Kate Benz flashes a smile during the Pacific-10 Conference Women's Basketball Media Day, Oct. 26, at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
Washington State senior Kate Benz kicks off the 2006-07 season of Kate's Chronicles as she continues to share her experiences with the Cougar women's basketball team. The forward from Portland, Ore., chronicled life as a Cougar during both her sophomore and junior seasons and will continue her accounts throughout her senior year. Please visit www.wsucougars.com for access to current and past entries.
February 16, 2007
At age 18, life at 22 seems somewhat impossible to picture.
With statistics stating facts about successes, failures, changes and trends among college students, one can't help but wonder how different she might be after four years away from home. The unexplainable experience of collegiate athletics adds a whole other dimension to the transformations of typical students.
If speaking for no one other than myself, being a member of the basketball team has provided the most significant influences to my experiences, emotions and overall character than any other factor of college life.
Many high school graduates leave for universities without knowing anyone but the roommate they emailed a couple times before their first awkward meeting in the dorms. As an athlete, however, I was welcomed not only onto a team that served as a pseudo-immediate family, but into an athletic department - an extended family with resources spanning from a counselor to discuss academics with to a strength coach who cared about my personal well-being as much as he cared about my growth as an athlete. Team coaches served as surrogate parents, fostering life's lessons as well as instruction for success with sport, and there has been a supporting cast of advisors, directors and tutors, not to mention the hundreds of other athletes who become great friends over the years.
When you're a member of the athletic department, opportunities are everywhere, and it is up to the individual whether or not to jump at those chances. Even though missing school is tough when in-season, traveling to the various Pac-10 schools and competing in one of the most elite conferences in the nation is a worthwhile trade-off. Staying in Pullman to take summer classes and train instead of going home for the summer is difficult for some, but flying off to Europe for a foreign basketball tour is a lifetime experience some can't even imagine. As student-athletes, we are fortunate beyond belief. We're given top-of-the-line facilities to practice the sport that blessed us with enough ability to get us to college.
The game itself is something that has taught me perspective on life and other matters. I learned to set goals and work to achieve them. I realized that dreams can become reality if you work hard and never let anyone kill your spirit. I learned that when you give anything less than your best, you're only cheating yourself in the end. Over the course of four years, I also learned that winning and losing bring out the best and worst in people, and being able to walk in both sets of shoes gives a complete outlook on life - it helps you to appreciate success and sympathize but not be satisfied with disappointment.
When I signed my letter of intent, I had no clue what the future would bring for me. Four years later, I was recently asked the question, "If you could do it all over again, would you make the same choice?" Without a fleeting thought I said yes. I took advantage of every ounce of college that I could over the past four years. I worked as hard as my mind and body would allow so I could give my best every single day in the classroom and on the court. I've had experiences and met people who have shaped the way I am and the way I look at life. I am smarter and stronger. I have wisdom and experience. I am ready to sign my hypothetical letter of intent to the real world with the same lack of hesitation as I did four years ago. I am grateful for WSU, and I know I am just one among many who feel the same way as I do.