Monday, September 30, 2013

Social Suicide and Other Sacrifices

As students who all hope to someday make enough money to support ourselves, and our future endeavors, we often find ourselves extremely busy. Often I find myself torn between going out and staying in.  However when the opportunity is too great to pass up, sacrifices must be made in order to move my academic/professional life forward.

I was recently sent to San Diego, California to attend a conference hosted by the Marine Technology Society. It was incredible to say the least. However having to miss three days of labs, classes and extracurricular activities is certainly not incredible.

I began the search to see just how far someone would go to advance his or her career.

No one sacrifices more than Olympians. Their time, bodies and social life all must be sacrificed for the greater good. Three years ago, at the age of 14, Gabby “flying squirrel” Douglas left her mom, her three siblings and her two dogs and moved from Virginia to Iowa to work with an Olympic caliber coach, Liang Chow, who coached Shawn Johnson to Olympic gold and silver in 2008.

When Abby Johnston's diving coach moved from Columbus, Ohio to Charlotte, North Carolina to coach at Duke University, Johnston went with him. The Olympic silver medalist in synchronized diving got an apartment and took online courses, missing all of the awesomeness of her senior year. The pursuit of an Olympic dream also impacted the family and Johnston's two sisters, with vacations planned around diving meets - sometimes-even holidays played second fiddle to diving.

Beach volleyball player Jennifer Kressy is now well into her thirties and still sacrificing for her Olympic team. After missing the 2008 games by 50 points, Kressy spent the next set of four years living out of her suitcase and training pretty much every day. Rarely seeing her family except for special events and having to Skype date her boyfriend who is a French volleyball player are some of the sacrifices Kressy has made for her career.

No Olympian has sacrificed quite as much as weightlifter Sarah Robles. Though Robles is the highest ranked weightlifter in the United States, she was living off of $400 a month, from weightlifting, up until 2012. Robles would live off food stamps and anonymous donations to make ends meet all so that she could continue training for the Olympics.

Even our athletes here at the Island University make sacrifices in order to be better. They often begin their workouts before the sun rises and end their days well after the sun has set. That schedule sounds a lot like the life of a STEM student and so we are all brought together by the need to sacrifice the frivolous for the unforgettable.

While students and athletes alike are out on the hunt for a better future they should always keep in mind that compromise and sacrifice can be a helpful tool to reaching goals but one should never sacrifice who they are for what they think they should be.

On behalf of the entertainment you take for granted...

With the new Drake CD being released I took the time to listen to a few of his earlier classics. “Thank Me Now” really struck me when Drake says “I swear sports and music are so synonomous, ’cause we wanna be them and they wanna be us”

The parallels between music and sports are quite interesting. Both bring people together. People from all walks of life can agree that music and sports are two things everyone (typically) is willing to talk about in some way or form. They are also conversation topics that even if the conversers don’t agree that there never seems to be a draw-your-weapons finish.

So then I had to wonder, do we take in actuality take entertainment and sports for granted? I often hear, “I really don’t care for sports,” or “Sports are so boring, I have no idea what’s going on.” To address the former statement I have to say that sports cares about you. What would sports be with out adoring fans. Likewise a musician without fans would just be a bum on a microphone.

To those who feel lost when watching a sport, perhaps that sport just isn’t your cup of tea. I too feel lost when attending the “Sounds of the Underground” show hosted annually in Corpus. Mainly because death metal or hard rock is not a music I prefer to listen to, always found it too hard to study with in the background.

Try out a different sport just as you would try listening to a new band. I often feel that students who dabble in playing instruments better appreciate certain music. Taking that into consideration it would seem if you went and played a little five-on-five half court with some friends you’d be more inclined to understand basketball unless you’re playing prison rules.

It seems that, especially today, everyone constantly wants more, more, more. They want a faster runner, the newest single, a newer arena. Very few stop to look back and appreciate the first runners, the breakthrough album or the stadium that started it all.

So maybe this year we take a new approach to life on the island. Maybe this year we stop fussing about no football team and become really psyched over out futbol team. Maybe we take the time to notice our fast runners and our tough tennis players and the baseball field in our backyards.

I notice with the lack of parking I no longer take any parking spot for granted, maybe that’s how we should see our sports on the island. Must we wait until things get bad before we appreciate what we had? I say this year we open our eyes and our hearts and clap hard for our entertaining athletes. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Rival That

Monday marked the 37th time tennis pros Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal played each other in a championship. In the 45 years since tennis went professional, no two players have faced each other this many times, though John McEnroe and Ivan Lendle came close some decades back.

The U.S. Open had me thinking about several things, mostly rivalries and second chances. Do rivalries make us stronger or does the constant reminder that someone out there is capable of exploiting our weaknesses only add to the anxiety?

Growing up the youngest and the only girl amongst two older brothers meant a constant battle to prove I could be one of the boys. Every week it was some new challenge of who could bike the furthest, skate the hardest or defeat the most villains on Contra.

To this day I still get anxiety around Easter time because the family Easter egg hunt always consisted of my brothers watching me collect the eggs and then the worst of atomic wedgies until I surrendered my basket.

Things calmed down a little once we all grew older, gained unique interests and out grew Easter egg hunts. However the need to compete always stayed with us. I believe it was that early rivalry that truly helped me succeed in high school and become such a driven student at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Now I enjoy surrounding myself with intelligent and driven individuals because I believe it challenges me to compete, for lack of a better word, and to also push myself to higher standards.
Interestingly enough I read The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey a few years back to help me compete in UIL guitar competitions and learned a few valuable tips for competition in everyday life.

I gave up long ago playing the number game. I’m sure you’re familiar with the game. The person sitting next to you asking how the exam went for you, while explaining what a hard time they had in order to illicit a response about your grade so that they can then proceed to boast about how their grade was higher. That game.

We are for the most part, what we claim to be. Those who practice positive self-talk tend to perform better, work harder and achieve more than those who criticize themselves on mistakes. 

Maintaining relaxed focus is something Gallwey explains beautifully in his book. Think of it like riding a bike- something you never forget. While riding a bike the cyclist rarely thinks about how poorly they are peddling or how they could improve their posture. During the ride the cyclist simply lets their body carry out the task it has done so many times before while letting their mind wander.

Next time the competition gets stiff and the rivalry has your anxiety level at record highs, keep calm and ride your metaphorical bike it will be all right.  

Let Your Freak Flag Fly

With football season well underway I have been giving quite a bit of thought to the Aaron Hernandez case (anyone as tired hearing about it as I am?). Whether he killed a man or not is not what I have been giving any thought to, though the thought of such a crime for a star athlete to commit is heinous. However I have been questioning the implications Hernandez’s crime has placed on the NFL.

For my readers who have paid no mind to the case here is the twenty-second spiel. New England Patriots’ tight end, Aaron Hernandez was arrested and convicted for first-degree murder of Odin Lloyd in late June. This came as a shock to fans nation wide considering Hernandez had just signed a $40-million contract with the Patriots only months before his arrest.
Since Hernandez’s arrest rumors have been flying that the NFL is talking about hiring police experts to analyze players’ tattoos to determine whether or not they are affiliated with gangs, murderous cults or the like.

Apparently it is not illegal to discriminate against someone for certain tattoos and piercings in the NFL, however it maybe an overreach. The ridiculousness of these rumors is that they are not rumors at all. Whether or not the NFL will actually implement this plan is another story.
Imagine being discriminated against for your tattoos, piercings, manner of dress or even unnatural hair color. That is what I think when I hear the NFL’s plan. Sounds like the days of parochial grade schools.
Suppose the NFL implements this plan and things coincidentally shape up in the athletic world. What would stop other institutions from implementing the same strategy? What if students were suddenly discriminated against for the same reasons keeping them from attending institutions of higher education?

This thought of legally being able to be discriminated on for tattoos and piercings disturbs me greatly because I have several piercings and tattoos that could be seen as questionable especially for an emerging scientist and woman non the less.

What if someone had the right to suddenly deny me my marine biology degree because I have a tattoo on the inside of my lip that could be construed as anti-establishment?

For someone to suddenly decide that something seen externally is enough grounds to revoke someone’s dreams and hard work is the most frightening thought. Have we not learned that discrimination on the physical level never turns out well for either party? If we allow this sort of thing to occur in the media and in our entertainment we may very well find it creeping into our actual lives. Creeping into our schools and our work places.

The point is, don’t let anyone in a perceived place of power make you feel inferior or embarrassed for the way you choose to look. So you look like a Shadowhunter from the Mortal Instruments series, so what. As long as you are proving people wrong that tattoos and piercings do not affiliate you with a gang, low intelligence or drug use there will be no room for discrimination.