Freshmen often receive a lot of criticism from upperclassmen, and the criticism is even more intense for first-year athletes.
Not only do they have to maintain their grades, but they also have to prove themselves to their fellow teammates, most of whom are upperclassmen.
“It is like you have to start all over,” said freshman wide receiver Ronald Wright, 18, a broadcast journalism student from Miami. “At a big school like FAMU no one really knows you at first.”
Hard work mixed with the unremitting thoughts of proving yourself to your upperclassmen teammates also comes into effect.
“You have to continue to practice harder on the field, more than your other upperclassmen teammates to help prove yourself,” said Arien Cannon,18, a freshman baseball player.
As high school seniors, these athletes were on top of their game and academics. They were also able to experience all the glory and adoration as a star athlete and outstanding student.
“I would have considered myself ‘the man on campus’ because I was the all around ideal student,” Wright said. “I had the academics, athletics and social status at my high school.”
Popularity, along with academics, plays a major part in the life of a high school senior.
“I was very popular in high school; everyone knew who I was,” said James Petty, 18, a freshman golf player from Grand Blanc, Mich.
Receiving recognition for their sports achievements in local newspapers and on TV was common for these freshmen athletes while in high school.
“I was on the local news channel and received awards like student athlete of the month and player of the week for a while,” Wright said.
High school newspapers also helped to boost these freshmen.
“I got written up in a couple of articles in my school newspaper,” said Alicia Mitchell,18, a freshman softball from Coco.
“I would say that I was a good player,” she said.
Many students said the adjustment from being labeled as the “golden athlete” to being a freshman again was not easy.
“I was always on top in high school when it came to sports,” said Wright who played on his high school’s varsity football and basketball teams for three years.
“But when I came to FAMU it was like I had to start from scratch,” he continued.
Some freshmen athletes said the transition was not a bad one.
“It wasn’t that big of an adjustment because I knew in a matter of time I would have my golf game good enough to be able to compete with the best on our team,” Petty said.
Realizing that people have to start somewhere, these freshmen athletes said they have to learn to humble themselves before they can move up in the ranks.
“You go from being at the top, being the best, to being a freshman having to deal with all the upperclassmen telling you what you need to do,” Cannon said. “But you must expect that when you move up in life you will encounter someone who is better than you, knowing that you must work harder than the next guy to excel.”
Striving for playing time is very important to freshmen athletes as well.
“As a freshman you have to work harder because at any point you can be taken out of the game,” Mitchell said. “I always have to try my hardest so I can get some playing time.”
In addition to the strain of adjusting from being a senior top athlete to becoming the new freshman athlete, these students also have to deal with the adjustment of living in a new city, making new friends and being away from home.
“It was a big adjustment because at home I knew all the people at school, around my neighborhood where I was from and also knew where everything was at,” Petty said.
“But once I got here, I had to make new friends and readjust to a whole new environment.”
From letting go of their achievements in high school and dealing with being at the bottom of the totem pole, to simply acclimating to the new living environment at FAMU, freshmen athletes must make modifications quickly in order to keep up with their upperclassmen teammates.
Contact Katrelle Simmons at email@example.com.