The Pre-Practice Process (A Morning in the Life of an Oberlin Football Player)
As I am writing this, it is 5:30 in the morning on October 15, 2017. “Do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do…” That was my best imitation of the “Opening” iPhone ringtone. In this case, it’s my alarm, which is both my best friend and worst enemy. I’m sure many of you can relate to that statement. I wake up, pull off my blanket, and immediately notice how cold my room is. I take a look at my phone so I can check the weather, and SHEESH. The weather forecast this morning says that it is thirty-five degrees outside. That’s without the wind chill. That’s splendid (not really). “Alright, Jay. It’s time to get ready for practice,” I say to myself. I take a deep breath, and I look at my phone again.
It’s 5:35 now. Practice starts in under an hour now. Perfect. I dig through my closet, which is more cluttered than I’d like to admit. “Ayye, there’s where my sweatpants are!” Done. I change into a more presentable outfit to wear on the way to practice. Done. Now, it’s time to check the time. It’s 5:40. Alright, cool, so practice starts in fifty minutes. Ooh, I have to find a jacket to wear. My dorm is right next to Knowlton Stadium and my locker room, so the cold walk isn’t too bad. However, I’m not going to freeze on my way to practice. “Yes! There’s my jacket,” I tell myself as I put my comfy TDE hoodie on. I check the time again, and it’s 5:45. Cool. I put my headphones on so I can listen to music on the way there. (I listen to music whenever I walk somewhere on campus.) I grab my phone, wallet, and keys along with my backpack as I walk out the door.
I walk downstairs and I already feel the cold air running through the stairwell. Oh, yeah. It’s about to be a chilly practice. Then I walk out of my dorm. Oh… my… goodness. That wind chill is no joke. Alright, I got this. I begin walking as I play “Duckworth” by Kendrick Lamar on Spotify. I walk past Philips Gym and through the gates that lead to the athletics complex. I notice that the lights of Knowlton Stadium are still on. That’s typical, since it’s still early in the morning. I sprained my wrist this past Saturday, so I have to go to the training room and make sure that it’s iced up. I walk through the doors and grab a plastic bag. Then I put ice in the bag and place it on my wrist for ten minutes. Done. I leave the training room and check the time again, and it’s 6:10. Thirty minutes to get dressed? That’s plenty of time.
I walk into the locker room and take my headphones off. I feel the vibrations from the bass boosted speakers as “Bank Account” by 21 Savage is blasting. I nod my head to the music, and start to put my pads on. First, I put my girdle on. Then, I put my knee braces on. I play on the offensive line (for those who are unfamiliar with football, that means I block people on the defense so that they can’t tackle whoever has the football), and knee injuries are unfortunately very prominent for linemen. Therefore, we’re required to wear the braces so that we can prevent these knee injuries. Personally, I don’t think they’re very comfortable, but they have been very reliable in terms of preventing injury, so I don’t mind them too much. Next, I put on my shoulder pads with my hoodie under them. My teammates jokingly tell me how I’m from the South, so I’m vulnerable to the cold. My response? “You’re absolutely right!” I’m certainly not going to deny it, especially since I’ve been complaining about the weather since I woke up.
One of the assistant coaches walks into the locker room and screams, "PRACTICE STARTS IN FIFTEEN MINUTES! LET'S GO!" Alright, sheesh. It's too early for me to hear all of that screaming. Ironically, screaming is the norm for football practice. It'll either be a coach yelling at his players, or it'll be the players yelling amongst themselves in order to get the energy going. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Then I walk to the mirror in the locker room bathroom. I have to make sure everything looks right. There's an old saying by football legend Deion Sanders I like to follow: "If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good." I definitely don't get paid for playing NCAA football (there's an interesting ESPN article that discusses that issue here), but the rest of the quote is pretty accurate to me. Ahhh, it's time to go to practice... where the cold is. It is what it is, though. You can't be great without practicing, and that's applicable to anything you do in life. I'll just have to deal with the process and conquer it. Wish me luck!