By SUSANNAH TOMBES
College creates many different forms of stress for students, but those that are more familiar with the stress tend to be student athletes. Emma Rakowski, a sophomore on the softball team, explains that one of the biggest struggles for herself as a student-athlete is the battle with identity. She shares that it is very much geared to “what you do in the world, and that your worth is in your ability” and that “you can be an internal mess inside, even though on the outside you could be the best.” The overwhelming feelings of her struggle with identity would bubble to the surface before her week even began and took over.
Rakowski knew that something had to change and choosing her identity in Christ was the ultimate decision that she needed to make to find her strength. After finding a core group of friends in the Catholic Campus Ministry, Rakowski realized that the most important relationship she could have was the one she has with Jesus Christ. “When you have that, you have fulfillment. It is like the oil to the machine that makes the wheels turn,” she shares. Instead of viewing herself based on her talents on the softball field and in the classroom, she began to constantly see herself as a “Daughter of God and knowing love by knowing that I am loved.” Even though she finds life becoming busier by the second, she gives the time God has given her back to Him and has found true joy in her identity in Christ.
Daniel Forjan, a junior on the track team says that the time management is also his biggest struggle as a student-athlete and that specifically “being able to schedule classes without interfering with practice, missing class for competitions and the high time demand from sports,” are all factors that make being a student athlete a challenge. When asked if his walk with Christ is made more difficult because of the demand of school and sport, he shares “that if anything it eases the burden a bit. The relationship that I try to have with God comes before everything else, and the knowledge that everything that I do I do with and for a Him makes it a little easier for me to deal with it.” When Forjan was a sophomore in high school he became involved in a Christian group called Young Life. “The leader, Landon Epperly really helped to open my eyes to what God was all about and how much he really meant to me. Ever since I’ve tried to put Him first in school, athletics, pretty much everything in life and every accomplishment I’ve had I accredit to Him.”
Forjan’s friend Epperly had such an impact on him that he is also impacting those around him. Ripken Smith, a sophomore on the track team gives credit to Forjan for influencing him to become more faithful. “He helps me by reminding me to pray at meals and to read scripture more often,” Smith said.
It is clear that community plays an important role in developing the faith of these student-athletes, and drives them to do well in the sport, but more importantly to be faithful to God. Kristina Currie, a senior on the swim team shared her experience with faith. “One of the things that I love about UMW athletics is how rooted we are in the community and how active we are in our community service. During my freshman year I was inspired by the positive impact that I was able to have on others just by sharing a few hours of my time. That is when I really feel like I realized who I was as a person away from athletics. Swimming has been an amazing gift in my life that has opened the doors to so many opportunities, but in the grand scheme of life what matters isn’t how many medals or ribbons I won while swimming, it is how I was able to use myself and my faith to help others.”