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About TheYoungRetireeBy33 – Part IV – Becoming A Division 1 Student Athlete

Three posts down a few more to go! I originally thought this About Me series would only last 4-5 posts, but as I have dug deeper into my past and what I have wanted to touch on, the posts continue to get broken out more and more.

If you haven’t read already, here are the links to the first 3 articles:

Setting the Stage:

I am now a Division I athlete and freshman at SUNY at Buffalo. My path to this point has been interesting with a lot of tough decisions needing to be made. I was now living in a part of the country where I literally knew nobody.

Born and raised in the Dallas area and not knowing anyone in Buffalo warranted the thought of bringing my car with me. This meant if I wanted to have my car with me in Buffalo, I would have to drive it from Dallas. For the geography challenged individuals out there (trust me I am one of them), this drive is a 22-hour journey. The longest by far I have ever driven in a car.

After knocking the drive out in two quick days I was officially moved into my dorm and ready to take on whatever was to come. I was excited to begin this new journey in my life. I felt extremely grateful for having the opportunity of being a D1 athlete as well as declaring to become a Mechanical engineer. I was always a straight A student in high school and knew I wanted to become an engineer but didn’t know exactly which type. The great thing about declaring to be an engineer in school was the courses you take for the first two years are standard for each engineering discipline.

With that, it wasn’t so much important to make a final decision on the type of engineering I decided but was more important that I decided to be an engineer.

Some advice if you are pondering what major to select: If you think you want to be an engineer, start from the first semester of college. If you do not, there is a good chance you will struggle to graduate in four years. The main reason for this being the pre-requisite courses required before jumping into the meat and potatoes of what you will learn.

Keeping the Entrepreneur in Me Alive:

I am all settled in at Buffalo. The experience of being a D1 athlete was turning out to be much more time intensive than I had originally expected. I was getting the opportunity to play with guys who played at the highest levels in their country and it was truly amazing getting a great hit in each day. The other amazing thing about being a D1 athlete, in tennis, was the fact that I was the only American playing on the lineup. My team consisted of guys from Poland, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Russia, Canada, and Spain! Of all the things about being a D1 athlete, I found being able to create a brotherhood with all these amazing people from different cultures to be truly incredible.

Throughout my college tennis career, one thing I wanted to continue doing was making money from my side hustle of stringing rackets (checkout link to this post that talks more about this). The cool thing about playing with guys who were at my skill level and higher was they break strings more often.

More strings being broken = More business for me!

Ah boy was a business boomin! During this time, I would string between 10-15 rackets a week at $10/racket. As a poor starving college student, this was an incredible amount of money to now spend. At this point in my path to Financial Independence, I didn’t know anything about saving and investing! I can only imagine where I would be today if I knew about this in 2014! Can’t dwell on the past though!

Beginning to Have a Change of Heart:

My freshman year of college went well from both an academic and athletic standpoint. I played number two doubles and number 5-6 singles on the team. I don’t remember my exact record, but I think it was probably close to .500.

Playing D1 tennis was a whole different level of commitment than I had originally anticipated. I went from practicing 5 hours per week with one tournament each month to a strict regimen of:

  • 1-hour strength and conditioning workout 5 days a week
  • 2-hours of practice each afternoon
  • And 2-6 matches at a high level most weekends

I went from being a scrawny 6’, 120 lb. athlete to gaining 15 pounds of muscle from the intense training and insane eating habits my trainers had me on. I still remember to this day leaving practice, heading to the dorm cafeteria and eating an entire plate of spaghetti and meatball sauce prior to having my actual meal. If I had to guess, I was consuming over 5,000 calories per day.

The rigor I put my body through was something I didn’t think to be possible. After a year and a half of the grind, I was ready for a change. My love for the game of tennis was quickly fading. During this time I reached out to a few good friends of mine who were all going to school at the University of Arkansas. I mentioned to them I was thinking about leaving Buffalo and heading closer to home. Within a few weeks of letting them know, they had secured a place to live with an extra bedroom for me.

Well, looks like there was going to be a big change in my life! After my sophomore year of college and being a D1 athlete at Buffalo, I decided I was ready to put the rackets up and move back closer to home.

This was another integral decision I made that has impacted a lot of where I am today. At the time the main things that led me to the decision to transfer from Buffalo to Arkansas were:

  • Being closer to home and being able to live with close friends. In Buffalo, getting home was a pain in the butt and very expensive.
  • I missed warm weather…a good ol’ southern man ain’t meant to live in the northeast in freezing weather!
  • I had received everything I could have dreamt of from playing tennis. My college athletic experience was incredible. My body was now telling me it was time to turn to the next chapter in my life.
  • Transferring to Arkansas wouldn’t set me back in my degree as I did some extensive research with the university to ensure almost all my credits would transfer.

This part of my life was another crazy rollercoaster. I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful for all the incredible people I met in Buffalo and all the amazing experiences I was fortunate enough to have. On to the next chapter of my life finishing up my degree at the University of Arkansas!

Key Takeaways:

  • The topic of whether you should go to college is one I wouldn’t have thought about touching on a while back. In the day and age we live in, I do think it is a valid point to discuss. I personally believe if there is a certain type of career you wish to pursue that requires a college degree, go for it. If the career you wish to have after college doesn’t require a college degree, I would highly recommend thinking twice about how much the expense is and what value you expect it to bring to your life.
  • There is nothing in the world I wouldn’t give up to go back and have the D1 athletic experience all over again. I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity I had and to have met all the amazing people I did along the way.
  • No matter how busy you are, you can always find time for a side hustle! My racket stringing “business” was booming during one of the busiest times of my life. It was definitely nice to have some side income coming in while I was going to school and had a full-time job in being a student athlete.
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