Story by Caleb Betterton & Photos courtesy of Bob Whitaker and sportspix
Junior college athletes or “Juco athletes,” face unique challenges and have a different approach and view of college life than students at four year universities.
For most college athletes, the focus is on becoming a professional athlete or using their degree to pursue a career. For Juco athletes the focus is different. Juco athletes are taking a shot at going to a four year university and trying to get a chance at becoming a professional athlete.
This is the reality the athletes at Rose State are experiencing, aiming high and going for a chance at pursuing their dreams. This journey is not an easy one, but it is a worthy one.
“Grind” is how Rose State outfielder Alex Eddinger defines being a Juco Athlete. With tough practices twice a day and classes in between it is an absolute grind. “But it is a grind that never gets old,” Eddinger said.
It is all a part of the journey for these athletes even though it is hard work and most athletes would prefer to go straight to a four-year university. Starting at a Junior college can be very beneficial especially, when transitioning from high school to the college environment. “While it was work, the smaller environment helped make it easier.” said Madison Zick, defensive midfielder for Texas A&M University-Commerce.
The junior college experience helps with the growth of these athletes not only as a player, but as an individual. Players get the chance to work on their skills and learn about themselves while getting opportunities to show they have what it takes to go the next level. “I loved my time at Rose State, it really helped me grow as a person and a player.” Zick said.
Another aspect of Juco athletics is the relationships these athletes make that continue on after their time in college is over. Junior colleges also provide opportunities for international athletes to come to America and get a chance at an opportunity to play at a four-year school.
One of those athletes is Aristides Batista who is an infielder on Rose State’s baseball team. Batista is from Puerto Rico. Not being able to see friends and family for so much of the year is one of his biggest challenges. However, it is worth the sacrifice for Batista because it has been his dream to study and play at the collegiate level in the United States.
This is really what being a Juco athlete is all about; following your dreams and working on making them become a reality. It is all about the journey.
One athlete that has made the most of this journey is Jake Hamilton. Hamilton started his journey at Rose as a pitcher. He struggled his freshman year on the field but turned it around in a major way his sophomore year. He went 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA (Earned Run Average) with all American honors.
“You have to love it.” said, Hamilton. That’s what drives these athletes to do the work through adversity and fulfill their dreams.
One thing every one of these athletes mentioned was the work it takes to go after their dreams.
“You get a better perspective on what it’s like to have to work for what you get,” Hamilton said.
The biggest thing these athletes get out of their time at junior college is perspective. They see what it takes to get to the next level and are thankful for the opportunities they are given to make it there.
This approach and the perspective they have is something anyone could benefit from.
The road they take is not a popular one, but it is a worthwhile one.