ability to do something that frightens one. However ask an athlete and they might say courage is when you know things could get worse or you could get hurt but you persevere or when you know you are more than likely going to fail and you do it anyway. Now ask a student what it means and they might say courage is doing something outside of your comfort zone like taking organic chemistry at 8 a.m. or taking an internship thousands of miles away from home. So what is courage exactly?
         In 1996, Yankees pitcher David Cone thought he could shake it off when his pitching arm went numb during practice. Due to the continued numbness in Cone's arm, coaches decided to bench him for the game. Turns out Cone had an aneurysm in that pitching arm, though he tried to be courageous and continue playing through the pain, that's an instance where courage meant having the strength to speak up and step down. 
         Let's look at another story of possible courage - NBA Boston Celtic's small forward Reggie Lewis. In '93 during off-season practice Lewis was shooting around on the court and died of a heart attack there on the same court that birthed his career. Earlier that year Lewis had collapsed on the court during a play-off season game against the Hornets. At the prime age of 27 Lewis portrayed the athletes definition of courage, doing something though you know things could get worse, all for love of the game.
         While I've been up here in Alaska courage has meant one thing and that's being a team player. That has meant doing anything from herding elk with nothing but your words and wimp-intern linguine arms to being a tour guide for a bus full of disgruntled tourists. Courage isn't something you're born with it's something we all, athletes, students and interns alike, have had to cultivate for ourselves individually. So next time whether it be the final seconds of the game or an unexpected pop-quiz striking fear in your heart, take a breath and jump on it! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My First Time...

I must admit, the first time I did it I was nervous. What if I was terrible at it? What if I got laughed at or worse, wasn't allowed to do it again? You want to prove you are good but the whole time your mind races and your hands shake and you keep hoping no one notices this is your first time. They say, "don't worry everyone is nervous their first time, it's a lot to take in," but they all look like pros when they do it. So I climb up, with my legs shaking, eyes on me and I bust out the pearly whites and say, "GOOOOOD morning! My name's Alexis and welcome to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center"

An instant success as I make my first joke and the tour bus bursts out laughing. Relief. The tour takes maybe 30 minutes tops and it's the most exhilarating, what feels like only seconds, of your life. Oral presentation on crack if you will. In that moment I am tour guide, teacher, friend, comedian, biologist and most importantly an intern at the AWCC just as enthusiastic about wildlife as my audience.

I've had many firsts here at the Center. Rapid fire firsts include, feeding bears, touching bears, bottle feeding moose, musk oxen and sitka deer, feeding a bald eagle, horned owls and lynx. Petting a wood bison, herding elk, shoveling bison "patties" being a tour guide, petting and presenting a porcupine, leading a Disney tour, tasting elk and reindeer, walking a reindeer. Living with 10 roommates and last but not least being totally and completely comfortable with myself 4,000 miles away from everything I know and love and finding new things, people and feelings to be in love with. The other day a woman told me I should get Alaska tattooed around my Texas tat so that I could show the size difference and while I do thank Alaska for giving me the room to grow, I'd never portray Texas as small because she gave me the room to be.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I'm Going in for the Kill, I'm Doing it for the Thrill

I've been thinking about rules lately. Rules run our lives even if we think we are above the law; even in the last frontier rules run the state as wild and strong as the moose. It seems everyday some new rule is being enforced to "better" our lives but working in the ticket booth at the center has shown me that people always want to be the exception to the rule. So is it true that winners never cheat and cheaters never win?

For an athlete cheating makes you weak. Cheating means selling yourself short and shaming your name and who ever else you represent. There are times during training, when your muscles burn and your body begs to quit and that moment of weakness speaks up, "that's good enough, no one will know if you end a lap short, or take this short cut," but all great athletes know the difference between a win based on hard work and dedication versus a win fallaciously gained. So what does a great athlete do? They bust ass until they can perform better than their competition, with in the boundary of the rules.   Your everyday person seems to feel differently however.

Every time I work ticket booth, I say the same spiel "we ask that you please do NOT attempt to feed or pet the animals and keep off the enclosures as they are electric" and you know what? I get the same jokes maybe a hundred times a day. Then we walk around the center and see people trying to reach their hands in, or fussing about the interns feeding the moose bananas and why can't they feed them bananas. What's the deal then? Why do so many people assume they can just act-a-fool. All that really comes to mind is this, after the cold cruel world deals you blow after blow you start to think that someone owes you something. You'd do anything to be rebellious and feel alive and in control again; I figure this because there is a stop sign literally two seconds from my house that has me stop at a bogus four-way stop, so what do I do- run it. Yeah it's unsafe and breaking the law but my goodness does it give me thrills. Alright what was I thinking, let's all live lawless and free y'all- YEEHAW. Not! I know I'm about to sound way cliche but I've practiced what I'm about to preach so check it. What's cooler than cheating and breaking rules and that you can actually control? *Jeapordy theme music plays* Your temper! Be like the athlete that uses mind over muscle and wills their body to preserver. You know that song, "I fought the law and the law won"? Well guess what, the law always does win, so instead of trying to "stick it to the man" stick it to your super ego and control your impulses. There may not be a rush of excitement, like that first bite of brownie-sundae Sunday but I promise the long term effects feel much more rewarding, like a jog to Moose Flats after an 11 hour work day. Oh you know what I mean...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Long Way to Run

I promised I would keep up Sports and the City and I always keep my promises. The next few columns will be special seeing as I’m in Alaska, the sports and city will be focused on sports and situations I’ve encountered while here. You’re smart- I know there is no need to explain…
            So in 1995 Universal released a “true story about an American hero” Balto! As a child I truly just liked the fact that a half wolf could be as awesome and sweet as Balto and that he saved this little girl’s life because she was kind to him when no one else was. Very touching. Today as I think about that movie a lot of great lessons and morals spill from the story line. We have Balto, the protagonist, a half-breed looked down upon by society (as is always the case with society it seems; you’d think after centuries society would stop being so cliché but I digress) decides he can prove his worth and save the children of Nome by leading a dogsled team to retrieve valuable medicine. The elements that seem worth focusing on, as adults, would be the “pure-breed” haters, dogsled teams and proving one’s worth.
Certain people are always going to judge and look down upon others but you’ll have to realize that the reasons for their hate are never because there is something wrong with you (unless you are a low-life miscreant or leech to society) it’s because of their own insecurities. The only way to rid yourself of the haters is just to keep your head high and follow the path in life that makes you happy. Enjoy your life because it’s the only one you may get.
            Now a dogsled team seems very interesting to me because essentially it is a group of powerful animals pulling a human through some of the most unforgiving terrain and harsh weather known to man. If one dog decides to stop carrying its weight or turns on the pack the whole team would fall apart and that human would be up a creek, giving new meaning to the saying, “stay frosty.”
 Working here at the AWCC I realize we are a lot like a dogsled team in reverse. If some of the interns stop caring and give up on carrying their weight the animals we are rehabilitating would not be able to survive. We all rely on each other to know what to do; we pull each other forward in order to reach the same goal- conservation. The Husky is an incredibly intelligent and strong dog and at times hardheaded and stubborn. That describes some of the interns here to a T. What we want to strive for is the Balto character. He would have been happy just being on the team following the pack leader but when he didn’t even get that chance he stepped up as a leader and proved that sometimes those left in charge can’t be followed blindly. Part of being strong and intelligent is knowing your leaders aren’t always right and never trying to lead by threats or fear. The dogs run together out of respect for one another. I believe mutual respect can pull a team throw the harshest of times. So in the grand scheme of life, what are you trying to achieve and how will you prove your worth?  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hollywood Meets Alaska

Today was a very interesting day, at the AWCC, to say the least. The day started like any other- rainy, yet bright and early. As I jogged with my roommate Marcie down the muddy path to the gift shop for work we laughed at being silly and I divulged my horrible nightmares I had during my restless sleep. (Nightmarish dreams that seemed fairly real had been occurring quite frequently since I arrived in Alaska, but I hear that's due to eating sugar late at night and let's face it my diet has sorta turned to rubbish since getting out here.)  Anyway enough about that boring stuff, let's get to the juicy stuff. So I'm at work slaving away on the third floor of the log cabin-style gift shop when, Marcie informs me it's time for my lunch. Sweetness. So there I am in the snack shack just trying to decide between reindeer hotdogs, a pretzel with jalapeno cheese or a pecan bar (I went with the pretzel w/cheese and the pecan bar in case you wanted to know) making stupid out loud comments to myself when a very pretty girl enters the shack as well and begins laughing at my stupid commentary. We exchange a few silly polite words and I grab my items and bid her good day. Only moments later I am told that was Bristol Palin, who I knew had been at the center I just hadn't realized she was still on the premises. For those of you who may not know Bristol is Sarah Palin's eldest daughter and apparently she is filming a new reality TV show about her life and raising her child. Anyway that was my brief run in with a celebrity and the Hollywood scene and I gotta say Bristol is really nice but her TV entourage were awkward and way too attached to their cellular devices. Cliche I know but whataya gunna do?

In other news we threw a surprise party in the barn for an intern Jonathan (who we call Ron and who I and another roommate now call Ernesto) for his birthday. I volunteered to make a new dish, peanut butter cup s'mores bar, and not only was it a huge success but it is now officially my new specialty. OOOOH YEAAAAH. The night was a great one, filled with dancing laughing and a whoooole lot of eating. I vow to start eating better though. I've sworn off pecan bars and I think I'm going to cut myself off of all things snack shack related except the salads and those dang good reindeer hotdogs, I mean how often will I get reindeer once I'm back in Corpus? 
 By the way father's day is coming up real soon, hope you are all thinking of awesome things to do and get your dads! I'll post some cute ideas this weekend never fear haha. Love from Alaska.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

And So it Began...

Whooo Weee! Been in the Great White North for 2 weeks now and still can't get over how beautiful it is. From the moment I arrived and celebrated Jacqueline's birthday at Chilkoot Charlies until today just sitting in my room enjoying my day off, I've loved every second of it. Not even the rainy days can get me down.

Upon arriving I had a few things on my tourist check list. Eat any and all native foods/dishes that Alaska had to offer. So far I've had reindeer sausage/pizza/burgers haha (love it and for those who don't know reindeer is just domesticated Caribou) I've had elk burger, Kale chips, fresh salmon from the grill, bison burgers, fiddle head chips (this peculiar plant in the fern family that must be eaten before it sprouts) as well as a whole slew of Alaskan beers of which the Alaskan Summer is my favorite brew. I even had the pleasure of having a margarita made with ice from a glacier in Prince William Sound. Not worth the price flavor wise haha but the experience was worth it. I hope still to pick up some cooking skills, see the Northern Lights, hear some wolves/ arctic coyotes howling at the moon... see the moon for that matter haha, this 15 hours of sun is strange and yet awesome! Considering day time drinking is one of my new favorite hobbies. Most of all though I just want to take advantage of all the outdoor activities available while I'm here. Granted Corpus has a ton of outdoor activities as well, it's just usually too darn hot to be motivated to do any of them. I find that my constant need to get in shape is often in direct conflict with my love for food. Ah such is life I suppose.

So let's talk more about the 26 glacier cruise I took in Prince William Sound. To get to the area of departure me and a few roommates (Jeremy, Kat, Kara and Nicole who I will be describing in later posts) had to drive through the longest tunnel in America (or at least it was, I heard Boston may have built a longer one now) 2 1/2 miles through a mountain to get to Whittier, where the weather is always shittier or so I'm told. Whittier is a small town, honestly more like a village if I had to be honest with about 150-200 residents who all live in one giant building... yep. that's right. One building!!! This building is smaller than the Galleria in Houston, Texas to put some perspective on the matter. Apparently at one time the town was maintained by the army with two buildings in which everyone lived but when it came time for the military men to leave they offered the people one building to live in and the other now remains nothing but broken down remnants of a time long passed. It all looks very Jurassic Park. Anyway we arrived in Whittier where the weather was fairly nice (not raining and about 40 degrees with partly cloudy skies, that's pretty darn perfect for Alaskan spring weather) and we grabbed a few cups of coffee and the Lazy Otter before boarding the tour boat. "You Otter Try the Coffee" haha. The boat was a roomie two stories of carpeted dinning area along with a smaller third story observation deck. Complete with indoor bar; not too shabby. The tour itself was a 6 hour calm ride through PWS through several fjords of glaciers. We saw mountain goats way up in the most dangerous looking cliffs just grazing on grass with out any fear. There were otters by the hundreds just floating on their backs and lounging on icebergs curiously lifting their heads as we sailed by. We stopped at Surprise Glacier where we were able to witness immense chunks of the glacier plummeting into the icy depths below with loud crashes heard from several hundred feet away. Finally as we were returning back to land, glacier margaritas in hand trying to protect ourselves from wind burn (which I just learned existed haha) we caught a quick glimpse of a Humpback Whale! It was brief and yet beautiful. The whale only submerged to blow but that's all I needed to see to send me into a frenzy. I'm hungry for more, but I'm patient. An attribute I've been working to perfect for quite sometime now.

Perhaps now you'd like to know a little bit about where I'm working and living for the summer? The Alaska Wild Life Conservation Center is one of Alaska's most visited attractions, in fact I recently heard it was the most visited, but that could be area bias hehe. Anyway we (I can say that now being a part of this great project) are a non-profit conservation center that sits on 200 acres of land in Portage Valley. We are part of a town so tiny that it was completely destroyed in a 1969 earthquake (9.1 on the rector scale I believe). The center takes in orphaned, abandoned, injured and over populated animals from around Alaska. This summer alone we've bottle raised two Musk Ox (Walter and Hammond) who were born late winter and were at risk of freezing to death as well as a baby moose (Sullivan) who had been abandoned and attacked by dogs! While he is the most difficult to care for he is also my favorite. Something about his enormous ears and adorable face remind me of Marley which just melts my heart when I see him. Here at the center we have 4 brown bear (one Grizzly, and 3 coastal brown bears. All Grizzly are brown bears but not all brown bears are Grizzly) Hugo, Joe Boxer, Patron and Toguka (pronounced To-Go-Kuh). 2 black bear, Ully and Kuma as well as 3 grown moose. Jack the oldest moose of 4 years now can be seen in several movies including Into the Wild :) Gilly and Nelson are our two younger adult moose and they all loooove bananas! We have two Lynx, two Great Horned Owls (Hooty and Snappy haha) as well as one Bald Eagle Adonis who is incredible to see and really awesome to feed. Jewelie is our Sitka Black-tailed deer and she is just the sweetest animal here. There is also Snickers the porcupine who is something of the Justin Bieber of Alaska. Snickers the man, the porcupine (click it to see the little dude, and yes I have pet him with out gloves and hand fed him, he really is like a dog). We have Elk, Reindeer (not Caribou because they are domesticated for the most part now) Musk Oxen and the crown jewel of the center Wood Bison! We hope to raise about 150 Wood Bison in Captivity and release them in three areas far North of Alaska where their traditional stomping grounds used to be in groups of 50 or so and observe if they can sustain themselves. The Wood Bison had been extinct in Alaska by the late 1900s and wasn't until about 2004 did anyone begin to think to bring them back. Ours came from a small group in Canada. Since I arrived I've seen (not the actual birthing process) over 20 bison babies born. The first bison to be born since their extinction was in 2005 right here at the center. Larger than the Plains Bison of the lower 48 they are the largest terrestrial mammal of North America and they are a sight to see my friends. I'm actually planning on getting a tattoo of my rendition of one in honor of being able to run with them.

Finally I want to talk about the incredible bike rides I've been on while here. First with Jac through the Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage which was a rather difficult up and down hill ride through thick woods along the beach. Saw wild moose and several water fowl. Then yesterday I took a 12 mile bike ride from the center to Portage Lake. We biked a steady pace through the Chugach National Forest with snow capped mountains on either side of us. The streams were fast moving and the water was exactly the same color of Gatorade Icy Glacier Freeze (my favorite flavor). Just as I and another roommate Kate wanted so badly to turn back because our bikes were hanging on by their last threads the others urged us to keep going and then a short 3 minutes later we had arrived! Though very much frozen the lake was beautiful. We threw black stones onto the water and laughed as it made a nose much like breaking glass once it hit the thin ice. Well I must be off, going into Girdwood to send off some mail. Yep even the nearest post office is a good 20 minute drive to another town haha.

 Stay Frosty Friends!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Every New Beginning Comes from Some Other Beginning's End

The last Sports and the City I posted was the final column I'd ever be writing for the Island Waves. Such a bitter sweet moment. On the plus side Sports and the City is my column so I'll be keeping it up on my blog, so never fear my adoring fans haha.

I finally made it to the Great White North known as Alaska. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is more amazing than I imagined. I fall deeper in love with the place everyday. So considering I'll be here all summer I'll be simply talking about my time here but have no fear, I will also try and throw in a few events I know about going on in Corpus. Just because I'm not at home doesn't mean I won't be keeping up with my city. I stay steady reppin' the 361 y'all ;)

Updates coming soon, I promise!

Write to Feel Right, You Just Might

Every year starts the same way. You walk in the classroom the first day, pick up a syllabus and see the learning objective for that course. Until recently my only course objectives have always only been to pass. As far as studying goes, I rank at the bottom of the competitor curve. When a competitive athlete trains they always train with the mentality of getting better, improving their abilities or reaching a certain goal. With this logic in mind I started using the same reasoning in the classroom.
            At the professional and at some higher education establishments, athletes are required (or at least encouraged) to keep a journal. This journal gives the athletes a place to set goals, reflect, grapple with issues, keep track of training issues and record results. The journal can be used for anything really, but it is meant to help the athlete keep the mind clear and ultimately a goal in focus. Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling used to be seen writing in his journal between innings while tennis pro Serena Williams uses her journal as a motivational focus tool.
            In my International Marketing class I began to think about these journals and as I wrote down notes during the lecture I began also taking note of my questions on certain topics as well as general comments about my feelings on the topics of the lecture. I found that it was way less nerve racking to attend office hours with these questions and comments prepared and way more helpful. While some of you maybe thinking, “wow, this girl is just figuring that out?!” I hope a good majority of you are feeling inspired to change up your own learning objectives.
            I read over a few athlete journal prompts and decided to tweak them for students willing to give it a try.
-What do you dislike about yourself as a student and why?
- Think back to a time when you failed or performed poorly on a test you were sure you’d do well on. Describe your feelings.
-What is your favorite place to study and why?
- Why can this statement hold true: “Some days, doing poorly is the most important result that could happen.”
-What is a good student?
-If you were to apply for a job that would build your career for your adult life, why would that employer hire you? What do you have to offer as of right now? Given more time what could you offer in the future?
            Take one or all of these prompts, answer them at the beginning of your notebook and look back on them throughout the year or keep them in mind as you strive to progress throughout the school year.  I can’t say if they will help you, but they certainly couldn’t hurt.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Fan of a Different Color

Being an athlete resembles a lot of what being an ancient gladiator used to be minus the slavery and life or death situations of course. What I mean is, like some gladiators, athletes volunteer to compete for the honor and glory that comes with winning and also for the enjoyment of sports fans everywhere. While the competitors and the stakes have changed quite a bit, the fans haven’t changed much at all. Fans worldwide are still known for going crazy in the stands but also going above and beyond when it comes to supporting their team. So it’s no wonder why an athlete would be willing to put their reputation and their body on the line for the admiration received from fans. However at the end of the day the greatest fans we all share are our best friends and family.
            In Japan, fans go berserk over baseball.  The longest game ever played in Japan was between the Chiba Lotte Marines and Chunichi Dragons, which lasted 5 hours and 43 minutes. That’s almost 6 hours of fans cheering and slamming plastic clapping sticks together. Once the game had ended the fans even stuck around for the post game interview with the MVPs instead of booking it for the parking lot.
            Just about anywhere you find soccer you’ll find football hooligans. A hooligan is someone who belongs to a firm or type of fan-based gang that supports a soccer team by any means necessary. Firms have been known to riot when things don’t go well for their team. In some instances stadium walls have collapsed, cops have had to use tear gas and water cannons on the rioters and people have been killed.
            American NBA and NFL fans alike are perhaps best known for their painted faces, intense headgear (ranging from a ten inch afro to a giant cheese slice) and willingness to camp outside a stadium for days just to get choice seats.
            So sure, fans that are willing to listen to you for half of their waking day are great. Fans willing to die or face Mother Nature’s harshest weather just to support you are pretty great also. But the greatest fans of all are the ones who remember when you cried after Mufasa was trampled by that stampede of wildebeest. The fans that took you out for pizza even when you didn’t win. The fans you called at 3 a.m. for anything, whether it was motivation, consoling or a bailout. Our best friends and families have been the rowdiest bunch of hooligans we’ve had the honor of growing up with. So here is to the fans that will still think we are heroes, win or lose. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Second Best Still Beats the Rest

Now that summer is almost here, many of us Islanders are bracing ourselves for impact with summer 2012. Whether that means signing up for summer sessions, packing for internships or taking that dive into the “real world” by graduating, we will all be competing for a top spot somewhere. I myself will be trading my sandals and shorts for hiking boots and subzero pants for an internship in Alaska. However this wasn’t the only internship I had applied for in the Great White North or in the World for that matter. The whole process made me wonder just when do you decide to throw in the towel?
            My favorite example has to be Olympic figure skater, Michelle Kwan. She began seriously training when she was eight years old with her sister. By the time Kwan was ten she had financially crippled her family in order to pay for skating coaches and rink time. At the age of 13 Kwan competed as an alternate in the 94’ Winter Olympics taking home 8th place. Then competed in 98’ Winter Olympics only to be awarded the silver. Finally when all of America thought the 02’ Winter Olympics would be her year, Kwan is robbed and settles with the bronze. By the time the 06’ Olympics rolled around Kwan faced one set back after another and ultimately said “Joi gin” (goodbye in Cantonese) to life at the Olympic level.
            Before you stop reading and start assuming I left you with a terrible underdog story think of it like this, Kwan not only made several multi-million dollar endorsement deals in the years she spent figure skating but also got the opportunity to travel around the world, appear in several movies and TV series (like the Simpsons) and she’s also probably the only figure skater you can name (if you can name others you probably aren’t from South Texas).
            But perhaps a simpler tale of relentless underdogs would be that of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, Notre Dame’s 1975 defensive end. After two years at a private college trying to prove he was fighting Irish material, Rudy was accepted on his fourth try in 1974. Another grueling year later he makes the practice squad and literally the last opportunity he would ever get to play for Notre Dame is given to him his senior year the final play against Georgia Tech where he manages to sack the quarterback and is to this day only one of two players to ever be carried off the Notre Dame football field.
            So you see Islanders, it’s not always whether you are the “best” or finish in first place that counts, sometimes it’s all about who’s going to remember you when you aren’t on top. What stories will people tell when you aren’t around? If this is your last play, you better make it count. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Don't Stress Success

In life we are always competing for something always striving to be the best, to be first. Some want to be the first to start a trend, others want to make the best grades and some of us just want to show the world we made it through college without needing to be institutionalized. However when it comes to sports competitions the athlete always has a set of rules when going up against their competitors. So I wonder, in the competition known as college life, are there any rules when it comes to being successful?
Student-athletes make sacrifices to play their sport. They abide by rules, give up their free time for practice and games, forgo time with friends, miss out on school breaks, and sometimes miss class due to their athletic schedules all in hopes of being a top competitor. To gain the privilege of being a student-athlete, they must follow rules and regulations because once that athletic uniform is worn they not only represent themselves but their team, their sport and their school.
I was surfing the Internet at the usual ungodly wee hours of the morning and stumbled upon a video of Arnold Schwarzenegger during his Mr. Universe years. I’d like to share Schwarzenegger’s six rules for success. 1. Trust yourself no matter what anyone else thinks. 2. Break the rules, not the law. It is impossible to be a maverick if you don’t think outside the box. 3. Don’t be afraid to fail; you can’t be paralyzed by fear because you have to push yourself. 4. Don’t listen to the naysayers, people are always going to say you can’t but those people don’t matter. 5. Work your butt off. You sleep 6 hours a day, that gives you 18 hours left and if you sleep longer than 6 hours, I’d recommend sleeping faster. There is always someone getting better or smarter out there, remember that. 6. A very important rule, give back. Whatever path you take in life you must remember to give something back to your community, your successors and your country.
Now that we are in college the guidelines that govern our lives are completely up to us. You aren’t always going to win but that doesn’t mean you aren’t always going to learn something. Now is the time to do something just to say you did it and I’m not talking about breaking the law either.
It took my entire adolescent life to realize there is no such thing as “the best” there is only current record holders. With that in mind begin writing your rules for success today. My first rule to surviving college and beyond is simple- breath. 

Lead Me to Fresh Water and I Will Drink

After reading book one of the Hunger Games, it’s evident that a good mentor can make the difference between life and death. The story is about a sort of battle royal that occurs each year for the enjoyment of a country. As children are chosen for these murder Olympics they are allowed mentoring from a past survivor, from their district, for the games. Unfortunately the protagonist’s mentor is a lousy drunk. That’s how life goes though, sometimes you’ll get a mentor that teaches you to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” and sometimes you’ll get a mentor who shows you everything not to be.
One of my favorite relationships between mentor and mentee is the one shared between Bob Bowman and Michael Phelps. Bowman has been sculpting Phelps into a world-champion gold medalist since he was 11 years old. Videos of training sessions I’ve seen with the two show Bowman being paternal, adversarial, and an inspirational friend to Phelps.  In a 2008 interview with ESPN Bowman said, “I like to keep the pressure up, when someone is that good you have to push them, not until they break just until they are giving you their best.”
Of course some leaders look to achieve a goal and lose sight of the mentees they are supposed to help reach that goal. In 1992 Hollywood gave us The Mighty Ducks. Hot shot lawyer Gordon Bombay is sentenced to community service in coaching one of the worst little league hockey teams ever. Bombay finally realizes he needs to earn the respect of the team and learns how to reach the kids on their own level. Bombay shows taking on a leadership role, like mentor, requires not only time but also dedication. The whole point is to teach your successor to one day be as good as, if not better than, you.
Seeing as we are all trying to grow up we no longer look for paternal mentors and those of us not involved in sports aren’t looking for someone to be adversarial about how we live our lives but what we are all looking for in a leader and mentor is inspiration. A breath of fresh air when our collegiate lives become stagnant. When the long hours put into physically challenging our bodies no longer seems to be paying off we need motivation. When all the hours spent studying and reading and writing have our brains the consistency of Play-Doh we need inspiration. When every good idea we have has been shot down and no one seems to be listening we need consolation. They say, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink,” but a great leader knows the path you lead the horse must leave it so thirsty it wouldn’t think twice about taking a drink of whatever is presented.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Time and Overtime

They say you learn from your mistakes. What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger and all those other clichés that are supposed to make you feel better about losing. But when it comes to life lessons, do we have the time to correct our mistakes before the final buzzer?
            In sports world, athletes have coaches pointing out the areas they need to improve on. In life we call them parents, mentors, older siblings and sometimes friends. Athletes watch video before playing their competition to learn the other team’s strength and weaknesses. While we often don’t see our mistakes until they end up on YouTube the next morning. All the while, athletes, practice day in and day out on the same plays or techniques they intend on using to win the game. For many of us, “life is like a box of chocolates, never knowing what you’re gunna get.”
            Down by two in the last moments of Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Jerry West infamously dribbled past Walt Frazier and heaved a 60-foot shot that went in like it was a free throw. While this was a clutch moment, ultimately, the Lakers lost in overtime.
In the 2009 Wimbledon, Roger Federer during the second set won five straight points in the tiebreak against Andy Roddick down 6-2 to win the set and even the game at a set all. Both Federer and Roddick played 29 games of no break tennis until finally Federer proved to be the most clutch and won the match.
A bit of local history, on November 8, 2001 Roy Miller High School beat Mary Carroll High School 38 to 37 after 8 years of losing to the Tigers in football. The Buccaneers won the game by a field goal in over time also making it their first time to the play offs in 25 years.
The place: The Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. The players: Martin Laird, Cameron Percy and Jonathon Byrd, each tied at 21-under after regulation. They played three sudden-death playoff holes, each taking turns teetering on the edge of disaster. With darkness fast approaching, they agreed to play one more hole. Byrd stepped up to the tee on the 204-yard par-3 17th, and smacks the ball over the lake, past the sand trap onto the green where it rolled majestically into the hole for a sudden death ace.
As far as games are concerned, mistakes can be made and still made up for in over-time.  As for life, it’s better explained in the wise words of a certain Marshall Mathers, “you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime.” There is no over-time in the game of life so when that final buzzer rings make sure you’re MVP.  

A league of Our Own

With all things in life there will be those that motivate you to be better, possibly the best and things that leave you exhausted yet underwhelmed. Meaning you aren’t always going to be pinch-hitting the ninth inning of a deciding World Series game. Sometimes you’ll be waiting in the dugout. Regardless of how important or tedious your position may seem the whole point of a team is to work together to be greater than all your solo counterparts. Why doesn’t this logic hold true in the classroom?
            I’ve been lucky enough to experience classes with professors that walk in the first day and immediately instill the feeling that their class will be the one you actually gain something from, if you put in the time and effort. Then there are the other types of classes: the professor you can’t bring yourself to respect course, the homework and tests all seem to be just time killers instead of learning aids course or the required for your major but I-never-plan-on-using-the-material course. It’s these classes I find my fellow Islanders surfing Facebook and Twitter, among other sites, the most. The worst part about these classes is, I lose interest in attending class, I don’t feel the need to participate in class discussions and I rarely put in the proper study time for the exams. So surprisingly, or ok not so surprisingly, these classes often earn me my lowest grades at the end of the semester.
            I think many students, including myself, are going about this class thing all wrong. We lead ourselves to believe this class sucks therefore we do the bare minimum to pass. Instead we should look at each class as being on a team. This means getting to know the students who sit around you. Asking and answering questions when the professor begins to sound like Ferris Bueller’s economics teacher and offering to share your knowledge to the kid that just muttered how stupid the class is after receiving a low grade.
Universities don’t earn merit based on an individual’s success, but by the overall success of every graduating class. Instead think of your mundane classes like Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy. The football team decides they will always suck until an unlikely outcast, Bobby Boucher, inspires his teammates to believe in themselves and of course the beauty of high-quality H20. While the team sucked, as may your class, they had to play as if they weren’t the worst team in Louisiana in order to become the best. We have the privilege, to be on the same “team” as some of the greatest scholars studying in South Texas, utilize it!  This is a wake up call to the professors, the coaches of the classroom, as well. Just as an athlete needs a coach the student cannot become the master if there is no master to succeed.  

Stalemate Tailgate

I remember thinking, in highschool, the only good thing about pep rallies was skipping them to get out of school early. It really wasn't until my senior year, when I became the mascot and took on the responsibility of boosting school spirit, that I fully appreciated having school spirit and what it meant to support a team.

      Then came college and all the glory of the "adult" pep rally, better known as tailgating. While I was attending the University of Texas at Austin I made sure never to miss a tailgating event. It was a magical time where total strangers would gather to share laughs, debates, beers and BBQ. However the greatest aspect about tailgating, isn't the beer and BBQ although those are an extremely close second, it's the sense of really being apart of something. The rush of cheering on your team as they prepare to defend your honor against the rivals, like troops going to war. I think tailgating is a way to connect the fans to the players.

       I have to admit it was a real shame when I came to Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi and found that tailgating didn't really stand for the same things. The Islanders that actually do show up to tailgate appear to use the time to build animosity towards the other team instead of showing unrelenting love for their own. When your team goes in to battle for a win feeling unsupported, they go in wanting a win for themselves. They can't draw that extra drive that only comes from knowing hundreds of people are counting on them. Supporting your school and showing school spirit is the best way to show university faculty that you value your school and therefore should be seen as an important aspect to university life not just another body in a classroom. I look at tailgating like an old childhood playground favorite- Red Rover. You call for your opponent to come over and dare them to break "the chain" (your hands clasped to teammates'). Try as your opponent might if they cannot break your chain they are forced to become one with your team. This should be tailgating. Your opponent cannot break your support for your team therefore they must respect them for gaining such a loyal following. 

       Sports and life are one in the same, you are going to win some and lose some. In the end, it's like a wise man once said, "Those who do not stand for something, will fall for anything." So stand at your tailgate, inspire your fellow Islanders with love for their team and let your rivals know we will fall to no one. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ice Ice Baby

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend my first IceRays game coincidently it was also my very first hockey game. I had always found hockey to be seemingly slow and dull. Dudes prancing around an ice rink whacking each other with sticks, yeah that was an instant channel change. However, I had a friend visiting from New York that week and he swore up and down hockey was the only way to go, so I figured we’d both try something new and cheer on the IceRays.
The moment we got to the ABC a couple in front of us had two spare tickets they offered up free of charge. So far I loved this sport. We grabbed ourselves an ice-cold brew (no pun intended) and made our way to our seats, directly behind the glass and right next to the penalty box. It hadn’t been more than two minutes before a fight broke out among two of the players. Gloves off, fists flying, blood staining the white ice- brutality at its finest. I sipped my beer and settled in excitedly as the crowd rooted and roared. It wasn’t long into the game that I began to really appreciate how gracefully these guys were gliding around controlling this tiny puck on ice. Then out of nowhere, BAM, they would just smack straight into each other causing the crowd and myself to whip into a state of frenzy. I was in love. Hockey not only gave me the excitement I’d been looking for in a sport but it also some how brought the crowd together in a way I had yet to experience in Corpus. It wasn’t the beer or the drop in temperature either.
I realized just how relatable hockey was. As a student I often find myself drifting from class to class as quickly and effortlessly as possible. It isn’t until someone shouts my name, bumps into me in the breezeways or a long boarder cuts me off that I even notice I’m walking around a campus on an island. I think we are all just trying to glide through our time here until the inevitable “body check” occurs and we are thrown into a spiral of frustration; the metaphorical fist fight. I fight studying early for exams. I fight the project I’ve been given all semester to complete, until a week before D-day. Sometimes I even fight the effort to give my fellow Islanders a friendly smile. It’s not until you have fought all these things that you realize you have placed yourself in the penalty box.
Maybe we all just need the occasional support from the crowd, the shouting of encouraging words and the occasional pounding on the glass. This means no more walking coma. Ace the exam, get to the project promptly, and smile at strangers- hat trick. 


I was recently reading “Sports Page Magazine” and was pleasantly surprised to see the Islanders had made the cut of the “Top 100 Most Unique Collegiate Mascots.” However the article had nothing to actually say about Izzy or his legend and because one of the first stories I ever wrote for the Island Waves was on the tiki-masked man himself, I decided to take the chance once again to talk about Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi’s unique spirit.
            Not long ago (2004), Tarpie left the school’s spirit in Izzy’s hands in order to return to the sea. They say it’s better down where it’s wetter, but perhaps that’s a marine biologist’s bias. Regardless, Izzy worked to please alumni as well as hype current and in-coming students, which for going to school on an island would seem like a pretty easy thing to do, but he had his work cut out for him. After about seven years, however, Izzy’s seaweed hair and liberal grass skirt were seen as “creepy” by some, while others felt Izzy’s laid back demeanor portrayed the school in a negative way.  Heaven forbid we let today’s society see us as too laid back. Thankfully instead of sending Izzy back to life in a hut, he was given a pair of board shorts and a hair cut. While I was a bit upset anyone felt the need to civilize Izzy, I also know how hard it is to wear a skirt on the daily and expect to be taken seriously.
            I still hear how creepy and weird Izzy is, from time to time, but isn’t that exactly why we love him? He’s our spirit. He’s the laid back happy go lucky beach bum we all hope to be, after we’ve received degrees and high paying jobs to buy the perfect beach villa. My only concern with Izzy has always only been his fair skin. For being an Islander the man rocks the SPF better than a lifeguard. This doesn’t make him creepier than the UC Santa Cruz banana slug though.
            Whether Izzy is pale, or creepy, a hippy, a beach bum or whatever, he is the spirit of our island, the face of the student body, the skill that dominates our competition and the hug of a friend when times get tough. Would you rather be the Volunteers or the Friars or even worse, the Lumberjacks? So the next time you want to hate on your spirit ask yourself this, is it better to be remembered for originality or be characterless and conform only to float through life and then fade away? 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No Pain, No Gain

My first day of school started in beyond excruciating, pain. All day it felt like I had a blunt, iron-rod piercing my chest and spine. However, I spent my nine-hour day on campus smiling, attending all my classes and generally taking care of business as usual. That night I spent hours trying to catch my breath and fall asleep. Around 5 a.m., I sprang out of bed to puke up some of the foulest, swamp water looking, bile I had ever seen. Determined to make it to day two (or the first day of Tuesday, Thursday classes) I threw myself into a steamy bath and tried mentally psyching myself up for class at 11. After countless futile attempts to alleviate the pain, at 10:30 I threw in the towel; fading in and out of consciousness I had a friend take me to the emergency room. I listened all day, to nurses and doctors asking why I’d waited so long to get checked out, as they poked me with needles and performed numerous tests. Later, diagnosed with “unspecified abdominal pain and vomiting” I thought what a waste of two school days that pain had caused. I had to wonder, how often do we ignore mental and physical pain in order to reach our goals?

          In 1972, Muhammad Ali fought Ken Norton and suffered a broken jaw from a killer hook. Despite his better judgment, Ali decided to keep fighting. The 12-round bout was decided by split decision in favor of Norton, costing Ali the heavyweight title belt and giving him his second loss ever.

          First game of the 1988 World Series, Kirk Gibson sat in the clubhouse getting treatment on his sprained hamstring and knee. It was assumed he would not be playing since he wasn’t even on the bench. But come the 9th inning, the Dodgers were down 4-3 with two outs and Dennis Eckersley on the mound. So the injured Gibson was called to pinch-hit. After two gross looking swings and misses, on a 3-2 count, Gibson hits a walk off home run to end the game. His hobble around the bases has become probably the most replayed baseball clip ever. Amazingly, he was so hurt that this was his only time at bat for the entire World Series.

          During the 1996 Olympics, the gymnastics gold medal was up in the air for the US and Russia. On her first vault, Kerri Strug landed awkwardly on her ankle, suffering a third-degree lateral sprain and tendon damage. Struggling to attempt her second try, Strug surprisingly stuck the final vault, guaranteeing the US gold. Then was carried off by her creepy mustachioed coach.

          Everyone knew Tiger was hurting during the 2008 US Open. The pain wiped across his face with every stroke. It was painful to watch and probably more painful to actually experience. But he came back to force a sudden death playoff with Rocco Mediate after sinking a now legendary 12-foot birdie putt. He went for par on the sudden-death hole and won his 14th major. Two days later, it was revealed that Woods had a torn ACL and two stress fractures in his tibia and was going to miss the rest of the year after knee surgery. A torn ACL knocks the average NFL player out of the game immediately. Woods won a goddamn major championship with those injuries. (The number of sanchas Woods played-through-the-pain with we’ll probably never know.)

          Determination can be a powerful anesthesia, however sometimes it’s ok to admit when it’s too much. When it comes to an education, the important thing is surviving for another season.

They've Got Spirit, How 'Bout You?

Can you imagine waiting in line, through the wee hours of the morning, just to score a pair of new sneakers at 5 a.m.? I recently read a story about a man that was stabbed seven times while he was waiting in line to get a pair of Nike Air Jordan XI Concord sneakers. Now while I think that’s just the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard of lately, I can’t help but think back on all the crazy things I thought were worth waiting for all night. *cough* Harry Potter *cough*. At what point do we get sucked into total obsession over athletic endorsements and how exactly can that celebrity endorsed cool factor be applied to Corpus Christi athletes?

Corpus definitely has the potential to pack arenas, after the hordes of people I witnessed on Black Friday I’m sure of that, but that still doesn’t seem to be enough to pack the stands at sporting events. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a Hooks’ game and been allowed to choose a better seat because What-A-Burger Field was basically deserted. So then what exactly are Corpus teams missing? There are a lot of excuses like, tickets are too pricey, Corpus teams are boring to watch, or my favorite “I just didn’t know anything was happening.” Honestly though, I think the only thing Corpus teams are missing is support. Unfortunately support only comes during successful seasons and successful seasons only come from supporters cheering, for all they are worth until their voices go hoarse. It’s a vicious cycle.

          Excited to start the new school year right, a friend 
and I attended the Islanders

women’s basketball game against UTSA on the 11th hoping to get tastes of that school spirit energy; you know the kind that has you rooting on the edge of your seat at each basket. What we got was a scattered group of students with really only about a third of them making any effort to root the team on. For the most part though, the "cheering" was more drunken slurs at the opposing team if anything. I think I saw more support for Shaun White’s clothing line at Target recently. Fans support the Flying Tomato because he’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and can work a half-pipe as easily as he would a snow covered mountain. On the other hand, take Lebron James- the man hasn’t won one ring since he was drafted to the NBA in 2003 yet he has billboards dedicated to him, a Nike clothing line and millions of fans worldwide. In James’ case winning doesn’t appear to be everything.

But what all of these sports celebrities have in common is the connection to their fans and community. Some of them achieve this by touring the state and motivating the youth, others endorse items that give the common-man something to come together over and some win games with such grace and modesty that it’s impossible to ignore. Though it’s been a rough season for just about all my favorite Texas teams I think they still have what it takes to turn things around and ignite the interest they have been thirsting for. We really just need a few hometown heroes to remind us why we fell in love with the game.