NTID-Supported Athletes at RIT - Blog

NTID-Supported Athletes at RIT

Athlete Blog


Welcome to the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Athletes at RIT website! This is the home website for the newly founded NTID Athlete Development Program.

My name is Skip Flanagan, and I’m the new NTID Athlete Development Program Coordinator. I wear many different hats in this role, but my priority is to create an inclusive environment for all deaf and hard-of-hearing student athletes to thrive at the varsity level. In addition, for the lack of better description, I “coach” the coaches on how to coach deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes.

I have been very fortunate to be given the opportunity to play collegiate baseball for the Tigers here, and my journey through the world of intercollegiate athletics led me to this role. I played four years of baseball here, co-captained the team my senior year, and then played a season of professional baseball with the Old Orchard Beach Surge of the North Country Baseball League.

When I returned to campus for my fifth year, I began to work part-time as the NTID Student-Athlete Liaison. Upon graduation, the position became a full-time one, I realized this was what I wanted, I felt the deep need to give back, provide guidance for all deaf and hard-of-hearing student athletes everywhere.

I wanted to improve my education and skillset in order to make a greater impact, so I am currently taking graduate courses from the University of Washington’s Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership program while working in this position. This position allows me to apply my advanced education and play a positive role in improving the student-athlete experience for everyone while creating inclusive environments among athletic programs here at RIT.

I have a few big and exciting projects in the works, and I will be explaining a few of them in the near future. I will be posting new content on this webpage once a week! Please feel free to contact me at spfnop@rit.edu if you have any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns. I’m here to help you all embark on your journey through the athletic world.

Four things all coaches should consider...

Four things all coaches should consider when working with deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes:

This is an important bit of information every coach must know prior to working with a deaf or hard-of-hearing athlete. Every athlete is different. The words “deaf and hard of hearing” cross a wide spectrum, ranging from complete deafness to the slightest decibel difference. Not everyone will hear the same amount of noise, or as clearly, or be able to decipher it. Some athletes use hearing aids or cochlear implants, and some don’t.
Everyone will react differently to a certain coaching style. Coaches will need to understand how and what the athlete hears, and adjust accordingly. Some athletes benefit from auditory cueing; some from receiving visual cues. For the athletes who rely on auditory cueing, it is suggested that the coaches pair auditory cues with visual cues to ensure that the athlete understands what the coaches are trying to say. For example, if a coach is trying to tell a rower to adjust his hand position higher or lower, the coach can physically gesture where the hands should be in addition to the verbal cues.

As mentioned earlier, everyone is different. There are athletes who prefer to use American Sign Language, “sim-com” (sign and talk at the same time), or use their voices only. Each athlete will interact with their coaches differently, and it is important that coaches prepare themselves beforehand. This helps the communication become efficient on and off the field (or court). Athletes pay attention to how much coaches invest in their communication development, and that investment will have a direct impact on their “buy-in” process.
This doesn’t apply only to the coaches, but for hearing players as well- the team’s chemistry hinges on open and clear communication between players. This doesn’t mean everyone should be proficient in sign language, but it is beneficial for teammates to be able to get a better idea of how deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes feel, what they hear and see on a daily basis.
As a part of a mini social experiment, I’ve been trying to have one player from the RIT women’s soccer program wear a pair of noise-reducing earplugs a day to see what kind of things they miss. It’s one way to help hearing athletes understand their teammates on a deeper level, which further cultivates an inclusive environment as the training or the season goes on.

The majority of the people out there are visual learners, and using visual aids will prove to be imperative in deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes’ development. Visual aids can mean many different things ranging from gestures, drawing up drills or plays on a board, signed coaching cues, game film and play calls. This doesn’t only benefit deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes, but makes things easier for everyone to understand, including the interpreters.
For example, there was a situation where a coach used to run practices and explain drills by voice, and the interpreter had to try to capture what the coach was trying to explain…and it was quite complex. The interpreter became confused, which only confused the deaf athlete. To solve that miscommunication, the coach began drawing up what the drills should look like. The visual diagram not only helped everyone, but boosted practice efficiency because everyone understood what to do right away instead of the coach trying to explain the drills and doing it a few times before everyone picked up on it. This adjustment allowed the team to get more reps and other drills in and improve as a team.

After many years as a student-athlete at the middle school, high school, college and professional levels, I’ve noticed that coaches all have certain cues that they frequent on a daily basis. They all had their cues, and in order for coaches to effectively work with deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes, they need to be aware of their own styles, philosophies and cues.
For example, I’ve been the recipient of a common cue in the weight room. My strength coach kept telling me to push my knees out. Sometimes when I’m performing squats, my knees’ position in the squat might become too narrow, prompting my coach to cue “knees out.”
It makes communication more efficient if the coach asks the student-athlete how to sign cues like “knees out.” In my case, I taught the coach to directly sign the cue to me instead of utilizing an interpreter. Over time, my trainer and I used basic hand shapes and gestures as an informal system of communication. As the training programs changed and the exercises varied, my coach and I got creative in communicating new coaching cues by using handshapes, to go along with words such as “sets,” “repetitions” and numbers.
Developing this kind of communication system is easy, flexible and can be applicable to virtually every sport possible. For the coaches, learning how to sign or gesture cues can prove to be pivotal in developing the player-coach relationship without relying on access services.

  1. Know the athlete’s hearing level
  2. Determine the athlete’s preferred communication mode
  3. Utilize visual aids in the coaching arsenal
  4. Know your go-to coaching cues

And that’s all for this week! I hope you find this to be helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at spfnop@rit.edu! I look forward to connecting with you.

The psychology of deaf and hard-of-hearing student-athletes

It has always been a hobby of mine to pore over different articles, books and stories about the wonderful topic that is sports psychology.

After many years of being a student-athlete at different levels, I’ve had the opportunity to compete and interact with some of the most elite athletes in the world. Some of them were deaf and hard-of-hearing, and it recently got me thinking. The college student-athlete population in the country is quite small, but that subpopulation of deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes is microscopic. But for deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes to excel at that level and above, they have to be cut out of a unique piece of fabric. I’ve decided to try and look into how they reached down inside themselves and found their inner greatness.

Lou Spiotti, Jr., executive director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Rochester Institute of Technology, stressed the importance of “Tiger Time” to his colleagues (including myself), student-athletes and leaders. Tiger Time is not ‘on-time’. Showing up on Tiger Time means showing up 15 minutes earlier. This doesn’t mean showing up early has a correlation to success, but how that extra time can be used to improve performance. Fifteen minutes will give athletes an enormous advantage when it comes to mental preparation. RIT Men’s Soccer Hall of Famer Mike Lawson explained that, in the locker room, he would go through his practices and games in his head. He had a mental highlight reel playing over and over, and he played it whenever he had down time. Once that reel ended, he would physically attack every drill and opportunity, and capitalize on everything he learned because he knew that the results would take care of themselves.

Every great athlete will always go after an opportunity. They don’t wait for things and opportunities to come to them. That conviction to go in and make things happen is something that mirrors a blue-collar mentality. The blue-collar mentality includes an individual’s willingness to get their hands dirty, getting the job done and giving it their all. This applies to every endeavor a deaf and hard-of-hearing athlete does on a daily basis. This can mean building up the guts to approach a math tutor (I still have nightmares about it), diving on a hard gym floor for the dig during practice, getting extra drills in, or standing up for yourself.

That kind of deep conviction doesn’t always reward you on the field. Sometimes you give it all and you still fail. Lose. Botch your opportunities. There will be some moments when everything goes upside down. That kind of adversity can scare people away, scare people into moderation, or make people dig deeper. That one-third of the population will go far in life, on and off the field, and in and out of the classroom. That special subpopulation possesses a very short memory. They will let it slide off their shoulders instead of letting that burden seep in. The closers in baseball are oftentimes the best pitchers on their respective teams. They are counted on to come in at the end of a ballgame, with the stakes riding high, and get the win. Sometimes they become the goats. The greatest deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes I’ve had the honor of playing with crave that opportunity to be the hero, and lose memory of all the failures they’ve had in the past.

If I had a penny for every joke that’s been chirped in my direction, I would be able to own a Dunkin’ Donuts in my own apartment. Student-athletes who are “different” from everyone else will naturally become an easy target of some ribbing. This kind of ribbing, heckling, mocking, and/or line-crossing can come from anyone at any given situation. The best deaf and hard-of-hearing student-athletes have extremely thick skin. I’ve had some chirps that I took personally, but I was able to channel that kind of frustration into playing better in many ways. The college level can be quite tough, and you will have to be tougher.

The single greatest trait in determining a deaf and hard-of-hearing student-athletes’ future success in everything is relentlessness. When the rigors of intercollegiate athletes hammer you down and break you open, but then you find that inner greatness inside…it’s really hard to lose when you absolutely refuse to quit. A fine example of relentlessness: Natalie Snyder came into RIT with a torn labrum and triceps. She took her first two years off from diving to recover from her injuries. Any athlete who experienced injuries like that would seriously contemplate retiring from intercollegiate competition way before it started. But not Natalie. She stuck with it, and refused to let any kind of uncertainty throw her off track. Once she recovered and got back on the diving board, she went on to have one of the most illustrious careers a college diver could ever have…in only two years. She went undefeated on the 1-meter dives, garnering All-America honors, and now is pursuing a Ph.D. Not too bad, eh?

Be on “Tiger Time.” Go after it and make things happen. Get back on your feet if you come up short. Don’t let the haters get to you. Find your inner greatness, and never quit.

New interpreter?

The 2:00pm practice is about to begin. Your muscles are all warmed up and ready to rock. You’re mentally prepared. You start to wonder where your interpreter is. At 2:05, a meek lady walks onto the field and tells you that the other interpreter is sick and she has no idea what she’s supposed to do.

This kind of situation will happen every once in a while in every deaf athlete’s career. This installment will help you prepare your new interpreter as quickly as possible.

You have to tell your interpreter your communication preference.

Not everyone has the same communication preference. There are athletes who rely completely on American Sign Language. Some will prefer to watch the interpreter then use his/her own voice to speak. There are athletes who prefer not to utilize the interpreter until the information becomes unclear. You will have to tell your interpreter what you like, and what you usually do. This also means the interpreter will know how you interact with the coaches, and the teammates as well. This will give the interpreter a better idea of when to back off, or when to come in when you are socializing.

The interpreter will need to know what some of the terms mean.

Every sport has its own language, and for someone who might be not as well-versed as you are, it will be tough to interpret. It will be beneficial to the interpreter if you provide signs for certain positions, drills, or sign-names. When I was working with a new interpreter, I would rattle off specific signs for positions, and some drills such as “ground balls” or “batting practice.” I would anticipate what the coach would typically say, then give the interpreter a heads-up that he’ll say something about hitting or a certain drill.

The interpreter should know what the practice format is, and where to stand.

Some practices can get quite crazy with all different players running around doing different things- but for a new interpreter, it can be considered catastrophic. They will want to know what’s happening ahead of time, and where to go instead of looking around with no clue about what’s going on. Not only that, the madness can include flying balls, pucks or bodies. You want your interpreter to be safe! So you’ll have to let the interpreter know where he/she should be standing—and whether or not the coach minds if the interpreter is tagging along wherever he/she goes.

I have a few more tips on how to work with a new interpreter, but that’s for a different installment. Hope this helped! Have a terrific day.

Building better team chemistry

As you walk off the field after a long and arduous practice, you watch your interpreter leave and then realize that the team is having a dinner at Salsarita’s. You want to be a pivotal part of the team off the field, being a good teammate and leader of the program. How do you build better team chemistry when there aren’t any access services?

One at a time.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing people normally struggle in large group conversations. It’s very tough for deaf and hard-of-hearing people to track the conversation that’s going back and forth in all directions. When I was a student-athlete, I would find time to sit down with one or two of my teammates at a time. For example, I would get one or two guys to join me for a meal after practice or a workout. This way I could spend more time getting to know my teammates instead of trying to chase the conversation and figuring out what they’re talking about. If you’re still stuck in a group conversation, pick one or two teammates to talk with. As the conversation goes on, you’ll be able to figure out what others are talking about.

Control the conversation.

I find it very easy to follow everyone’s comments and thoughts when I’m the one who initiates the conversation. I try to start the conversation with a little something, like the classic “how’s your arm feeling?” or “my legs are killing me” then see what your mates say, and build off of that. I personally don’t mind when someone comes up to me and starts a conversation, but it might take one or two repeats for me to understand the context of the conversation. When you initiate something, you control what’s happening, and it’s harder to have miscommunication.

Find a few teammates who are cool with repeating themselves.

From time to time, I enjoy trying to figure out what my teammates are talking about on the bus. This oftentimes take place when I rise out of my deep slumber on my trusty neck pillow. I’m trying to get back up to speed with what’s going on. I always have two or three teammates who I know will be cool with repeating what’s happening. I’d just ask what’s up, and he would fill me in with the main highlights then I’d go about my own business…or get involved. As the season goes on, you’ll be spending more time with your teammates, which means you’ll find out who’s more comfortable with who. You’ll be able to figure out who you click better with, and who you think can fill you in every once in a while.

Use technology!

In this society, technology is booming. So…you may as well take advantage of it! I use many different ways to chat with my teammates, ranging from texting, snapchatting, FaceTiming, and Facebook. In my senior year, the baseball team set up a group chat, and it was hilarious. The best part was that I was never out of the loop. I was able to keep up with them. Not only that, I could text my mates individually at any given day and just strike up a conversation with them. This allowed me to build relationships with my teammates, and I was able to become a better teammate because of it.

Thank you for your time!

Captains in the making...

Captains in the making: Creating Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Leaders of Tomorrow

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” –John C. Maxwell

I firmly believe that our legacies as college student-athletes begin when we read the first few words of our college acceptance letters. Every single student-athlete has a different legacy, and every single intercollegiate athletic program is set on molding the student-athletes into the leaders of their programs as they get older, into leaders in their workplaces and into leaders of the community.

Every year, among thousands of college student-athletes, there is a special subpopulation, and that’s the deaf and hard-of-hearing athlete. The number of the student-athletes in that subpopulation who climb the ranks and become outstanding leaders and/or captains of the team is low. There are a few steps that I took that really helped me become a part of that special fraternity.

Act like you’ve been there before.

College student-athletes are members of their respective sports programs because they can compete. A lot of them forget that it’s the same sport that they’ve been excelling at their entire lives. Student-athletes can’t forget that the game isn’t any different. You’ll play against some of the most talented athletes in the country. You may be playing in a new environment, but the game isn’t any different. So technically speaking, you’re already been there. Act like it.

Consistency is key.

The greatest difference in a player’s development lies in how consistent they can be. Academics, attendance, performance, routine, diet, sleep, social life, family life, relationships, and everything that falls under the college experience will have its own consistency. For example, you can post consistent grades, attend classes regularly, play well daily, maintain a steady routine, eat healthy, get enough sleep daily, spend some time with friends, remain in contact with your family, maintain your relationships, and so forth. If you spend more time trying to get everything balanced, you’ve spent more time and energy on one part, then the other will suffer. This will make your life tough. If you are able to achieve consistency in each aspect of the college experience, you’ll find yourself ahead of the pack.

Leadership opportunities happen every day.

Every single day, life will give you an opportunity to become a leader. I took this aspect very seriously in college, where I would look at my fall season, off-season workouts, games and team meetings as an opportunity to become a leader. This could mean motivating a teammate to add five more pounds on the bar, giving a pat on the back after a tough drill, showing up early to everything, rallying the troops when the team is trailing the opponent, or sharing your thoughts during a meeting. Your language during group texts, daily conversations and behavior will impact the team chemistry tremendously.

Express your goals for the team. Loudly. Then do what you want the team to do.

Leadership boils down to a very simple concept. Leadership creates a vision for a group of people to work towards. In this case, a vision for the team to work together towards. For many of the teams in the country, it’s the conference championship, and then a national championship. This can become redundant to some, but what leaders do is to create a mini-vision that we can attain in a day, a week, or a month. For example, one can text “Let’s focus on our passing and we’ll get the win today!” in the group chat. If you’re the one who sent that text, you better do what you said during the game. Your teammates will immediately elevate their games and follow suit.

Can’t please them all.

As you become a veteran leader of your team, you will see a lot of things, a lot of different personalities and different views from your own team. Not everyone will agree with what you do, say or think. There will be some people who don’t like you. You can’t get them all to like you, or personally agree with you. But what you can do is to create a goal that the whole team can agree on. Teammates must be able to respect each other and find ways to work together towards a goal set by the leaders.

Don’t forget, every morning you wake up, you have an opportunity to create your legacy as a student-athlete. You have an opportunity to do what many people would love to have. So, just do what you do best, be consistent in what you do, take advantage of every possible opportunity, help show the way for your teammates and keep hustling with your eyes (and the team’s) on the prize. If you can do all of the above, you’ll do big things.

Profile of a varsity intercollegiate athlete

There are millions of high school athletes in the country. Approximately 480,000 of them go on to play at the college level. How is it possible that the number dramatically decreases from high school to the college level?

There are many factors that come into play that determine which high school athletes move to the next level. What does it take for a high school athlete to be a varsity intercollegiate athlete?


High school student-athletes who post strong academic grades, test scores and show involvement in their respective student organizations, clubs and activities tend to stand out on their college application forms. Coaches need athletes who are academically qualified to meet their university’s admission requirements. A student’s academic background is imperative in coaches’ assessments of whether they will be able to manage their time to attend classes, have strong grades and still find time to train and compete for their teams.

Physical fitness.

A big part of a high schooler’s potential success in college relies on their skill development, but there also is an emphasis placed on the high school athlete’s physical fitness. Athletes who are in outstanding physical shape tend to be more inclined to compete for a starting spot early on, and their skill development is oftentimes accelerated because they are able to use their fitness level as an advantage.

An athlete’s initial fitness level doesn’t determine everything, though. There is an athlete’s “projectability”, where coaches can visibly anticipate an athlete’s physical growth as the college years go on. This was the case with me when I was a high school student-athlete. I was a skinny guy coming out of high school, but I was projectable. I had the skills to compete at the college level, but I showed that I was capable of putting on weight and getting stronger, which meant I was only going to get better. Coaches like to see athletes who are in incredible shape, but show more potential for further development as well.

Knowledge of own strengths and weaknesses.

I love it when athletes dream big and completely support the idea of shooting for the moon. But in order to make yourself an even better athlete, especially from high school to college, you will need to have a thorough understanding of what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. This way you will be able to identify what the college coaches might want to do with you when you show up on campus. For example, I saw that I could swing the bat, play decent defense and show versatility as a freshman—but I wasn’t polished in every aspect of my game. I knew that I needed to get physically stronger in order to improve my skills- throwing velocity, explosive movements and power to hit the ball harder and farther. You have to know what you’re good at, and what you’re not good at so you can work on your weaknesses, which in turn helps you become an even better player.

Playing style.

A coach always has a style. Every coach tailors a team based on their preferred playing style. For example, some teams are full of small and fast guys who are more skills-oriented, while some other are physically advanced than others who aren’t as talented. Some play with a specific strategy in mind, some don’t. Coaches will look for players whose skill-set fits their program’s playing style.

The program’s culture.

If a coach sees that you’ve checked off all the traits the program is looking for, oftentimes you will be invited to campus to meet the players and the coaching staff. This is normally the final phase of player screening to see whether the player is a right fit for the program’s culture. The most important piece in the grand puzzle. You have to be a good fit for the program’s culture, you have to be able to get along with your teammates and show that you will be a key addition to the locker room.

The five factors explained here apply to every prospective student-athlete in the nation. Each one of these factors can be improved on daily through conscious effort and a relentless desire to become a college student-athlete. If you can, you will do great things.

Sports create a bridge between the deaf and hearing

By RIT/NTID alumna Natalie Snyder, B.S., Biomedical Sciences, 2016

I was asked to write a blog about my experiences of being a deaf athlete. Although I am retired from diving at RIT, that doesn’t mean I’ve moved on from the team. To me, the RIT swimming and diving team was a family who all supported each other and not only had goals for ourselves, but each other. I am a strong believer that people connect with each other when playing or engaging in sports –whether you are a player on a team or a spectator watching an event. Sports are a bridge between the deaf and hearing.

I had a severe shoulder injury that required me to have a surgery to fix. I was out of diving for two years and I was absolutely lost without the sport and the team. Some people may say that it’s a sign to retire early and start something else. Although I started rock climbing and enjoyed that, it did not take the place of diving for me. After I recovered, I came back to the sport and worked harder than ever. I worked to be successful with support from my coaches and teammates and I became a NCAA All-American diver. I treasure my experiences and have shared the story of my journey with others. Coming back to the sport was the best decision for me.

I would advise students to take advantage of the supportive culture and services available at RIT. It makes me sad to see any deaf athletes have a passion for their sport, but quit because they don’t know how to make it work being the only deaf athlete on the team. If I can be honest, it’s all about attitude. If a deaf athlete is determined and driven about his/her sport and wants to contribute and make an impact on the team, then the team will support you and will soar together as a family. Like I said, people connect with sports and especially if you’re a part of a team that is like a family.

So if you’re a deaf athlete and considering playing on an intramural team or a NCAA Division I or III team at RIT, go for it. It’s all about the attitude and showing that you care for the team, give support and it will be returned. I’m in grad school now eight hours away from RIT, studying to be a physical therapist, and I miss the community and the team so much, but I still keep in touch with them because we will always be a team. And I will be back. Take my advice, go out and play, hearing or deaf, with the bridge of your sport and you’ll be surprised. Sports give us a bridge between the deaf and hearing, so sign up, tryout, go for it!

Impacting a culture

It’s early in the fall. The winds are starting to kick up, students are starting to wear sweatshirts and jeans, and the leaves are starting to change colors.

I remember walking in a line between my teammates, and then I see a pile of jerseys. I had just stepped onto campus as an unproven student-athlete. We were picking up our uniforms and numbers. I was in the back of the line and I was praying furiously that the pile of uniforms still had number 22 in it. Then I see the guy in front of me leave, and atop the pile of uniforms, I saw 22. Then I realized that the minute I put the jersey on, everything I do from that point will play a role in changing the team culture the next four years.

It’s the little things.

On a daily basis, even the smallest thing you do will have a tremendous impact on your team’s culture down the road. It can mean your body language. Body language is contagious. If you continue to sulk around campus under gray skies, your teammates are going to be affected by it. If you walk around campus with your head high, walk purposefully, and smile…your teammates and friends around you will notice. They oftentimes follow suit.

How you respond to certain things such as the coaches saying “get on the line” will affect how the team’s culture views adversity. The difference between a heavy sigh and a loud “let’s go” will shift your team culture dramatically and become the difference between a dominant workout or a terrible one. If you are presented with a horrible workout, you can “embrace the suck” and dive right into it or say “oh man, this is going to be awful…” and this will impact how the team as a unit views things. If you’re complaining about a workout, then how will you react when you play against a nationally ranked team?

Your daily language, how you talk to people in general, and talk about competition will dictate your team culture for the rest of the year. Some of the best language I’ve seen from some of the best leaders had powerful words peppered all over their daily conversations. “Dominated,” “crushed” and “attacked” were common words when it came to workouts, practices and even homework assignments. People will adopt what you say, and that slowly elevates their views of success, which in turn brings the team culture to expect dominance in every aspect of the student-athlete life.

It’s the big things, too.

How you address the team, especially as you become a veteran member of the team, will impact how your team goes about its business. The younger guys will be looking to you to set an example on how to work in the classroom, on and off the playing field, and behave amongst the campus body. If you maintain the positive team culture, the university’s core values in all that you do, and walk the walk in front of your team…the team will be going places.

In a lifetime, especially during the undergraduate years, there will be a few “leadership moments” that unexpectedly fall on your lap. It could be when your team gets in trouble, is down in the dumps, or isn’t performing to the program’s standards…you have the opportunity to turn things around. It can mean stepping up and taking on a leadership role when someone else can’t carry the weight. It can mean a pep talk. It can mean performing beyond your physical and mental capabilities to push other teammates to do the same. You have to be able to recognize the “leadership moments” and act upon it immediately. Your actions can make or break a culture in the long run.

You can tell your teammates to do this, that, believe in this or that, and all. But you have to be able to practice what you preach. If you preach a certain “culture” or mentality, you should be embodying it as best as possible. You’re talking the big talk; you better be walking the big walk as well.

If you’re able to do the little things right, say the right words, act upon leadership moments, and walk the walk…I can’t wait to see your championship rings.

Dear high school senior athletes

I still remember the minute I decided to commit to play collegiate baseball for Rochester Institute of Technology.

I was sitting in my grandmother’s house on a dark afternoon, and I punched an email to the coach saying something along the lines of “I’m going to be Tiger!” It was a simple email that determined the next chapter of my life, the most important four or five years of my life.

Sure, that was a big decision, but I want to gently remind you…the bigger decisions you will be making are what you’re going to do in between your verbal and official commitment to the day you step on campus. What you decide to do with that time in between these two big days will determine the course and trajectory your collegiate career will look like.

Stay on top of your classes.

I remember being victimized by raging symptoms of a common phenomenon called “senioritis.” As much as I wanted to slack in the classroom, I was fortunate enough to realize that graduating with a stellar academic record will put you in an even better position to receive additional financial aid, scholarships and a smoother path to academic success. Some high-school athletes will get athletic scholarships, but that kind of consistent financial support is never guaranteed. Academic scholarships are. So, keep getting after it in the classroom.

Get strong as heck.

You know the term, “big fish in a small pond,” right? You might be one of the big fishes in a small pond as of right now, but I would like to gently remind you that you will now become a big fish in a massive ocean. This can mean a few different things—it can apply to physical fitness, skillset and mentality…or all of the above. But one of the primary predictors of college underclassmen’s early success hinges on their advanced levels of physical fitness. If you show up on campus, compete equally as well or better than your veteran teammates, you’re going to turn some heads. I highly recommend investing in a disciplined strength and conditioning program right away.

Develop good habits.

Google says that habits take somewhere around 66 days to become established. Your college experience will be testing your ability to maintain good habits, a healthy lifestyle and a consistent self-discipline in every aspect of the word. I highly recommend that you start thinking about some of the things that you feel that you’d be focusing a lot on in college (keeping a healthy diet, a solid sleep schedule, or a homework routine) and come up with a strategy or technique that allows you to build better self-awareness. That way you’ll be able to stay in tune with yourself, know when you’re starting to lose balance and know immediately how to correct that imbalance.

I hope this helps give you a better idea of what to do until you finally arrive on campus. I am very much looking forward to seeing you on campus. This is just the start of something truly big.

How to stay on top of your game over the winter break

After a crazy 16 weeks on campus, you’ve just officially finished a long semester in the classroom, weight room and competition. As you finally lay back in your own bed back home, I will rattle off some tips on how to stay on top of your game over the five- six-week break and come back to campus ready to dominate.

Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

I’m a lifetime advocate of this particular mannequin challenge, where you lay in bed and catch up on your Z’s. Sleep is the best way for your body to recover and recharge from the rigors of academics and athletics. I’m certain that all college student-athletes, at some point during the semester, are sleep deprived. This is a great opportunity for you to catch up on your beauty sleep.

Keep getting your workouts in.

Having a long break back at home doesn’t mean the work ends! There are many gyms in the area who will provide a package for college students who are around for a short amount of time. You should be able to continue your training program through Teambuildr. While the training environment isn’t the same as RIT’s Tiger Den, keep in mind that many of your rivals and competitors are doing the same so they can beat you when the season rolls in!


We live in a wonderful time where the internet can be used as a valuable asset! Jump on Facebook, connect with a high school teammate or someone who’s playing at the college level nearby, shoot them a message and see if you all can train together. You’d be surprised by the kind of response. From my personal experience, everyone’s always looking to train together. I was able to get my workouts, swings, and running in with fellow baseball players from the area. Intercollegiate athletics is truly a wonderful fraternity to be a part of, everyone’s seeking to improve each other as well as themselves.

Get creative.

There might be scenarios where you won’t be able to do any of the above. Maybe there aren’t any gyms nearby, everyone’s busy for the break, and so on…so think of something! For me, I decided to throw on some winter gear and start shoveling snow, chop up firewood and run around with my dogs. I was sweating like crazy by the end of it all. When I was younger, I decided to turn my garage into a batting cage by hanging up a rug on the ceiling so the ball doesn’t bounce back when I hit baseballs off the tee. I’ve seen stories like Sidney Crosby practicing his hockey shots into a laundromat, and so on.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of you back on campus next year!

Goal setting 101

Hi everybody! I hope you all had a great holiday break and a Happy New Year!

As you know, the first week of the year is usually when we try to see if we can stick with our New Year resolutions. It’s quite a tall task, especially if you’re trying to break or change an old habit. A new year generally means a new set of goals, views, and such. Here are some of the basic tips that will help you set great goals and improve yourself as a student-athlete.

Start small.

The climb to the top of Mount Everest can’t be done with a single step…unless you’re Superman, which would be cool. Big dreams and goals aren’t achieved overnight for most part. Many successful people would use small goals with lower standard to build incredible momentum to start the year. What that means is that you come up with a very simple, manageable goal, and then you absolutely obliterate it. The feeling of achieving a goal is always a wonderful one, so use that as a momentum. Keep smashing the simple goals, and then slowly bring the bar up as well as your own standards. It’ll give you a running start on “the climb to the top”.

Establish a new routine and stick with it.

If you’re trying to work towards a new lifestyle, developing a routine will help build good habits (if done correctly). You’ll have to make conscious changes in whatever you do. For example, I just did two separate soda-less years. I went a full year without drinking soda, and what I did was that I had to consciously decline soda, switch it out with something else. After a few months, it became a routine to me. It wasn’t easy, and it requires some patience and self-control.

Talk about them.

As weird as that might have sounded—it’s a good thing to talk about your dreams, goals and resolutions around your peers. You’ll keep them in the front of your mind instead of letting them slip away. This will mean you’ll become more accountable, because your peers are going to make sure of it. You’ll want to back up what you say with your actions.

I hope you found this to be helpful. Have a great 2017! There are big things coming up for the RIT/NTID Athlete Development Program!

How to network

The term “network” is being thrown around quite a bit, especially when it comes to the working world. I used to roll my eyes about that when I first stepped on campus at RIT, but I realized that networking will be the difference-maker in your future. So this blog is geared towards student-athletes who are trying to improve their networking skills as they work towards graduation.

Connect with your professors

If you’re studying business at the Saunders College of Business, chances are that your professors are one of the biggest names in the business world. I didn’t realize that until later that everyone who teaches at RIT is essentially a legend, and becoming friends with legends always ends up being awesome. Take the time to walk up to them after class, introduce yourself, tell him or her what you want to do with your life and so on. Nice firm handshake. That’ll get the ball rolling.

Ask questions

Sure, you’ll get participation points in class for asking questions. But more importantly, ask questions after class. Talk about real life situations, what kind of steps your professor took, the career path, certain companies to work for and such. More often than not, the professors will start looking out for you. Maybe at his or her old company. He might know someone who’s looking for interns and so on. Not only that, you’ll be able to build a good professional relationship with your professor in general. This can result in a strong letter of recommendation down the road as well.

Connect with your employment advisor early on

Connecting with an employment advisor early on can be sometimes compared to applying to a college when you just finished your freshman year. It can feel strange, but it’s an important thing to do. Your employment advisor can help you in your search for a co-op and a permanent job upon graduation. The employment advisor also can help you with your resume, your interview skills, develop a professional network and connect you with job opportunities.

Your coach knows people

Your professors and employment advisor are important playmakers in the job search process, but your coach might be the biggest playmaker of all. Your coach watched hundreds of student-athletes like you go through college, grow as an individual, graduate and climb up the working world. Out of every person I mentioned in this blog, chances are that your coach will know you the best. He/she will be able to help support you through the process. He or she might have a deep alumni network of former players who can hire fellow athletes to join the workforce. Ask your coach from time to time if there are any opportunities for you to capitalize on.

Please keep this in mind as the spring semester looms!

How to represent your program

Oftentimes when you become a part of a varsity intercollegiate athletic program, you’ll be tied to them forever. Whenever someone brought my name up, “the baseball player” always followed my first name.

On Rochester Institute of Technology’s campus, you become connected with an athletic program, you’ll be bound to them all the way through graduation. You will be a representative of the program, whether you like it or not. So here’s how you can represent your program the best you can.

Dress properly.

This sounds a little silly, but dressing up a little more than sweatpants and a sweatshirt will catch people’s attention. I’m not suggesting you go out and grab a few three-piece suits, but be more proper. You don’t want to show up to class looking like you literally rolled out of bed (we all have done that at some point, though), nor looking lousy. Ask any leaders of any athletic programs, they all will tell you that being well put together makes a big statement on campus.

Show up to class early. Sit in the front row.

Some of the best coaches and athletic programs tend to be known for having the athletes sit up front in the classroom. Showing up early is showing up on time. This will make a statement to the faculty and staff that you’re here to take care of business. You might be cross-eyed from the 6:00 a.m. weightlifting session with Bryonne, but the fact that you still put in the effort to show up and give as much attention you can, will resonate with the faculty.

Be respectful.

You’re representing your program everywhere you go. More often than not, athletes are recognized around campus compared to others. You might not know some of your peers but they might know you. If you behave yourself, show manners, and treat everyone as nicely as you can…people will not only respect you, but respect your teammates because they believe that the team culture operates just the same as you do.

Please keep these pointers in mind as you go about your daily business. Put on a pair of jeans and a button down, say thank you to Jill the barista at Artesano, and show up to class on time. You’ll have many people in your corner as you chase your greatness.

Maintaining a mentality

As you journey through college, you will experience a lot of things that will slowly influence you.

You might see something, or your crowd might do something, or maybe a certain situation pops up and everyone reacts to it and you feel compelled to join the crowd. All of the external influences can be good and bad. I’m going to help you find the right mentality to live by, and how to make the right impact on your future.

Find and analyze a role model.

I understand that a lot of people go through college trying to figure themselves out, and aren’t sure what they want to be or what they want to do. I did have that phase for a brief period of time, but thankfully RIT opened some doors for me. But in the process, you need to have a visible picture of your future self at some point. It oftentimes can be achieved by having a role model. I have some people who I look up to, and I try and find a common thread between my role models and myself and build on that common thread.

I studied my role models, and tried to find what made them stand out. I did my homework on each one of them, and started mixing and matching their best traits into my daily endeavors. I would recommend that you identify some of your biggest role models, and study how they approach certain things or situations. Study how they walk. How they talk. How they act around others and by themselves. What makes them great? Find that answer.

Ask yourself the three questions.

“How can this help me improve myself?”, “Will this help us improve as a team?”, and “What are the other options?” These three questions float around in my head when I’m on a roll. For example, I would ask myself the first question if I’m staring at a gigantic tub of ice cream. Would that help me improve my physical fitness, so I can perform better as a baseball player? Probably not. If your buddies want to do something, ask yourself this, and see if your internal compass agrees with you or not. Stick with your gut, and make the right decision for yourself even though it might not be the “cool” thing to do.

This kind of thinking helped guide my personal decisions—from managing my diet and doing homework assignments, to going to sleep at a reasonable hour. The second question is when I’m in a leadership role, and we’re about to make a decision as a team. I would ask myself and see how I personally feel about the decision. Will this help the team chemistry? If I’m able to buy in myself, chances are that I will be able to get the rest of the team to buy in. If I’m not feeling confident about the decision, I would try and explore other options.

Find ways to motivate yourself.

You can ask my roommates and see what they tell you about how I decorate our apartment or my bedroom. It’s peppered with different images, quotes, and symbols that gets a rise out of me. Each one of them has a way of motivating me to attack my day, do the best I can, and so on. I encourage you to explore the internet, keep an open eye for something that catches your eyes and gives you motivation. If you find something, keep them in your sight daily. For example, when I was living in the dorms I put my pictures right next to where my pillow was. It was right there in my face when I wake up and when I go to sleep. I put stuff on my refrigerator, so I see it when I get my food, and in the office when I write this blog. Find something that tells you to bring the juice, and keep it in your line of sight every day.

Things to consider when choosing a college

After working three years as a student-ambassador, and now working with the NTID Office of Admissions, I’ve fielded a plethora of hard-hitting questions.

Recently, I discussed some of the answers I gave, and I gave my answers an extra thought. I thought I’d share some of the things I discussed often with high school prospects. I had to consider some of these points myself when I was in the college selection process.


You should at least have a somewhat good idea of what you could see yourself doing in the near future, career-wise. It’s important that you have a solid list of possible majors to switch into, and make sure they’re all good programs in the same university. You don’t want to switch from an excellent engineering program to a subpar accounting program. For example, I had three possible fields or majors I could see myself doing well in: graphic design, marketing/advertising and psychology. At RIT, all of the programs were strong across the board, so whichever major I chose or wanted to transfer into, I would come out prepared for the real world.


You’ll have to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you can see yourself in the black and orange uniforms. Is the competition something you can handle? Will you do well? Will you compete for playing time? You’ll have to pay attention to how well you get along with the coaches during your recruit visits, how well you clicked with the current players, and how you felt walking around campus. These three will be magnified even further once you officially step on campus as a student-athlete. These three factors probably will determine how your collegiate career will turn out. A good relationship with the coaches and teammates will create opportunities for you to compete, and you’ll click better with the rest of the campus body.


I remember discussing this topic with my family many times, but we had to consider a “career-ending injury” in my college decision. I hated the thought of it. I was recruited into RIT as a pitcher, and I knew in the back of my head that the “Tommy John” surgery happens to baseball players. An elbow injury like that will put me on the bench for a good year. Same goes for an ACL injury. Suppose that happens. Would you still like being around RIT? Do you like it as a student? As a person? Do you feel you can get along with people here? It’s imperative that you love the school as a student first. Then you can see if you still love it as a student-athlete…if you do, I’ll be waiting for you with a big Tiger welcome!

A big fish in an ocean

It’s awfully nice being the top dog, right?

You’re coming off a big senior year where you proved yourself to be the best athlete on the team, racking up all different kinds of awards and honors, and you’re slated to play at the college level. There’s a name for standout athletes like that…a big fish. So now you’re a big fish in a small pond, which means you’re the top in the area. College has a very funny way of reminding you that you’re still a big fish…but you’re now in the ocean. There are whales. Great whites. Octopuses. All kinds of big fish. How do you become an even bigger fish in the ocean? How do you dominate at the collegiate level?

How do you swim?

I’m going to use the aquatic world as an example for this topic. How do you swim? How do you carry yourself on a daily basis? I’m talking about body language. Have you seen how small fish swim? Scrawny, squiggly movements, distracted and not powerful. Now compare a goldfish with a great white shark. Great whites swim in a controlled sense, towards a goal, free of distraction, and they act big.

Okay, now let’s think about how a scrawny high school freshman would walk compared to how a senior would walk. The general stereotype is that the freshman walks around small, looking around frantically for the right classroom, and such. Compare that with a senior who knows what he/she’s doing. Shoulders back, long strides and knows where he/she is going.

That scrawny freshman was me in 2008. I remember seeing a senior who was the star of the football team, and I was enamored by how he carried himself, there was an aura about him, and he looked and talked to you with strong assurance. He was very confident in himself. So if you’re on campus as a freshman, look for the “great white sharks” on campus, and study their body language. Study how they look at people and talk to them. What makes them stand out? Mix and match that into your daily style.

How do you swim with adversity?

This is truly the difference maker between the big and small fish in college. How you continue to swim when you’re getting peppered with all kinds of adversity. Do you go for it, chomp down on the adversity and overcome it…or do you scramble? Think about a “school” of fish, many fish bunched together. When something comes at them, they all book it. Have you ever seen them fight back? Probably not. If a great white sees something come at it, it’s going to bite the snot out of it and destroy it. Then it resumes swimming. You have to do the same with adversity. You’ll have to grit your teeth and get after it, regardless what it is. It could be your algebra assignment, an early wake-up or a bad game. You don’t run away from any of these things. Keep on swimming.

Regaining momentum

Momentum can be calculated by multiplying something’s mass and velocity. How does this apply to college? College sports? You?

Everything on campus has its own momentum. You have your own momentum. Your daily successes in the classroom, on the field, and as an individual all help build your momentum. This is vital to your success in life because the more momentum you carry, the easier it is for you to blow through adversity. But there will be moments in life where your momentum drops off the table.

Think small.

Admiral McRaven, a former Navy SEAL, spoke to the University of Texas graduates on commencement day and explained the importance of making your own bed. He explained how it helps check off the first task on your long to-do list. You got it done, time to start rolling. I do the same with my morning coffee. I make my coffee right away when I roll out of bed. It’s the psychologically gratifying feeling of checking off a box on your to-do list. So when things are tough, make every little thing a goal and a task that you can crush. Focus on getting out of bed on a good note, dress well, get a good breakfast in, and make it to class on time. Participate in class. Have a good laugh with a buddy. Go to practice. Get a great warm up in. Get excellent reps in. Grab a snack. Do your homework. Call it a night. Then you’ll feel momentum build as days go by, then you’ll be back in full force before you know it.

Make it to the next meal.

I have to admit, this past summer was one of the most challenging summers I’ve ever had. I had classes every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. After classes, I had to grab food then hit the books and finish my coursework before midnight then repeat the routine for eight weeks straight. It was not for the faint of heart. The program pushed our limits, and I had to narrow my thinking all the way down “to the next meal.” I only thought a few hours ahead. I just focused on making it to the next meal. I didn’t think about how much work I had to do in between and all. I just knew that I was going to have a meal in the morning, noontime, midafternoon and dinnertime. It was a reminder that things will end, especially when I was taking the budgeting course! After I took up that “one meal at a time” mentality, I noticed that I had more energy going into late afternoons. I was able to refocus after every meal instead of being hyper focused all the time then becoming strung out after lunch. As time went on, my thinking made me stronger because I had built my “mental momentum” and wasn’t even fazed when professors threw extra course work our way.

Think simple, small and take things one step at a time. Before you realize anything, you’ll be firing on all cylinders and blowing through tough days.

The psychology of iron

When you’re a college student-athlete, you can be found in one of the following areas on campus: classrooms, library, dining halls, dorms and the weight room.

During your time as a student-athlete, you will be challenged physically, mentally and spiritually. This blog is geared towards student-athletes who are trying to dominate the physical aspect of the student-athlete experience.

Redefine normal.

You have to change your own personal definition of what normal is. I learned this from the football star back in high school—he was a senior when I was a freshman. He was the ideal student-athlete, pulling a 3.8 grade point average, excelling on the gridiron and was involved in community work. He ended up going to an Ivy League school and continued to dominate. I learned why he did so well in high school and college from one simple conversation. My first time being in the weight room as a 13-year-old, he nonchalantly sits down on the bench and cranks out reps of 315 pounds on the bench press. My jaw dropped to the floor. He gets up and acts like nothing happened. I asked him how he was putting up numbers like that. He shrugged and said, “It’s pretty normal.” That got me thinking. You have to work hard to elevate your own expectations, but as you go, you have to expect excellence to be a norm. You’re supposed to continue improving your numbers, you’re supposed to win in all the drills, and so on. As you begin to normalize that kind of excellence, it becomes deeply ingrained in you, and your confidence in yourself skyrockets.

Use failure as fuel.

Every team on campus always has that one superstar, where he or she will crush everyone in every facet of physical fitness. The training culture I grew up in was intensely competitive, where our teammates will try and beat each other in anything. Pushups, sit-ups and all that. If you get smoked in your competition, don’t get discouraged. The weight room is a great measuring stick for you, because now you know what you need to work on, and it provides you with all the tools you need to improve. Use that as a competitive fuel to keep you in the gym. For example, I would think about how my training partner would out lift me if I’m taking a day off from the gym. That usually gets me in the gym right away.

Breed competition and high standards.

To tie my two points into this—from a leadership standpoint, you are in a position where you can spread this kind of psychology onto your teammates. You can create that culture of excellence and make it seem normal by living that out. You have to lead by example in this situation. You are expected to dominate, but be mindful of how you go about it. If you make it seem nonchalant…your teammates will notice that. You can slowly create a competitive culture, posting lifting records, talking some trash (quite common, I would say), and hold fun competitions. These two factors can be one of the bigger factors in creating a championship team in the offseason.

Toughness in college

The topic of mental toughness is rampant everywhere. There are many articles, books, blogs, podcasts, vlogs and discussions about it everywhere you go. I thought I’d get in the mix myself and share my two cents about how I developed mental toughness during my time as a student-athlete and professional athlete.                            

Keep yourself uncomfortable.

This sounds a little strange, I know, but it’s true. If you are constantly comfortable, you’ll never grow. Comfortable people get complacent. You know how when you’re in a warm bed during a cold winter morning, you do not want to get out of bed at all, right? Make yourself uncomfortable by getting out of bed and wear thin layers. As a result, you’re more awake, focused, and on your feet. How does this apply to college? The more often you make yourself uncomfortable, the less things get to you. Think of it this way—if you’re in a nice comfortable daily routine and constantly stick to it, and then an unexpected incident takes place—you’ll get tripped up in things rather quickly. The more you keep yourself uncomfortable, the incidents won’t affect you as much.

What I did was that I would do my homework barefoot, drink coffee without cream (it’s a hard thing for me to do), and sleep on the couch once in a while. This made me appreciate the things I’m used to, and keeps me on my toes every day.

Physical and mental toughness go hand in hand.

I remember doing the cold shower challenge, and it was an eye-opening experience. I read an article that my buddy wrote, and I decided to take him up on the challenge. I’d hop in the shower and turn the dial right at the “C.” Freezing cold water hit me like a train, and I pulled out all the mental tricks in my playbook to keep myself in there for 15 minutes. I did it every day for around two weeks. It was not pleasant at all, but I noticed that after a few days of that, the cold water didn’t bother me as much. Because my body started to get conditioned to that, my mind did too. I’m not telling you to go jump in the cold shower, but I want to emphasize that this applies to the weight room, sports training, conditioning and so on.

It can go the other way around, especially with the Rochester weather. The majority of baseball games I played here in Rochester was in 40-degree weather. I’ve played in high winds, cold, rainy and hailing weather. The key to the team’s success was that we’ve mentally prepared ourselves to play in poor conditions before we hit the field. Once we did, our bodies didn’t react to it as much as someone from Florida would. Understanding the connection between physical and mental toughness is imperative to anyone’s success in and out of the classroom.

Crushing the winter blues

I’ve noticed that, after the 81mph winds, a few days of snowing, and cold weather, everyone’s getting a strong dose of winter right when spring is starting.

After talking to co-workers, students and locals, I noticed that they’re all having a hard time getting after it. The barrage of subpar weather really did a number. As a result, everyone’s having a hard time getting out of bed, being focused, getting things done on time, and so on. Here’s a couple of tips to help you get back in the game, even with the gray skies.

Just do it!

I learned this tip not long ago, and I wish I knew it earlier! If you have something that can be done in five minutes or less, do it! I tend to blow off the silliest things from time to time, and then over time it becomes a pain in the neck. After I saw that suggestion, my productivity jumped, and I was able to relax after crossing off another task on my to-do list. So if you have an errand to run in the dorms, or an online survey to fill out…just get it over with. You’ll feel a lot better.

Don’t look outside.

As sad as that might have sounded, it works. The gloom and doom of the gray skies outside won’t do anyone any favors. Get your work done somewhere with no windows. An ideal spot could be in the locker room, or somewhere in the middle of a building. You’ll be surprised by how much energy you’ll preserve being inside and not letting things like the weather get to you. But once you’re done with all the necessary work, go do what you want to do.

It will end!

I see a lot of people moaning and tweeting things like “When will this snow end? When will winter end?” I can absolutely relate to that. I’ve thought and said things like that. But things will end. The snow will melt. The thermostat will rise. The sun will come out. In the meanwhile, keep working hard!

Changing gears

I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times already, but there will be a lot of highs and lows when you’re on a college campus. It’s always a crazy roller coaster.

But I’m not sure if you’ve heard people talk about the velocity of the metaphorical roller coaster. Sure, there are ups, downs, twists and loops. But in college, the roller coaster goes at different speeds all the time. How do you change gears at the right time to keep the roller coaster a smooth ride?


You know how some days you are absolutely wired from your morning coffee and you’re knocking out everything on your to-do list so fast? Well, ride that wave! If you feel the juices flowing, keep that momentum going—get the rest of your course work in for the week. Get ahead of the game. Same goes for some lazy days, make sure you really relax. Just kick back, squeeze some more naps in, play some video games and take your mind off things.

Know yourself.

I have a strong tendency to keep going, ramp things into mind-bending speeds and operate at that level until I crash and burn. I’m doing a better job trying to break that cycle, but it’s still a problem from time to time. What you can learn from me is that you’ll do a lot better managing things if you know yourself—how you would operate in certain scenarios, your work pace and style, and what helps balance you out. If you’re able to identify where you’re headed and what kind of pace you’re setting yourself on, you can manage yourself better early on and keep yourself in balance.

What are friends for?

My friends are the reason why I made it through college and did not lose my mind. You’re on a college campus with thousands of people. You’ll always find someone who you can talk to about classes, personal things and so on. Your friends, classmates and family are all there with you on the same roller coaster. They have your back. They know when to push you and when to slow you down. Pay attention to them throughout your journey. You’re not alone in this crazy life.

Win, Dance, Repeat

As a Boston native, I’m always keeping tabs on the Boston Red Sox baseball team.

Last year, the outfielders really got the fans going with the “Win, Dance, Repeat” celebration ritual, where they met in the outfield and did a dance sequence together. The internet caught on, and with every Sox victory, people were excited to see what was going to happen next. The players were enjoying themselves. They made winning a whole lot more fun!

How do we utilize the concept of this to improve team dynamics among deaf and hearing student-athletes?

This doesn’t mean the athletes all should come up with a dance move, but this can be turned into a handshake or something similar. The process of coming up with a handshake requires communication, practice, patience and creativity…all the necessities to develop a great relationship in face of a language barrier.

What are the effects of that?

There are articles out there that support the notion of physical touch helping to improve your relationship with fellow teammates and such. It doesn’t have to be a full blown embrace, but simply a handshake will work. The more you do the handshakes with your teammates, the more chances are that you are going to be BFFs with them at some point! Why do you think the Red Sox kept employing the Win, Dance, Repeat thing?

It’ll take time though…

Remember the viral video of a schoolteacher doing personalized handshakes with his students? The results were phenomenal. But, that took time! You have a full team of people to build relationships with, and with that comes a bunch of handshakes to remember and master! It’ll take time. Make the handshakes mean something, maybe an inside joke, or a certain quirk that you both share, and so on. Think hard about that, and brainstorm it with your teammates. And then…have fun!

Championship vibes

How to get yourself in the right mindset...

In light of last night’s NCAA Division I men’s basketball national championship game, I went through my social media accounts and noticed that there were more posts about how relaxed UNC players looked like and how there weren’t any from Gonzaga (maybe the ones I didn’t see). I thought I’d talk about how to get yourself in the right mindset for a big game, a big meeting or a big presentation.

Lighten up…seriously.

I know a lot of athletes from my days as a competitive athlete who would become very high strung and take things too seriously from time to time. I was an intense guy myself, but it’s important to know that once the game ends, we all go back to the locker room, change out of our uniforms, head back to the dorms and resume with our college lives. You might as well enjoy yourself before and after games. I’m not trying to say don’t take it seriously, but you should focus hard when you hit the field, and ease up on the throttle once you step off. I didn’t know how to slow down for four years straight and it burnt me.

It won’t be your first. It won’t be your last, either.

In life, there will always be many big moments in your life that will define your life trajectory. Don’t freak out. You’ll find yourself in certain situations from time to time. You’ve gotta act like you’ve been there before because you did. So there’s no need to worry too much (unless you didn’t prepare enough)! The root of confidence is work ethic and preparation. If you’ve put in the work and prepared yourself for the next big moment, let your natural skills and instincts take over. More often than not, that’s all you need.

Find a balance.

My mental “make-up” was more intense than usual, so I was aware that I would let myself get carried away. I noticed that when I played well, I had someone who would help me relax. I needed someone to offset me. I had a teammate who I would just goof off with, and I found myself hanging out with him more often during our pre-game routine. He helped me relax, and I helped him get himself in high gear. You’ll need to find someone that you can approach about something and get in the zone with.

Enjoy the moment. Work hard. Play hard. Have fun. There will be more coming up. And you’ve got people by your side.

Being uncomfortable

Breaking down the unrest...

The feeling never gets old. The feeling of showing up, meeting a new group of people who never had any kind of exposure to deaf and hard-of-hearing people. The feeling of apprehension I get from everyone, including myself. The uncertainty. I’m sure you can relate. Someone coming in and acting completely foreign, and you want to poke him or her with a stick and see what happens. Here are a few things that I found to be effective in breaking down that kind of unrest.

Just go up and talk to that person.

It’s blatantly simple. It really is. Just walk up to that person and start talking to him or her. Now you’ve made contact. Oftentimes I notice people say, “Oh, that wasn’t too bad,” after making their first-ever interaction. It’s not like you’re going to talk perfect German. The person you’re talking to does also have English skills. It’s expressed with hands instead of mouth. Chances are that your first interaction will have some rough patches, but he/she will recognize that initiative and invest more in trying to communicate with you.

Show that you’re doing your homework.

I’m not talking about how you should show your deaf teammate your civil engineering homework. Show that you’re actually trying to learn different things. It can be looking up certain signs on YouTube, reading an article on Deaf culture or picking up the alphabet. I wrote “doing,” because it’s still ongoing. Don’t try and learn a couple things then stop. It’s a craft that you’ll continue to learn and that alone will improve the team dynamics drastically.

Spend your time with them and their friends.

Oftentimes deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes have their own crowds outside of sports. I did have a group of deaf friends that I would hang out with after practices or games. For many of the hearing athletes, their contact with the deaf community is oftentimes through their deaf teammates. The more people you meet, the more exposure to different kinds of deaf and hard-of-hearing people, you’ll be able to grow faster and learn more about your deaf teammate. I totally get it, you’ll feel quite uncomfortable but like everything else, the more you do it…you’ll get used to it.

Don’t think too much. Just approach your teammate and show interest, and then the championship team chemistry will start to develop.

Playoff mentality

Why our teams have been so successful this year...

As the spring semester came to a close, the RIT Sports Information office has been working like crazy because all the teams are dominating the playoffs, going on trips to the NCAA and such. I wanted to discuss a few reasons why the teams here are just crushing it this year.


If you watched the team from the beginning of the fall semester, and saw them again at the end of the spring…they’re exactly the same team. There’s nothing different, maybe roster changes and starting line-ups. Championship teams maintain an excellent routine, and do not let anything affect them, the highs and the lows. They’re consistent in their thinking, not thinking differently during certain circumstances. For example, teams are usually amped up when the playoffs roll in, and overdo it. The best teams keep a level head, and play it like any another game in the season.


The best teams recognize and pay attention to their team culture day in and day out. The players are responsible for maintaining the culture within their teammates. It can mean a weekly get-together and keeping tabs on the teammates, or pulling someone aside and making sure he/she’s staying on top of things. If one of the players are not in line with the team culture, and no one addresses it…things will go awry in the future. The best teams recognize and maintain the culture throughout the year.

Normalized excellence.

Teams who excel at an extremely high level tend to be inconsistent. Teams who go on stretches of utter dominance oftentimes work hard in the preseason to elevate the expectations, the level of performance, and then make sure that level is the standard. People who don’t meet that are prosecuted with extreme prejudice, otherwise known as getting benched or cut.

Teams who work hard to build up to a high standard, maintain a consistent expectation, make sure players take care of each other, and then normalize it will bring home the championship rings every year.

Crushing the summer

How to keep going this summer in preparation for fall...

School is out. This means going back home to your family, eating mom’s home cooking instead of dorm food, going to the shower without sandals, and definitely no fire alarms. The only con is that you’re not competing with your teammates, using the facilities, and staying on top of things…how do you keep yourself going and come back in the fall ready to crush the semester?

Know what you need to work on.

I highly recommend that you find time to sit down with your coach and discuss your goals and the program’s expectations for you the following year. Your coach will be very straight up with you and tell you what you need to improve on. Once that happens, ask how. Can it be achieved with more playing time? Practice drills? Or weightlifting? Your coach will be able to map out an ideal plan for you. Make sure you have a game plan mapped out for you, and execute it!

Find a good routine.

It is very easy to turn the alarm clock off and sleep all the way until noon or one in the afternoon when you’re back home. But you’ll need to be able to maintain a solid routine that emulates what you usually do at college. You might be able to replace class time with a summer job, or do a co-op. Once you’re done with work, hit the gym or the field and work on your skills. Maintain healthy nutrition, get enough sleep (or catch up on sleep) and get a nice rhythm going, so you hit the fall semester running.


I personally always struggle with this part, but summer is a good time for you to relax. Wrap up the past year, and put a bow on it. Then move on. It is a period where you can put aside the roller coaster year, and start anew. More likely than not, you’ve been sleep deprived from college, so it’s a good time to catch up on the sleep. But more importantly…there aren’t any dorm mates keeping you awake until two or three in the morning, so hit the hay earlier!

I cannot wait to see you all in the fall!

Where are we going?

Today we are going to take a break from tips and pointers on how to kill it in college and in life, and discuss about the direction of the RIT/NTID Athlete Development Program.

We worked extremely hard to get this program up and running this past year, and I want to thank everyone for their support. We have some exciting things in the works. For example, we are working on developing a handbook for deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes, similar to the general handbook, but with additional resources from NTID to help streamline everything.

We also are working on developing a separate handbook for hearing coaches and teammates that lists different communication methods, styles and options for them to use while working with deaf athletes. This will serve as a foundation for everyone to build on, and will help make every aspect of intercollegiate athletics more accessible, efficient and inclusive.

Later this summer we will kick off our new social media accounts for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to give you a closer look behind the scenes of our deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes.

We’ll have swag, too, like shirts, hats, mugs and so on. You’ll see us decked out in that this fall. Once the school year starts, we’ll host a social, get involved with the community, and then we’ll go from there. The fall athletes will start their season right away. We’ll be kicking off the Relentless Tiger Leadership program around the same time.

As of right now, we’ve only lost one student-athlete to graduation, so we have a very big crop coming back…and I couldn’t be any more excited! We will have athletes in new sports, and we will be on the look-out for walk-ons!

During the year, we’re encouraging the student-athletes to attack the weight room with the fury of a thousand suns! We made an informal record board for deaf and hard-of-hearing student-athletes, where they can one-up each other in the weight room. We will have records for the bench press, squat, front squat, deadlift, power clean, 40-yard dash, vertical jump and the mile run. There will be a ton of friendly competition, and we are all chomping for the year to roll in already.

We are excited to start another banner year for the RIT/NTID Athlete Development Program!

Tiger Tuesdays

In the fall, we will begin making “Tiger Tuesday” posts on our social media pages. I want to give you a deeper insight behind the concept of “Tiger Tuesday” and a better idea of what is going to come next.

You all know how the general population feels about Monday—wake up early after a weekend of sleeping in, a big eye roll, heavy sigh, trudge to class and feel like a zombie. But what happens when Monday is out of the way? Tuesday comes in! Now you’re starting to feel groovy. You can sense yourself gaining momentum throughout the week.

The goal of Tiger Tuesday is to deliver a message, a quote, and/or an idea of how you should operate that week. For example, one of the posts will have a quote by Nike, “Think training’s hard? Try losing.” This quote rings true to everyone, because it can be applied to any kind of situation. It could mean weight training, because if you’re mentally checking out of the weight room...then the moment you meet your competition…your competition will beat you. You won’t like it. It’s a harder pill to swallow than a brutal 10-set squat workout.

Another example…you could roll your eyes and take the easy way out on a business deal. You could cost yourself money in the long run because you didn’t invest as much as you should have. You’ll have to battle it out. Negotiate. Do the math and put in the hard work…and then you’ll see the fruits of your hard work instead of seeing your business crumble.

So, the intention of the Tiger Tuesday post is to give you all something to think about, something for you to connect with your life, and then assess how you will approach every task, every person, every situation and every day in your life going forward.

We’re looking forward to seeing how you all crush it after we start pouring out Tiger Tuesday posts this fall!

How to stay motivated

College is always a grind. It’s a marathon. A sprint. A sprint marathon sometimes.

It’ll be draining. It’ll challenge you and change you. You learn a lot about yourself in your journey. Champions succeed because of what they do when they’re in a rut, hitting speed bumps, or not being themselves. How do they stay motivated? How do you stay motivated?

Think of the bigger picture.

I was fortunate enough to attend a presentation by a United States Navy SEAL. He went through the hardest training the world had to offer. He proceeded to carve out a successful career in the Navy Seals and afterwards as a businessperson. One of the people asked him about how he kept himself going. He explained that he had to keep his grand purpose, grand vision in front of his mind every day. He would tailor his actions and work towards that vision. If things got tough, that vision and purpose were there to keep him going.

Be a teammate.

It doesn’t matter which sport you play. In college, you will be competing for a team. Be there for your teammates. They will recognize that and be there for you as well. You never know how much the little things can mean to others. I’ve had a situation where I decided to call a teammate who was struggling with a personal situation, invited him over to play video games and so on. Then one day I had a really bad practice right before the season started…this shot all of my confidence going into the season. The first person to walk up and give me a pep talk was that teammate. I didn’t realize that he remembered what I did to help him when he was down. So he did the same.

“No pressure…no diamonds!”

This is one of my favorite sayings as of late. I love the feeling of performing under pressure and coming out victorious. It is the best possible mentality to have as an athlete, being able to WANT the spotlight, WANT to be in that tough situation where there are big rewards if you do well. You have to develop that mentality through tough practices, classwork and in the community. So as the academic year rears its ugly head, grit your teeth and say, “no pressure…no diamonds!”

Five most common mistakes to avoid

Happy July 4th! Around this time of the year, college student-athletes have had the chance to kick back, unwind, and enjoy their summers all over the country.

As summertime continues, the sights of going back to college are coming back up on the horizon. It’s always an exciting time getting ready for college. But now…we’re going to discuss the five most common mistakes that we would like you to avoid!

  1. Sleep schedule. For most student-athletes, being able to kick back at home and enjoy life usually involves sleeping in. This is usually a nice thing to experience once in a while, but it’ll really rock you when the 6:00 a.m. workouts start back up. You’ll need to catch up on your sleep, but keep your sleep schedule consistent with your upcoming academic schedule, so you can adjust your body clock accordingly.
  2. Taking it easy. A full academic year of rigorous training, classwork and competition did take its toll on you. You’ve rested up. But don’t rest on your laurels! It’s tough because you don’t see your teammates often, the competitive atmosphere isn’t the same, and so on. But that’s not an excuse! Seek out talented athletes, training complexes or leagues in the area to keep yourself sharp, fitness- and skill-wise!
  3. Getting out of touch with your teammates. Your teammates are going through the same thing as you—you want to be able to continue building that team culture, the championship culture by remaining in touch with your teammates. Keeping tabs on them in every aspect—training, personal life and so on will help you become a better teammate from afar! It is recommended that you reach out to your new teammates as well! Make them feel welcome, and you’ll be able to get to know them faster as the new year starts.
  4. Not doing your homework. This sounds weird, but brushing up on some of the topics that you’ll be taking courses on this upcoming semester will really help you hit the classroom running! I’ve never been a good math student, but I found that if I looked up formulas, basic concepts and topics within data analysis (when I was about to take it), I felt a lot more prepared for the course load. It helped me stay ahead of things because I knew if I didn’t, I’ll end up spending more time with the tutor, which would have cramped my daily schedule over time.
  5. Not setting your goals early on. It’s imperative to be able to paint a picture of where you want to be, and figure out a game plan how to get there. Make smaller goals on a daily basis, and then as you smash them you’ll build great momentum going into the year. You’ll need to know what you want to do, how you’re going to do it, and how long it’ll take to get there.
Dealing with negativity

I was watching an exciting documentary on Netflix the other day called “Last Chance U.”

It’s a documentary about a community college in the eastern Mississippi area, and all the football players from all over the country go there to redeem themselves from academic, legal and personal issues and move back to the D-1 level. In the show, there are tons of adversity involved, and I wanted to discuss how athletes deal with negativity. I’ve seen a wide spectrum of athletes who succeeded by using negativity as a fuel, and some collapsed because of the negativity. I wanted to give you a few tips on how to handle things like this.

Mission first. Yourself second.

Most of the effective athletes, team members, or anyone involved with an organization will always do well if they put the mission over themselves. You have to make a little sacrifice, disregard what your personal agendas, personal goals, or personal vendettas are and work towards the ultimate goal. To give an example, I was hitting under .200 in summer ball once. I had a personal agenda of becoming an all-star, getting a professional contract, and all that. Our team wasn’t doing well because every player was out for himself, and then our head coach called us out on it. That shook us a little bit, and we decided to get rid of everything personal and focus on the mission, which was to win and make the playoffs. The minute we changed our mindset, we all began to perform better than when we were thinking about ourselves. A lot of negative things can happen to you during the course of a season, but if you look over the negativity and focus on the end goal…things will work out a lot better than if you look through the fog.

Use the negativity as fuel!

We all have our own haters everywhere we go. No matter what you do, there will always be someone out there doubting you, not thinking you’ll be able to pull something off, and so on. They might be straight up with you, they might be subtle, and such. We all know that there’s someone out there, and we will work to prove them wrong. With every rep you do in the weight room, you bring yourself closer to proving them wrong. With every clean rep at practice, you’ll slowly turn the tables on them. With every good game you have, the closer you are to achieving your inner greatness. Make them eat their words. Kick sand in their faces. Turn a deaf ear to the naysayers!

I want to walk-on. Now what?

The past few weeks, I’ve had numerous deaf and hard-of-hearing students approach me telling me that they want to be a part of RIT’s varsity athletic programs.

The walk-on process is a little hectic, and it will take a lot of hard work to make the team.

For walk-ons, they have it harder than the recruits. The recruits are more established, because they’ve been pursued by the coaching staffs between their sophomore, junior and senior years. Walk-ons are oftentimes the unknowns, and they have a lot more to prove, and they have to do it fast.

Before you decide to go for it, you’ll need to go through me, the athlete development program coordinator. You also need to complete the RIT recruiting questionnaire. That way the coaches can get a better idea of who you are, what kind of competition you’ve been involved with up until now, and so on.

Once you fill that out, you’ll have to complete the ATS (Athletic Trainer System) paperwork online. There are two PDF files that will instruct you how to do the paperwork, and videos in ASL to help clarify things if necessary.

Next you’ll have to keep tabs on when the sports medicine office will be holding the “clearance day,” where specific teams will have to go in the office to get themselves officially medically cleared to compete. You will not be allowed to step on the field until you complete the medical aspect.

After that, it’s time for you to strap your cleats on and give it your all. Good luck, athletes. We’ll be rooting for you.

Here we go!

The school year is officially in full swing. All of the fall sports are underway, and winter athletes are now loading up for the preseason.

Our fall athletes have been starting the year off with a bang! I wanted to capture their mindset and make sure it carries over to all the other student-athletes throughout the year.

Keep it light.

Our student-athletes who perform the best usually take things very lightly. It’s weird because usually with intercollegiate athletics it’s supposed to be intense, serious and all that. You have to approach everything with a smile on your face, otherwise sports will feel more like a job instead of fun. Your days will be brutal. With classes, assignments, workouts and practices, you’re going to crush it some days, and you’re going to get crushed other days. Take it in stride, and focus on what you can do, and do it with passion.

Win the battle, win the war.

We’ve all heard this—some say lose the battle, but not the war. I say win the battle and the war! Looking ahead at an entire academic year is daunting, and it’ll be easy for you to get lost in the chaos. Break it down into weeks instead of semesters. If things get harder, break it down from weeks into days. Win the day. What does this mean? It can mean having a great practice or getting a good workout, to doing a great job on an assignment…or all of the above!

Don’t think too much.

Your brain is going into overdrive soon with all the formulas, equations and the pressure to succeed in sports. So when you get the chance, unplug. Just let your mind idle for a little bit by taking a nap, sitting outside with friends or making some alone time. Recharge your battery every chance you get. You’ll thank yourself later.

Good luck student-athletes, go crush it.

Riding on the successes

RIT/NTID student-athletes have been having a terrific start to the year!

RIT/NTID made history by having a pair of deaf athletes win the RIT male and female student-athlete of the week and Liberty League honors at the same time! Their steady rise to excellence was defined by three words. Brick by brick.

I find myself reciting these words as of late. As the fall semester builds momentum, I see the student-athletes grinding and becoming frustrated with their progress. They want to jump higher, run faster, get stronger and perform better overnight. They want to crush it right away.

Many people run out of patience when they invest their commitment into something that doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t have to be related to athletics—it can be about academics, building relationships with colleagues or heck, it can be about your Call of Duty skills!

You’ve seen many majestic buildings that loom over cities. Chances are that most of them have bricks. At RIT, take Eastman Hall for example and Ellingson Hall, too. Buildings that big take time to be built. How do people build buildings that big? Brick by brick. Young student-athletes ask me all the time what level of commitment it takes to excel. I oftentimes answer with a question, “How good do you want to be?” This determines your willingness to build an incredible career…brick by brick. It’s up to you if you want to be a bench player, a starter or a legend. You’ll have to be willing to keep laying brick longer, through thick and thin, and in the face of adversity. As you lay brick, you can physically see the progress, and you get excited by the thought of the beautifully finished product! This is how the student-athletes keep riding on their successes, because they know they’re well on their way to even bigger and better things on and off the field.

What's the recipe for success?

Skip Flanagan asked me to write an article that might be beneficial to deaf and hard-of-hearing student-athletes.

I thought long and hard about a topic and came up with "what's the recipe for success?" My answer is there are many different recipes for success.

One of my favorite recipes is "do not take short cuts." Growing up when I went for a five-mile run I would tell myself to go hard for all five miles. Usually late into my the third mile I would feel like slowing down my pace but because I told myself at the beginning to run five miles hard I kept my word and kept on running hard. When running around the field I always went around the corners and never took the shorter way, which is going in front of the corners. There were many days and nights I could have kicked back, watched T.V., eaten junk food or gone out to a party. Instead, I decided to do multiple rounds of suicide sprints on a steep hill. The more I did this I noticed that in the second half of games or at the end of a tough training session I was feeling great while my competition or teammates were grasping for air. This type of mentality was the reason I was successful on the RIT soccer team and why I was inducted into the RIT Hall of Fame. Success happens by not taking short cuts.

After being named Player of the Year for the Empire 8 Conference at the end of my junior year, I still stayed after practice to improve my corner kicks, penalty kicks, touches on the ball, and also did extra running and lifting. I didn't think that because I got the POY award that I didn't need to do this anymore. Actually, it was the complete opposite because upon receiving the award I wanted to be named POY in my senior year and knew what I had to do to accomplish it.

I was very fortunate to be a member of an exceptional Club Team in my teens. We traveled all over the United States to tournaments playing against the best teams in the country. At a tournament in California, we played a terrible first game. After the match our coach said, "Boys, when you get back to your rooms tonight I want each and every one of you to look in the mirror, eyeball to eyeball, and ask yourself, did I properly prepare myself to perform, both mentally and physically, to the best of my ability? Only you can answer that question." To this day I still look in the mirror, eyeball to eyeball, and ask myself that very same question, whether it be regarding my career, relationships or any other aspect of my life. Success happens by not taking short cuts.

If you want to be very good and excel at what you do, you cannot take short cuts. You need to consistently do more than anyone else. If someone runs four miles, you run five miles. If someone juggles 500 times, you juggle 600 times. Nothing is easy if you want to excel. Always try your best and take a hard look in the mirror, and if you can tell yourself that you gave it your all and tried your absolute best on every given day in practice and games you will have no regrets regardless of what you achieved or did not achieve. I'd rather have tried my absolute best and been a mediocre player than be the best player and not have tried my best.

As you mold yourself into the best player (person) you can be, remember there are no short cuts. You have to be patient, work hard and always try your absolute best! Do what will help you in your present and your future. Will watching T.V., eating junk food and going out to parties help your future? Or will preparing yourself, both mentally and physically, for your practices, matches and focusing on your education help your future?

The decision is yours ~ you are the person that has to look into your mirror forever after.

Best Regards, Mike Michael E. Lawson, MS, MSSE, 2009

The difference between intramural and varsity athletics

Students come up to me almost every day this semester saying that they want to go out for the basketball team, volleyball team, or whatever team.

They usually aren’t prepared for the barrage of the questions they get in response. “Did you play at the varsity level at your high school? Are you a letter winner? All-Conference/All-State? Travel team? Are you still training?”

If someone said no to one of these, they’re bound for intramurals. Of course, the eye test is factored in there as well. If you look the part, and your answers to these questions line up, you have a chance in varsity athletics.

The reason I’m talking about this is, the line between the intramural programs and varsity programs can be blurred sometimes. I get it, you enjoy sports. Nothing wrong with that. But with the varsity programs, people who are involved have invested years and years of hard work, training, competing, and are in the top 10% of the country (in some sports, less than 10% of the country) in that respective sport. You can’t just waltz in and make the team unless you’re insanely talented.

The biggest differences between intramural and varsity sports are time commitment, talent and coaching staff.

For intramural sports, if you’re not feeling well or need to focus on your homework one weekend, you can take the weekend off without a hitch. For varsity sports, that won’t be possible. You are expected to show up and compete no matter what. You’ll have to take care of yourself and your course work at a different time.

As for talent, you compete with some impressive athletes at the intramural level, but with varsity sports, you’re competing with some of the best in the country. You’re also fighting for a spot on the roster, so every single day, you have to prove it to the team that you’re capable of hanging in there with the best.

Lastly, you have a coaching staff who will challenge you, push you, and put you through the grinder day in and day out. They are completely invested in your physical, mental, emotional and skill development for four full years. In intramural sports, your coaches are sometimes your classmates, faculty, or someone who signed up for the heck of it. The team dynamics are completely different.

These two programs are completely different, but at the same time, they’re exactly the same. People who play in both programs are in there for the love of the game. If you truly think you’ve got what it takes, you know where to find me.

Dealing with an Injury

We get it. Injuries aren’t fun. It’s not fun tearing an ACL, breaking a bone or getting a sprain.

These kinds of injuries usually shelve athletes for at least a month or more. It’s inevitable at some point. Every athlete will experience some form of injury on a daily basis whether it be a bone bruise or a stubbed toe. Here’s what you should do when you’re down with an injury.

It’s only one body part.

Sure, you got a busted leg. But you have the rest of the body to work on. I’m using the busted leg as an example from my experience here. I broke a leg playing baseball, and I had a meeting with one of the coaches. He asked me how long I’ll be out, and so on. I said at least a month. I somehow implied that I wouldn’t be doing any lower body exercises because of the broken leg. Then I was asked this: “How many legs do you have?” which I answered with “two.” “Are both of them broken,” he said. To which I replied, “No.” “Then train that other leg,” he said.

So, I ended up doing all the different kinds of exercises, single leg squats, extensions and such. I had to constantly keep moving and training all the other body parts. My upper body and single leg strength skyrocketed during that time. You might be on the shelf, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. You have to find a way.

Stay around your teammates.

The injured people are easily forgotten. Usually when someone goes down, they’re out. Out of sight. Out of the picture. This is where you can prove your leadership, where you can continue attending practices, games, cheering on your teammates, and being there for everyone. You’re still a part of the team although you’re not on the starting line-up. Stick around. They’ll notice.


You might not be able to physically compete in your sport. But you can play…in your head. Visualize yourself doing drills, making the plays and celebrating victories with your fellow teammates. I’ve seen injured athletes sit on the bench and in the stands, close their eyes, and visualize the entire game unfolding before their eyes. This is an incredible opportunity for self-talk. You can practice your breathing techniques, your game-day routine, test your makeup, and keep yourself razor sharp. Once you’re cleared to hit the field and rock, you’ll be more than ready.

Lifting with RIT/NTID Athletes

By: Heather D'Errico, RIT strength coach

With one semester as the strength coach here at RIT under my belt, I have learned many things about working with RIT/NTID athletes. My first few days working here I actually hadn’t considered what it would be like having deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes in the weight room. I will never forget my first team with a deaf athlete who had brought an interpreter in. I wasn’t sure how slow to speak, who to look at, or how to demonstrate the exercises in a way they would understand fully. I went with the flow that day and then thankfully Skip Flanagan, RIT/NTID athlete development coordinator, came by the weight room to give me some pointers.

I have found it is really simple to communicate by making sure you make eye contact and demonstrate the movement a few times, pausing to speak in between so the athlete can lip read. As a typical Italian I naturally use my hands when talking, but I also tend to talk very fast. Learning to slow down when I am speaking to a group and demonstrating, especially if there is an interpreter that needs to catch up, has been helpful. I have found many signs for items in the weight room are exactly how you would try to describe it anyways (for example the sign for barbell is literally trying to show what a barbell is with your hands….mind blown). Cueing for exercises actually tends to be the exact same as I do with every athlete—showing them visually and/or physically helping them get into the correct position by adjusting their shoulders or hips.

I would like to learn more signs and continue to educate myself to converse more with RIT/NTID athletes. But for now I keep learning as I go, and it makes me happy when I see athletes have “aha moments” when I am correcting them on movements and it makes sense to them. It also is rewarding to see how happy it makes them when you take the extra time to help them and make sure they understand. They are so eager to learn and work hard in here. Nothing makes me as satisfied after a session in the weight room like when they come up and give me a fist bump on the way out…which is pretty universal for thank you with respect and approval.

Day in the Life - Mia White

Hey everybody! Some of you might have seen the “Day in the Life” series chronicling a couple of our RIT/NTID student-athletes!

The first one was with Mia White, a member of the women’s soccer team. Our talented RIT/NTID student photographer Amelia Hamilton decided to follow her around for the day. Thanks to the community for their suggestions, we’ve decided to revisit this project but with more details!

At 6:00 a.m., Mia and another RIT/NTID student-athlete, Emily Thiel, get ready to go into the weight room. Our strength and conditioning programs are designed to do two important things—get our athletes stronger and prevent injuries. We believe that injury prevention is done through strength training, as stronger athletes are capable of handling increased workloads on the field as well some physical contact.

Our head strength coach, Heather D’Errico, likes to put the athletes through a specific routine of stretching, breathing, and mobility work before lifting weights. We utilize a few different equipment, kettlebells, chains, sleds, bands and so on. We also incorporate an app for student-athletes who are out on co-op, so they can put in their lifting data to see where they stand, and track their progress.

We tend to start with foam rolling and some lacrosse ball work to try to loosen up tight muscles. In Mia’s case, it’s the legs, because soccer is all about the legs. Tight legs and no mobility work prior to training is a perfect recipe for a future injury.

We move on to stretching the bigger leg muscles such as the quads, hamstrings, glutes, adductors and abductors. Lunge stretches, squats, and butterfly stretches as seen here. You can expect to see athletes doing these exercises as a part of their warm-up regime.

Now it’s time to get the training program. Heather will walk the athletes through the exercises if necessary, and then the team gets after it.

The key to athletic success oftentimes lies in one’s core strength and explosion. It applies to a baseball swing, a lacrosse shot, a hockey slap shot, and being able to dominate your opponents on the pitch.

Onto the second half of the training session—front squats, hang cleans, core stability work and kettlebell work. There are millions of different exercises, and they all work in a variety of ways. We work hard to find the ones that work the best for each one of us. Incorporating a variety of exercises into our regimes will help the student-athletes improve their overall athleticism, continue their muscular and neuromuscular development, and develop the ability to adapt faster to a variety of factors that take place during a season.

The heavy lifting of the day is done. It’s widely discussed that the “anabolic window” of 30 minutes post-workout is the most important 30 minutes you need to capitalize on. It’s the period where you need to take in all of the protein, carbs, calories and the additional nutrients to help you recover from workouts as fast as possible.

It’s important to spend time with your inner circle. Collegiate sports tend to do a good job at throwing things out of whack. Student-athletes, especially deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes, need to balance both deaf and hearing worlds the best they can. Mia has to maintain relationships with the Deaf community while doing the same for the soccer team and the rest of the hearing community.

Throughout the day there are different groups of people to interact with such as classmates, teammates, professors, staff and others. It’s important to build a relationship with every one of them because it takes a village to raise a student-athlete.

The fun part of being a student-athlete…homework! A lot of people tend to whine about athletes and how they get away with a lot. Little did they know that student-athletes regularly post higher GPAs and overall academic performance on a daily basis. The NTID Athlete Development Program’s average GPA as a whole has never gone below 3.0 since its inception.

There always will be a discussion on diet in college, and for student-athlete it’s a whole other ball game. The “Freshman 15” is inevitable, but student-athletes almost always put on the right kind of weight- muscle. We burn so much calories throughout the day with lifting weights, practices, walking around campus and much more. It is imperative that we consistently fuel ourselves throughout the day through a variety of snacks, meals and drinks.

Student-athletes need to pay attention to three big areas of diet: protein, carbs and calories. These three will keep you fueled for the rigors of a soccer season. It is always encouraged that you eat your fruits and vegetables, and we have people at RIT/NTID providing proper resources and advice on how you should eat for optimal performance. Mia is hitting her meal plan right on the nail.

In college sports, it’s always “student-athlete”, not “athlete-student.” This means we have to attend classes and put in the work. Some classes are fun, some aren’t. We encourage recruits to come into college knowing what they want to do because they still have the fire, the passion and the energy to perform well both in academics and athletics. If you’re a student-athlete and hate the major you’re in, you’re in trouble.

In Mia’s case, she wants to go into sports marketing, so every class she takes, she tries to apply what she learns into the sports industry. She tinkers with social media, campus events, working in the athletic department, and everything that presents itself. Again, it’s important that you know what you want out of your academic major, and apply the same amount of passion into academics as you do in sports.

Back to the pitch. And it’s only been a day in Mia White’s life.

Day in the Life - Ethan Ettienne

It’s early in the morning. Another two-a-day awaits Ethan Ettienne.

Ethan has a full day of lifting, classes, homework, socializing, eating and throwing. Ethan’s eyeing a workout program full of core stability, plyometric movements and Olympic lifts.

Ethan’s training regime went through an adjustment—going from off-season heavy lifting to power and explosive movements to keep his throwing performance at a high during the season. He has to maintain his strength levels while not wearing himself out over the duration of a season. Ethan has done something that most collegiate athletes do not usually achieve—set personal records in the weight room during the season. Athletes’ strength levels oftentimes peak during the off-season, then their numbers decline as the rigors of a competitive season goes on. For example, baseball players tend to max out on their squats and deadlifts a month before the season, but then their numbers drop off as they continue playing doubleheaders, go on long bus trips, and so on. Ethan’s numbers has consistently climbed rather than declined.

Ethan is strong, but he’s more concerned with the ability to be as explosive as possible. There are millions of strong athletes around, but explosion is what separates the stars from the benchwarmers. This can be done by performing power movements, in this case—power cleans. Hang cleans are pretty good too. Ethan is going light on this one. He’s more focused on technique during the season, because that will carry over into throwing events. “You can bench 500, but if your technique is gone, you’re not going to throw far,” he preaches.

Ethan wraps up his morning lift with some stability work. Strength coach Heather D’Errico pumps his programs full of stability exercises such as “stir-the-pot,” “roll-outs,” and “dead bugs.” D’Errico explains that the success of an athlete’s physical development starts in the core. It’s what keeps everything together, and if you have a strong core, you’re capable of taking on larger workloads. With larger workloads, you’ll be able to perform at an even higher level, and Ethan is a byproduct of that.

Eating time! Ethan hits his “anabolic window” with a healthy meal of salad mixed with a lot of protein. This meal alone will help him maintain his recovery, keep his energy levels up, and fuels him for the next couple of hours.

Some of the most important things student-athletes tend to forget about is the relationship they have with their professors. They play a huge role in a student-athlete’s development as a student and as a person. The professors are the ones who pave the way for students to succeed after graduation. They also are the ones who help determine their GPAs! Quite important.

Lacing ‘em up. These shoes are a little different from any other shoe.It’s designed for shotputters, hammer throwers and javelin throwers. It’s light, and has a strong base towards the toe area. This allows for a strong pivot, where all the force and torque is generated.

One of the things Ethan is trying to focus on is getting the full extension as well as the launch angle. It’s important to loft the weight high, as the distance will continue to increase while the weight is coming down.

The beauty in being a student-athlete at RIT is that we incorporate technology all the time. We have coaches who utilize video analysis to ensure that Ethan fine-tunes his form. We also use technology for lifting. We have some apps that track the bar path (making sure the bar stays straight throughout an exercise), tracks your progress, and provides communication with the team re: announcements, meetings and so on.

A lot of boxes have been checked off today, and we’re checking the “refuel” box off now. Get your protein and carbs in. Followed by homework time. Then we’ll call it a night. Rinse and repeat.

How they balance it all

I posted a question on social media asking what kind of things did readers want to see in the blog posts. One of the readers commented, “How do they balance it all?” I’ll try my best to answer this question.

When I give recruits a campus tour, I oftentimes am asked about how athletes balance all the aspects of college: academics, athletics, family, friends, future opportunities, jobs and so on. I always grin and tell them the hard truth, “You can’t.”

When I got to campus as a freshman, I found myself getting a workout in with a senior who’s now a big-time medical professional. I asked him all the little questions and he really had to simplify things to me. He stuck up four fingers. School. Sports. Social life. Sleep…then he holds up another three fingers and says…”you can only pick three.” He was right.

But again, I told you he had to really simplify it for me. Little did I know how complicated it was. Let me break it down to you a little more.

1) School.

You’re a student-athlete at Rochester Institute of Technology. RIT doesn’t mess around when it comes to academics. The classes are challenging, but they prepare you for the future. Not only that, you have to make sure you’re in the right major. Taking the right classes. Taking the right courses and the right amount of credits. And having professors who support athletics. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. You have to worry about being a part of the right group of students who will support you, challenge you, and encourage you all the way, up until you walk across the stage.

You are still expected to perform at the highest level on the field when you just were slapped with a 67 on your math exam. At the same time, you have to be able to come home from a grueling two-a-day and be able to knock out all the assignments on time. Your group project doesn’t wait for you. The expectations are high on both sides, and it’s up to you to apply the same kind of grit in athletics and in academia. I personally tried to coast through college with a “good-enough” mentality because I came here to play baseball, not to play school. My baseball career benefited from the extra focus I invested in, but my grades suffered, and I was lucky enough to be able to pull out great grades towards graduation. This kind of “back-and-forth” is not encourage—it only adds stress. I can keep going on and on, but you get the idea—it’s a lot of work. And it’s only a fraction of what you have to do every day.

2) Sports.

Less than six percent of high school students around the country go on to compete at the NCAA level. What does that mean? You’ve got to be really good. Like All-State/All-Conference/All-American good. You are competing with the rest of the country for your roster spot, a chance to be a starter, and a chance to leave a mark on your program. You are on the team for one reason, and that’s to help the team win. You are expected to improve your physical performance from when you step on campus all the way until you graduate. You are expected to lift more weights, run faster times, and play better as time goes on. I have seen athletes get dropped from teams when their numbers in the weight room and on the field didn’t improve. Coaches recruited you to play collegiately because they think you can develop under their tutelage, and they expect you to do so. If you don’t, they’re going to make sure you become a non-athletic regular person (a NARP).

With that in mind, your diet comes into play. Most of the college students hit the vaunted ‘Freshman 15’, and we have to do the same, but we try to do it the right way. Put on some muscle, eat right, avoid the greasy cafeteria food, keeping your body fueled and free of Mountain Dew, and it’s got a direct impact on your performance. When you’re not competing, you’re constantly looking for food, and it’s a part of your schedule now.

At the same time, some students are involved with intramural sports…and that’s another chunk of a few hours out of your day, and some additional effort as well. Most teams ban intramurals during the season, but it’s a big part of one’s college experience. You’re constantly putting your body to use, improving your performance, keeping yourself fueled, and you can’t slack off.

3) Social life.

You’re a student-athlete at RIT, and there are thousands of students on campus to mingle with. There are relationships to be built with your classmates, roommates, friends, teammates, professors, support staff, tutors, community members, coaches and many more. Relationships take time, and it’s harder for deaf and hard-of-hearing student-athletes because they are hopping back and forth between the deaf and hearing communities. You have your set of deaf classmates, roommates, friends, teammates, professors, support staff, tutors, community members and others at NTID while you try to build relationships with the same kind of people at RIT. The language barrier isn’t always helping either, but we make it work.

As a college student, extracurricular activities have to be handled in moderation because most students don’t have anything to do on weekends, AKA they sleep in. Student-athletes can’t always do that. They have practice in the morning, so they can’t go out until the wee hours of the morning.

realize that I have practice soon, and I really don’t want to leave my friends. This is one of the bigger reasons why deaf and hard-of-hearing student-athletes leave athletics—they prefer to be more involved with their friends instead of competing. It’s always a tough decision to make.

Not only that, you have a family in which to stay in touch. You have parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other families as well. You need to be able to maintain contact and a good relationship with them throughout college because they are your number one support system. Let’s do the math. A solid conversation with one person usually takes up to 15-20 minutes…and you have all these people to build relationships with…that’s a lot of time out of your daily schedule.

4) Sleep.

I personally had an interesting experience as a college sophomore where I lived with three other roommates. Two were involved with Greek life, one was a hardcore gamer, and they all had their own sleeping schedules—in short, the lights were never off. They always had friends over, and no one would actually be asleep at any point throughout the 24 hours. I learned how to balance that while being able to get in my sleep. I napped at least twice every day as an athlete, and it’s helped me maintain mental and physical performance even if I didn’t get my eight hours through the night.

RIT/NTID student –athlete Otto Kingstedt, always gets 10 hours of sleep every day, and he racks up the hours by taking power naps throughout. It’s also how he handles stress. Many other athletes develop the ability to sleep wherever and whenever possible. If you don’t get enough rest, your body won’t be able to recover, and your mind won’t be as sharp. Students get a lot done by pulling all-nighters, but athletes can’t expect to pull an all-nighter, hit the field and perform.

I never did an all-nighter until I was a fifth-year student during the final exams, and I wanted to see what it was like. I did well on my exams, but it ruined me for days. I wasn’t able to get quality training sessions in, and I felt lousy all the way through. It’s imperative that student-athletes be conscious of their sleep schedules and understand the correlation between sleep and overall performance in college.

How do we balance it all? We don’t. We can’t. But what we can do is to touch upon each area evenly. We might focus on school, social life and sleep during the offseason, but then we can focus on sports while sacrificing social life during the season. You can only pick three out of four, but make sure you touch upon all four consistently throughout—without getting things too out of whack. It’ll get crazy, but how you respond to it will determine how well you’ll succeed at RIT.

Do’s and don’ts of a hearing teammate

You’re on a team, and this fall you have a deaf teammate for the first time. I’ve seen so many people experience this type of culture shock.

From my personal experience as a deaf teammate, (I’m sure many others can relate) I always felt that they thought I had 10 eyes and four arms. It took them a while to get used to me. But it happens every year when freshmen come in.

So, to help mitigate this whole “culture shock” situation, here’s a little list of do’s and don’ts for you to utilize.

DO: Go for it

You might be nervous, and things might be a little awkward at first. But once you make that jump, and try and make it happen. You can only go up from there. If you’re willing to put up with the learning curve, maybe look silly in the process, and struggle a bit, you’re going to pick things up significantly faster than if you don’t go for it.

DO: Put in some effort

We appreciate any kind of effort hearing athletes make in trying to connect with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. So, please take the time to pick up the alphabet, basic signs and take the time to interact with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community—both on and off the field. This will help the team dynamics tremendously, boost the team chemistry, and bring the program towards a championship mentality.

DO: Ask questions

I’m sure there are always a lot of questions popping up in a hearing athlete’s head about the Deaf culture, community and the nuances of things. Go ahead and ask these questions. It’s a part of the learning process, and will help avoid some awkward assumptions. Some FAQs for you now; yes, we can drive, we have an alarm clock that shakes the bed, and we don’t need speech lessons. But go ahead and start the conversation, so you can get to know your deaf and hard-of-hearing teammates better.

DON’T: Avoid

There is nothing that screams “chemistry killer” more than avoiding your teammates. First impressions last. So, don’t be too shy and make the first contact. I personally go ahead and introduce myself to everyone, so they don’t have to make the decision whether to approach me or avoid me.

DON’T: “Never mind”

Ask any deaf or hard-of-hearing person on campus what their greatest pet peeves are, and chances are that they’ll tell you the “never mind” story. Oftentimes hearing athletes are asked to clarify or repeat themselves, and after a while it’ll get old. So “never mind” happens, and it’s going to annoy any deaf or hard-of-hearing person around. So, we ask you to be patient and repeat yourself.

DON’T: Take the easy way out

It took me a few years to establish a strong relationship with my teammates because I had to juggle them with the Deaf community. I’m literally building two different sets of friendships and brotherhoods at the same time. Some of the athletes tend to take the easy way out and run with their cliques. It’s easy to do that, but it’s important that you don’t do that. Understand that there are many different communities involved within the deaf world and be patient. Take the time to be there, get to know each other, and that’ll boost the team success.

There you have it, some do’s and don’ts of being a hearing teammate. The whole experience is an exciting one, with a lot of highs and lows. But if you go about it with an open mind, you’re going to take off. And the team will follow suit.

Incoming freshmen and strength and conditioning

I’ve always been a staunch advocate of strength and conditioning. I truly believe it is one of the sole reasons that I was able to play professional baseball.

I came into RIT weighing a smidge under 160, and I walked across the stage for my graduation weighing 215. It was the difference between me hitting a baseball for a double or hitting a home run against St. Lawrence University. It was the difference between me getting fatigued towards the end of a regular season or continuing to perform well deep into the Liberty League playoffs.

I try to stress the same elements of training, eating a lot, and maintaining a consistent routine from when you decide to commit to a college all the way through graduation. So I decided to stop by the Tiger Power Den and ask our new RIT head strength coach, Ryan Kelly, for tips on incoming freshmen and how they can best prepare themselves for the rigors of college sports.

Ryan’s response was simple. Master the basics. Bodyweight stuff. What this means is that you need to be able to handle anything that is your bodyweight. Do pushups, pull-ups, squats, jumps, lunges, abs, and whatever that your sport makes you do. And you’ll have to be able to consistently push yourself in these areas, because we will expect upward progression from each of our athletes.

The athletes will go through several training cycles depending on their sport’s season (whether it be the fall, winter, or spring). They all will eventually be having their one-rep max tested in several movements. The more popular movements are the following: front squats, hex-bar deadlift, bench press, and so on. We are more concerned with your athletic improvement, not your powerlifting total.

Ryan also added that they want athletes to show up in shape—and then they will be able to coach and build upon your strength program with various movements. For example, there will be Olympic movements involved once you get underway with a strength program here. But you have to show the coaches that you have the rock solid foundation ready before progressing.

So in the meanwhile, make sure you move. Squat. Jump. Push. Run. Pull. Strain a little bit. And then we’ll take care of the rest.

What it means to be an RIT student-athlete: Madisen Baldwin

by Madisen Baldwin

Being an RIT athlete is much more than just wearing the RIT logo almost every day. It is putting in the countless hours of work on and off the field for yourself, your team and your school. It is studying hard and achieving just as much success in the classroom as on the field, because we are student-athletes. Being an RIT athlete means reaching out to the community and setting an example for those younger than us who strive to become collegiate student-athletes themselves. Above all, being an RIT athlete means family. No one is alone with their trials in life because they have a family that supports them and will stand with them.

I came into RIT as a transfer softball player from a community college in Oregon. I was very nervous and didn't know what to expect on my first day. But from the moment I stepped onto the field with the people who would soon be my closest friends, I realized I finally found my home away from home.

Going into my very last season as a student-athlete is very bittersweet. This sport has taught me so much about myself and life! I'm forever grateful for RIT softball for giving me the opportunity to put on my cleats for two last seasons and play with the women who quickly became my family.

Being an RIT athlete is more than athletics; it is being a part of a community, academia, and creating lasting friendships. I know I will always have people in my corner because I am an RIT Tiger and we all play for something greater than ourselves. With that being said… Go Tech!

What it means to be an RIT student-athlete: Mia White

by Mia White

On the way home from soccer practice, I was thinking about what being an RIT athlete means to me. I couldn't come up with just one thing because there are so many to choose from. Being an RIT athlete is a blessing. We are student-athletes, which means student first and there are no excuses not to work harder in our academics. We are expected to work hard, have the same work ethic in the classroom as other non-athletes and be committed to our sport at the same time. It requires a lot of time management and effort to be a student-athlete.

Commitment, loyalty, and sacrifice are what it takes to be an RIT student-athlete. Your teammates are completely committed just like you and that makes our bond stronger. It is a feeling of unification as we all are in this together. We all want to win Liberty League championships and an NCAA title every year. To be committed, it requires sacrifices such as social life. I make more sacrifices than I realize because I chose to be on this team, I want to be on the team. Being an RIT athlete also means loyalty, as we play for the school, for our team, and ourselves. Not everyone get the chance to play the sports they love at a collegiate level and for that, I feel honored to be a RIT athlete.

What plays an important role to me is the culture of this team. Being an athlete at RIT is the best highlight of my soccer career. We not only just play sports together, but become a family. Being deaf does not stop me and my teammate from bonding and creating an incredible team culture. Most of my teammates know American Sign Language, which is incredibly awesome. Being an athlete here makes me realize the person I could be that I never thought I would be when I first came here in 2016.

Walking on

If a high school athlete doesn’t get recruited by a college, it doesn’t mean his or her athletic career ends at high school graduation. He or she does still have a chance of making it to the college level as an athlete. There are countless stories out there of current major league athletes who didn’t have a single offer from a college.

For those who are interested in trying out, the first thing you need to do is to get rid of “trying out” from your vocabulary. It’s now called “walking on.” At the Division I level, it usually means you try out and make the team without getting any scholarship money. The process is quite straightforward, and it can be intense.

The coaches will be looking at you, your history, and your ceiling. For example, if you put up strong numbers in high schools (oftentimes also means you collect league, regional, and/or state awards), that will help you right off the bat. As you begin to compete, hopefully as a freshman, the coaches will compare you to the rest of the freshmen they have on the squad. If you can match or perform better than them, you’re going to be in a good spot. That is because you are showing them that you are capable of continuing to perform better as you get older.

The walk-on process is oftentimes day-by-day. If they like you after day 1, they’ll ask you to come back for day 2. If day 2 goes well, they’ll keep asking you back until they finalize the roster. There are also possibilities that they will ask you to go to the weight room with them to evaluate your physical fitness, do extra work after practice, and so forth. They will test your intangibles- your work ethic, commitment, and chemistry with the team.

For those who are second-, third-, or fourth-year students who want to try out…you have to be an absolute beast. I’ve only seen one athlete make the team as a walk on senior…that student-athlete was a monster in the weight room, outperformed all of the upperclassmen, and went all out in everything he did…that includes ping pong. He was only able to stick around for a year, but boy, was he a shooting star.

I’ve seen coaches explain to an athlete who got cut after trying out as a third-year student. The explanation was simple, “you are good, but you’ve got only two years or less left…while the freshman over there has four or five years to develop. Chances are, that freshman has greater return on investment than you.” Painful, but true.

My tip for those who walk on…outwork the captains. That will nearly guarantee that you get everyone’s attention. Show up 30 minutes early. Stay until coach tells you to go. There will be people who give you a hard time for “showing them up.” Good. They know they aren’t working hard enough. They’ll come around. Oftentimes they will make the walk on process a brutal one, but if you can handle it, then the rest of the year will be smoother. But you still have a long way to go, so take it day-by-day. Brick by brick.

Understanding your place

“But I should be playing!” a student lamented. Every single student-athlete who wants to compete will always want to be put in the starting line-up right away no matter what. It’s also one of the reasons why some student-athletes don’t pan out. They don’t understand and accept their place on the roster.

No one likes to be told what to do. I get that. But at the same time, you’re back on the bottom of the ladder. You aren’t in high school anymore. I had my high school varsity letter jacket on in the fall as a freshman. One of the seniors pulled me aside and told me to close the yearbook. “We don’t care what you did in high school. It’s what you do now that matters.” So I overnighted that jacket home. I had to start all over again. I had to do my time, “pay the man” is a phrase commonly used in the special operations world, and it applies to this. You can sit and pout if you aren’t playing much. But here’s what you can do…

Keep your eyes PEELED!

If you’re sitting on the bench…you have the best seat in the house. You will run into several All-Americans, All-Region, and some of the most elite athletes you’ll ever be around. Pay attention to what they do. You might be able to learn something!

Push your teammates.

Give your teammates a hard time in practice. This doesn’t mean you get rude or anything. Compete against them as best as you can. Competing against the best will always help you elevate your game faster than from competing against the bottom feeders. Badger your coach to get you reps against the top dogs. This will also show the coaches how bad you want it.

Be humble.

In today’s world, athletes are more vocal on and off the field, in and out of social media, and wherever they go. This can be good and bad. You don’t talk about what’s going on with your team. Only praise your team. No talking down on your teammates or coaches. Stay positive. Even if you haven’t gotten a chance to compete all year long. Set your ego aside, and your time will come.

The formula is simple. Pay attention. Push hard. Keep your mouth shut. Your time will come.