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Inside the preseason life of a DI Athlete

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By Celia Balf

Staff Writer

sports.asp@gmail.com

September 1, 2015

Photo from UAlbany Athletics. Balf is currently a senior.
Photo from UAlbany Athletics. Balf is currently a senior.

The beginning of August for most college students is a time to squeeze in as many beach trips, barbeques, mini vacations and maybe even work shifts as possible. However, for many Division I athletes, the beginning of August means preseason.   

For those of you unfamiliar with what preseason is, it’s a period of time before the season starts to prepare the team for their upcoming season. For the University at Albany women’s soccer team, the preseason began August 4. Preseason means many things to a college athlete, a time that is exciting because it sparks the beginning of the best time of the year, a time of endless nervousness over fitness tests and playing time, and for most of us, a combination of the two.

Since I am now a senior completing my final collegiate preseason, I thought I would share what the UAlbany campus is like weeks before the rest of the student body comes.

Colonial Quad welcomed us with it’s overwhelming beauty. The 19th and 20th floor of the tower would be the UAlbany women’s soccer teams home away from home for the next two and a half weeks.

Our team all filed in on the fourth, freshman with their bags, school supplies, mattress pads and entire Bed Bath & Beyond sets. The upperclassman traveled as minimalists, no mattress pads, no extensive wardrobe, basically a bag with cleats, shin guards and a pillow.

Over the years you learn to rely on the underclassman to bring the fan, snacks, bathroom products, and other necessities. The first day of preseason usually is filled with meetings, gear issuing, and all the technicalities before playing can actually start.

Bright and early the next day, the pressure of fitness testing becomes a reality. All teams do their testing differently, for the soccer team we have a test called SEBCO and the beep test. SEBCO was our first challenge this year. After SEBCO was completed the day was far from over; we had a juggling test a gap in our day and then an afternoon session.

The schedule during preseason goes like this: Wake up early, eat a light breakfast in the locker room (which you will end up not being able to digest), practicing or running, lunch at Colonial Quad, if you’re lucky nap time on your uncomfortable bed, practice, dinner (again at Colonial Quad) and then the most highly anticipated and highly rewarding part of the day: bedtime.

Campus is incredibly quiet during the preseason; at least until the football team comes. It is typically only athletes and occasionally some summer programs occupying the facilities, making it a great transition for freshman and transfers who are just coming into their sport season and want to get acclimated to the campus.

It is always an overwhelming transition when the rest of the student body comes and you can no longer walk into the dining hall at any hour and be first in line for a wrap, or go from one side of campus to the other in five minutes. But even more difficult is going from completely being focused on your sport and team and having to go into school mode with all the coursework required.

The women’s soccer team was in two-a-day practices for about two weeks. We went through grueling practices, mentally taxing classroom and film sessions, testing and all the blood, sweat and tears required to be in full stride when the season starts.

Our goal is to win the America East Championship, and with this goal in mind since the end of our season last year we have had our head down, eyes set, and grind in tact to do so.

Every year preseason is different, and most of this has to do with how the players have prepared and showed up. Our summer is a lot different than most of yours, we have to play soccer, we have to train and maintain fitness, and sometimes we have to make up classes that we couldn’t fit in our schedule in-season because of traveling and practice times.

There really isn’t an off time when you play a Division I sport. Summer is technically an off time. But when you’re working towards something like a championship, your summer becomes the key building block for post season success.

I would describe it as that constant feeling of when you’re not training you feel the need to be training. The anticipation of preseason eats you up when it draws near, it digs at you in almost every situation: should I really be eating this? Drinking this? Should I go for another run? What are my teammates doing?

For four years those have been my thoughts when preseason is around the corner, and then once it starts it’s one of the most mentally draining, physically rewarding and exciting times of my life.

I can’t say I will miss Colonial Quad or fitness tests at the crack of dawn. But I will miss the feeling of fighting for something so much bigger than I can describe here.

We may not have the summer, bronzed tan like many students, but we do have a shin guard tan that marks a month of hard work to hopefully bring home a UAlbany women’s soccer championship for the first time in program history.

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