“Sometimes you need to jump into a bigger pond… big fish in a small pond is no challenge at all.” - Brad Sugars
I’ve always been someone who likes a challenge. The concept of being a little fish in a big pond never scared me, and actually excited me, until I started my recruiting process and finally came to Michigan. It wasn’t the fact that colleges/universities are way bigger than any other high school in terms of the size of the campus and student body, it was the fact that I just didn’t truly believe that I was good enough for me to actually get recruited. I think I acted like I thought I was because that was all I had at the time, but reflecting on it now, I’m realizing I was definitely scared and that probably hurt my performance a lot when I came to Michigan.
It’s easy to blame others for our mistakes, but when it comes to my freshman year, a lot of it was my fault. I basically threw myself a pity party as a walk on, and saw myself as lesser without even stepping foot into the gym yet. Of course, this was in my head and I did my best at practice everyday, but subconsciously, I think I was sabotaging myself by making excuses for any small inconvenience with, “I’m a walk-on”. Rather than building myself up, I was pushing myself down.
Once I realized what I was doing, I changed my thought process. There were some other issues around the time I was going into my sophomore year, in terms of my mental health, but my mindset going into the gym was so much better. I was practicing the way I knew I could, and giving it my all in every turn. Despite injuries too, I continued doing anything and everything I could in the gym to improve myself and to keep that little fish swimming in the big pond.
It’s really easy for me to write about that experience for myself and make it sound like everything was super simple to turn around. I assure you it wasn’t. You’re not alone if you’re struggling with self sabotage, lack of belief in yourself, and intimidation. It’s normal, especially in a new environment. That’s why it’s so important to have your people around you. My mom never stopped believing in me, but she also knew when to call me out when I was using me being the “little fish” as an excuse. Find the people that will do the same for you. Another thing I did was journal. At the end of every week, I’d go through what I wrote down with a fresh pair of eyes and open perspective. I could easily tell at what points I was feeling sorry for myself, and I was able to analyze what had happened with an open mind and understand why it happened. Gaining that understanding allowed me to take whatever advice or constructive criticism, and instead of being all stubborn about it, I was able to make use of it and improve.
At the end of the day, remember sports are supposed to be fun, and keep on loving yourself and those around you :)