Photos by Kyle West
By: Andrew Richards
Being on the other side of my five years here at McMaster, I cannot picture my journey any other way. Although there were times when things may not have gone as planned, there was never a moment in time where I felt like I was not in the right spot.
When I was first asked to write this article, I was kind of uncomfortable because I felt like it makes it seem like I have my act together when I really do not. I am just a senior university student who is still figuring things out. But these are the things that I have learned during my time at Mac and maybe they can help others, especially those who are just starting out on their journey.
Focus on small improvements daily
One thing we are often told to do in athletics and academics is to set these goals for ourselves, especially big end goals. I used to be a big believer of that, and I have made my own goals, but I think there’s a different way to look at it.
If you change your mind from, ‘I’m focusing on one big goal’ to, ‘what’s one thing today I can get better at’, you are able to get more results. Instead of just chasing after one thing, you are also trying to make yourself better. For me, working on improving every day has made me go further. For example, instead of setting a goal of getting a certain grade, set a goal to study harder every day, and eventually you can reach that goal of getting the grade you want.
Be your own friend
It sounds a little cheesy, but I think university is very hard especially as a first-year. Everyone experiences those moments where things really are not going well. So I think one thing that’s really important, no matter what you’re going through, is to be your own advocate and your own friend.
Things are not always going to go so well, so you have to be the first one to let yourself off the hook and forgive yourself. In the past, I have put a lot of pressure on myself and have been my own worst critic. Looking back now, I know that you cannot expect other people to forgive you or let you off the hook if you can’t do that for yourself.
Connect with those around you
One thing that we are lucky to have at Mac is the amazing people that are around us. It is a lost opportunity for someone to try and get through four or five years on their own. Everyone you meet at McMaster, you can take something away for them. Whether it be by building a relationship with them, or by being inspired by them.
Even if you don’t love stuff about them you can still learn from them, and it would be a disservice to yourself and to others to not take advantage of these connections.
There is no rush to get where you are going
This is something that I struggled with earlier on. Before I came into university, all the teams that I played on before I had a large role. But when I first got here, I was a small fish in a big pond. So it was difficult for me, and I’m sure a lot of other athletes, because you want to start feeling like you’re contributing right away.
Though when I look back at the past five years, I am super proud of everything I have done with my team. I know now that everything happens in time and if you try to force things to happen when it is not time, it will not always work out the way you want it to. Don’t be upset if things are not going your way right away, just know that you have time and if you have a plan, things will work out eventually.
Be authentic to who you are
One really important thing in all this is realizing there’s no one way to do all of this. There’s a lot of amazing people at Mac, but the coolest thing is that everyone is unique. As athletes, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to fit a mould, or to be a certain way.
Looking back, something I wish I allowed myself to do more was just be my unique self. I think it is exhausting trying to put on a face. After being around so many unique people at Mac, if I could go back and encourage my first-year self anything, it would be to just be myself.
I may not have it all figured out, but one thing I do know is that these five things are principles I am going to carry with me as I move forward in life. Whether I go on to play professional volleyball or into the work world, I know that if I always take these lessons with me, it will help take me to my next goal.