By Jordan Hall
Senior point guard Ryan Thompson has noticed changes in plenty of ways. The potential NBA draft pick came to Rider with a skinny frame, but the extensive work throughout his four years has him leaving with a heftier build.
“I got a lot stronger from when I was a freshman ’til now,” he said. “I went from 185 pounds to 220, and it has helped me a lot.”
Athletes at Rider have endured trials and tribulations in their four years and have witnessed the major contrast from freshman to senior year. Whether it be mental, physical or both, the difference is significant and the development is positive.
Division I athletes learn and grow in multiple ways throughout their four years. Their freshman season and senior campaign are drastically different.
Freshmen may enter college with a nervous feeling, understanding that the competition has elevated in every aspect of the sport. The practice and training becomes harder, the strength and skill of the opposition is greater, and the experience proves to be vital.
Senior Amanda Burke, a standout diver, has put together an outstanding collegiate career, but the start of it wasn’t simple. The two-time Rider female athlete of the year explained that it took a while to adjust her nerves before meets.
“It actually took me a few years to get more relaxed and not be as nervous,” she said. “I had to go to some big meets to get more experience. Overall, I’m more confident going into a competition now than I was freshman year.”
Burke said, surprisingly, the toughest part of her freshman season was balancing academics with diving.
“That was probably the hardest part of my first year diving in college,” she said. “I was always tired and unable to stay up late. Now I’m used to planning time to study and do work.”
The William Tennent High School graduate has made school history at Rider and closes out her remarkable time as a Bronc after this season.
It’s a rarity in sports to capture success at an early stage. Some of the all-time great athletes have worked hard and failed multiple times before they finally achieved success. Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players to walk the earth, won his first of six NBA championships in his seventh season. The experience and gradual growth in his game led him to greatness.
Thompson admits that his transition into the college game was rough and now things are a lot smoother for him as a veteran.
“It was difficult from the physical aspect,” he said. “I was getting pushed around a lot and I was always getting injured. I’m a lot more confident now. The games come a lot easier, and I also know what to look for in the game to win.”
Each year, the dynamic swingman’s numbers have improved mightily and he looks to put his finishing touches on his career this season.
Talent and skill are important to being a successful athlete, but a crucial ingredient for triumph and achievement is experience. The ability to remain cool, calm and collected in pressure situations is what truly defines a winner and competitor.
Overall, becoming a senior can lead to many differences compared to an incoming freshman. As a rookie, one’s role on a team is small and one’s impact isn’t as critical. As seniors, players transform into leaders. Vocally, their role has increased and the rest of the team looks up to them, which can bring added pressure, but that’s where experience becomes a factor. Seniors have been there before. They’ve been tested and have dealt with struggles. They know what to expect and their confidence rubs off on everyone else; most importantly, freshmen.