This series highlights my transition from being a division I student-athlete to becoming a young professional and how my experience has shaped me into becoming the person I am today.

This past month has been pretty busy for me between going to graduate school full-time, working full-time, and attempting to have life to myself.  Needless to say, things around here get pretty hectic – but no matter how badly work/school/life piles up, I never let them see me sweat.  To be quite honest, even when the pressure is on, nothing compares to the weight I felt as a student-athlete.

Studying for a final exam? A walk in the park.  Public speaking? A piece of cake.  Presenting to my boss? Not a problem.  I cannot think of a single scenario where I have felt like I couldn’t handle the heat, and I attribute this stoic trait to my years as a student-athlete.  Those four years taught me how to take everything in stride, put it all into perspective, and remain poised, focused, and ready to tackle any adversity thrown my way.

There was no such thing as an off-day.  You couldn’t just skip a practice because you felt sick; it wasn’t cancelled for even major holidays.  Every day you were asked to give more – just a little bit faster, just a little bit longer, find a way to make it happen.  You had to look deep inside of yourself: summon every ounce of courage, quiet that little voice in your head, ignore your body screaming in pain, and lay it all on the line.  Now imagine doing that every day for four years, and then we can talk about handling pressure.

My teammates & myself

When a negative thought came to my mind, all it took was to think of my teammates to push through it.  I had a specific role on the team, and I was expected to perform. No excuses and no one to blame, but myself if I failed.  Talk about pressure.  My freshmen and sophomore year, I let the pressure get the best of me, performing inconsistently.  It took me to the beginning of my junior year to truly find a rhythm that worked for me.  Finding a pregame ritual allowed me to keep a calm, yet confident demeanor that translated into success.

That confidence has never left me since.   I’ll be the first to admit, I teeter on the line of arrogance on occasion, but after four high-pressure years, I truly believe that I can overcome any challenge.  The best thing is now when I feel the pressure getting the best of me, I think of everything I went through as a student-athlete and I smile, because I know I got this.  If I am still nervous, I retreat to my pre-game rituals: big breakfast, a steamy shower complete with stretching, mentally acting out my next moves, and blocking out the rest of the world.  Now, nothing can stop me from achieving what I set out to do …

How do you handle the pressure?  Is there some kind of ritual you perform?