My Time as a D3 Athlete
By Marissa Romanek (Sunderland, Md./Huntingtown)
No. 2 singles / No. 1 doubles
Flashback to 2015... I had just finished community college and was figuring out where to go next. I knew I wanted to finish my degree at a four-year college, but the idea of living away from home with a bunch of people that I didn't know was terrifying. I swallowed my fears and decided to come to St. Mary's College of Maryland. Looking back, I can honestly say that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. SMCM has given me many things, one of the most important being my experience as a Division III athlete.
I am a senior on the tennis team here at St. Mary's and I have loved and learned many things from my time as a D3 athlete. There are good and bad days for any athlete and as much as I love the good days, it has been the bad days that have taught me the most. It was the 6 am practices, late night bus rides home, 6 ball drills, obnoxiously long matches, and embarrassingly short ones that have shaped who I am as a D3 athlete and beyond. It was through these experiences that I have learned the importance of balance, commitment, and positivity.
I am not aspiring to be a professional tennis player. The ship to the pros has sailed for me and I am okay with that. Being a D3 athlete means that although I work and train hard, tennis is not my whole life. Although there are days when it feels that way, I am also primarily a student and a person who is trying to enjoy their senior year. Finding the balance between my sport, schoolwork, and a social life has been a tough but important lesson that I have learned, but not yet mastered. Being a D3 athlete has given me the opportunity to live the best of both worlds and for that I am grateful.
Commitment is another key element that I have learned from being a D3 athlete. Although there are many matches where I am alone on the court, tennis is very much a team sport. It is my teammates who cheer me on, encourage me, practice with me, push me, and remind me why I love my sport. It is my coach who puts in extra time to help me, encourage me, and get me ready for my match. I know tennis is a team sport because without the commitment of my coach and teammates, I would not love what I do.
Positivity has probably been one of the most challenging and valuable things that being a D3 athlete has taught me. There are days when I don't want to get out of bed at 6 am for practice and I don't want to hit in the freezing and windy weather. It is the days when I can't seem to remember how to play tennis or I get hit in the face with a ball that it is very hard to stay positive. I am not always the most optimistic person on the court, but as my college tennis career nears its end, I am slowly appreciating every part of it more and more. I know that the day is coming when I will no longer be a D3 college athlete who has the privilege of playing tennis with my friends everyday, competing at a higher level, or eating a massive amount of food after a hard workout.
The lessons that I have learned as a D3 athlete are things that I intend to carry with me for the rest of my life. Balance, commitment, and positivity are all things that are necessary on and off the court and it was my time as a D3 athlete that taught me these things. I will miss it, all of it – the competition, the away matches, the state van antics, the hard workouts, rush and crush, my coach's goofy jokes, the hype before a match, the late nights and early mornings. Most importantly, I will miss being a part of a team and everything that comes with it. Shout out to the tennis team for making St. Mary's feel like home and for becoming my lifelong friends.
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