RAMILO: Beware the freshman wall

College coaches of all sports have come to accept it as a necessary phase in the typical student-athlete’s development. From the blue chips to the diamonds in the rough, it doesn’t discriminate. Consequently, those who manage to grind through it not only put themselves in position for continued success in college athletics, but they also gain the experience needed to overcome similar difficulties at the next level. What allows these athletes to become the superstars we admire is their willingness to adapt and endure in the face of this infamous impasse: the freshman wall.

So what exactly does it mean to “hit the freshman wall?” Consider the athlete who, on the strength of the raw talent, instincts and athleticism that got him recruited in the first place, excels immediately during his initial season in college. An extraordinary showing during preseason camp lands him a significant role for the start of the season, which he dominates in the limelight. As a result, there comes the media hype, the awards talk, the coronation as the big man on campus, the comparisons to Reggie Bush, Kevin Durant, Stephen Strasburg — life is good for our young up-and-comer.

Then, out of nowhere, bam! The budding athlete slams right into the wall. And suddenly, he falls back to earth, disoriented. Be it the onset of increasingly unbearable fatigue, the discovery of a certain predictability in his game, or a sudden sense of anxiety in the face of all the pressure that comes with such high praise, he struggles to get back on track. Should he fail to replicate the heroic deeds of his pre-wall career, this athlete is reduced to nothing more than yet another ex-phenom who couldn’t hack it on the big stage. A bust.

Most people are familiar with this story, even if they have never heard of the freshman wall. For every player that breaks through it and emerges on the other side as a veritable icon within his sport, there might be thousands of former hopefuls who just could not deliver on the promise they displayed by bursting onto the scene. I contend, however, that the athletes aren’t the only ones on this campus who should brace themselves for such a psychologically rattling event. Yes, my fellow normies. Even we have cause to beware the freshman wall.

At the moment, I feel pretty good about my standing as a Yale student. The workload hasn’t been that overwhelming, the classes are stimulating, and my peers are friendly. All in all, I’d rate my performance as “good.”

Most indicative of my comfort with the pace of life as an Ivy League student, however, is my naïve belief that the occasionally cruise-controlled study habits that got me through high school will cut it in an academic institution of this caliber. Initially, this caused me to consider the idea that I might be able to just tiptoe my way through Yale the same way the first-year athlete thinks he can pick up where he left off in high school: on the strength of the raw intellect, curiosity, and studiousness that (I think) got me accepted in the first place.

But it is at that precise moment during which one thinks he is invincible that he is most susceptible to being brought down.

I’d like to think that the freshman wall can be avoided. There might be, among the class of 2016, those remarkable few who encounter nothing but unmarred success in their time here. Such flawless talent is hard to come by, and it’s not purely a question of dedication. No matter how committed you may be to toiling through your work 24/7, you’ll eventually burn out and inexperience will catch up.

Instead of scheming some convoluted way around the wall, we have to accept the inevitable: at some point in time, probably sooner rather than later, we hit the freshman wall. But we can act to soften the blow. Once it hits, we’ll know, but we won’t be knocked off our feet. At that point, we just have to grind it out and play to the strengths that helped us get here, and prove that we belong in the big leagues.

Marek Ramilo is a freshman in Morse College. Contact him at marek.ramilo@yale.edu.

Comments

  • inycepoo

    Kudos to Mr. Ramilo for recognizing this phenomenon and being mentally prepared to both prepare for and face it. On that point alone, his maturity is beyond that of his peers.

    A tip to him though: it isn’t always obvious when you start slamming into ‘the freshman wall.’ Best to keep your eyes more open than they already are, as it’s a hell of a surprise when you realize way after it’s happened already.