For Student-Athletes by A Former Student-Athlete Part 1: The Power of Self Awareness

by Gregory L. Gamble II

As a member of society in Western New York and formally a student-athlete in the Niagara Falls City School District and at the State University of New York at Buffalo, I can attest and relate to the challenges that student-athletes are faced with on a daily basis.

It is both my desire and my duty to not only acknowledge these challenges, but to also offer wisdom that has been both passed down and gained through invaluable experience. As a result, I present to you in a (5) part series, “For Student- Athletes by a Former Student-Athlete.” I hope that you find this informative, inspirational and educational. If I’ve Got Odds2Beat, I know that You’ve Got Odds2Beat too! Let’s beat them together.

In relationships, one cannot simply give their all to someone without first knowing all of who they are as a complete individual. When putting forth an effort to be excellent in an occupation, one cannot simply be excellent in that occupation without understanding their individual strengths and weaknesses. The same has to be said for student-athletes both young and old.

When I was in the 7th grade at Gaskill Middle School in Niagara Falls, New York, my burning desire was to play Junior Varsity Boys Basketball. I wanted so desperately to wear the district colors of Navy Blue and Gold and to be a Niagara Falls High School Wolverine. I wanted to wear Vince Carter’s jersey number 15 across my chest and back. I wanted to be accepted amongst my peers. I remember walking in the gym both fearless and envy-less.

I had one goal and was determined to accomplish that goal, which was to be the youngest player on Junior Varsity. At the conclusion of a two-day tryout, I got cut. A feeling that never quite leaves you; when somebody assesses your abilities and decides to themselves that you aren’t good enough. I wasn’t quite sure what would happen after that, but I knew one thing was for sure, and that was that I’d never feel that feeling ever again. I reflected… and reflected… and reflected (short for I cried, and pouted, and reflected on what it was about me that wasn’t good enough).

Then something beautiful happened. I went back to the head coach of the JV team and asked him what I needed to do to make the team. His response was something that quite possibly changed the trajectory of my life. “Well kid, you need to be able to shoot, handle the rock, and defend dudes that are bigger than you. You’ve got heart, but if you can’t score, I can’t use you” said the head coach.

From that I drew a formula that I still use today. That formula is this, if you are ever told no, and are fortunate enough to be told why the answer is no, then realize how blessed you are for being told how to make the no, a yes! From there I had to be honest with myself. Could I improve on the things I’d been told I needed to be better at? …And if the answer was yes, (which it was,) then how?

Self-Awareness in student-athletes is a fundamental building block for success as a student-athlete. In order to be able to influence others, whether it be those who look up to you, your community, your teammates, your classmates, you absolutely have to be able to look introspectively (look inside yourself), and not only acknowledge how you can improve, but take the necessary actions to actually become an improved individual both in your personal life and at your craft.

At The Point Columnist and Student-Athlete Advocate Gregory L. Gamble II