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Picking the Best College FOR You

Hype has its place, but choosing the best college for you might not be all about the hype

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Bridging the gap between expectation and reality.

The Varsity Chronicle
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I’m here today to make one point. I want to make you ask yourself one question. Let’s begin here, though.

My journey starts in Austin, Texas.

I was born in Austin and shortly after moved south to Houston. Houston is where I’ve spent the majority of my life. After attending Lockhart Elementary, I made my way through Mickey Leland Junior High, and I currently attend Yates Highschool.

I have been playing basketball for as long as I can remember. Basketball has always been a passion of mine, and heading into high school; I felt I wanted to play at the next level, collegiately. Of course, with this decision came a new road to head down, a road not many these days seem to understand, including me at the beginning. There appears to be a bit of a sports-media epidemic right now, the whole “hype, commitment culture ” with athletes spending 100s if not 1000s of dollars are commitment edits, trips, and celebrations.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it though, making your college choice as an athlete is complex, and it should be celebrated upon resolution. The issue now comes from the fact that athletes look forward more to committing than playing the game.

I know for me as an athlete who had to scrap for every one of my seven college offers that there were times of immense pressure and stress to go be “one of those guys” who was able to go secure a big-time offer. However, after settling in this past year after committing to Grays Harbor College, I have reflected and found one key lesson from my experience and personal-public treatment.

If you go on social media or even Youtube and take a look around at high school sports highlights, it will not take you long to find commitment posts or official visit highlights. Having now been recruited, I remember the question that mattered the most during the whole process was what substance this program could offer me to maximize not only my athletic career and my family’s investment in my college education?

And I saw this not out of spite but out of trying to give other athletes as realistic expectations and goals as possible… so why do schools and some athletes spend so much time, money, and media coverage to hold commitment “events” and “visits.”

Now, look at how coaches and faculty at these institutions will say that they throw such grand events for recruits because they want to show how committed they are to them and you.

All I am asking here is, if you are in a situation where you are currently being recruited or hoping to be, for you to sit down and ask yourself, “Besides the hype, the past accolades, the Jordan Brand Uniforms, the facilities, the marketing graphics team, and the stadium that sits 100 thousand… what true substance lies here?

If all those “things” went away and it was just me and this team and coaches, players, staff, and most importantly the culture that makes it up, is it all worth it? I can’t answer that for anyone, but I hope to shed some light on the abilities and opportunities offered at other smaller institutions and sub-division one programs that sports media doesn’t excite.

I know this lesson is specifically driven to bring more awareness to making college decisions based on hype, but I believe the same principle can be applied to any facet of life. When the lights of the big stage fade away… what do you have left? The key is making sure; as athletes and individuals, we keep substance over materials as much as possible!

 

 

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Athlete Reflections

How to Become a Great Athlete

Elite, sports trainer, David Mariani, takes us through his life story until finding the work of training revolutionary, Ben Patrick

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Bridging the gap between expectation and reality.

The Varsity Chronicle
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How do I get better?

Growing up not too far from Chicago, the Bulls last 3-peat sparked my love for the game of basketball.

I wanted to be a great basketball player like MJ, Scottie, and Rodman, BUT I had no clue how to get there.

I did know that I had a lot of work to do, so I headed outside to work on my game. Every day I got shots up and worked on my handles. The sun going down was the only thing that prevented me from being on the court all night. Working on my game for 6 hours in a single day was common for me. My parents led the example of working hard, but neither of them played basketball, so it was on me to find the answers on how to improve.

I didn’t know at the time, but 6 hours a day is a great way to overtrain and prevent yourself from improving at a fast rate. It did build mental strength, which is why I was able to get honors in high school for basketball, but it came at the expense of my athleticism. My collegiate coach called me “the most unathletic player he coached in 40 years,” and he wasn’t mean. It was very accurate. I shouldn’t have even played in college, but I wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I outworked everyone to build trust from my team and coaches.

College was when I started to lift weights to build strength and put on size for my 6’4 150 lb frame. I had no clue what I was doing, and my college didn’t have a strength program, so I spent hours researching how to get better. If I wasn’t on the court, I was studying and studying the greats. I even obtained my exercise science degree and CSCS cert. If someone said they were getting results, then I did everything in my power to learn from them. Not only was I very un-athletic, but I was also constantly getting injured. Spraining my ankles every week, shin splints, torn meniscus, Osgood Schlatter’s and patellar tendonitis, as well as a lower back fracture, was my reality upon graduating college. I tried to play lower-level pro, but I was too slow and too hurt to make any impact. After two years, I decided to use what I learned to help others, and I transitioned to training athletes full-time.

I always trained like I was still playing pro ball because I wanted to experience what I was telling my athletes to do. My athletes kept getting excellent results, but my injuries never fully healed. At one point, I had to take over a year off from playing basketball, even just shooting around. It was one of the most challenging times of my life. I told myself that I would do everything I could so no one would have to experience the pain and suffering I went through.

The darkest dark is proper before the light.

I was depressed, injured, and lonely in my quest to find the best ways to improve fast and safely. That was when I stumbled upon my brother Ben’s Instagram @kneesovertoesguy.

The truth was Ben was training his knees over his toes, something that my education told me not to do. I knew he was onto something by how he moved on the court after all of his injuries. I wasted no time and messaged him on Instagram, asking for his help.

This is something I’ve come to learn: if someone has real answers that can help others, they will gladly help you if you are respectful and show that you are willing to put in the work. I did exactly what Ben suggested. Within the first week of doing his ATG online program, Knee Ability, the pain started to go away. It was an unreal experience. I had gone the majority of my life moving with pain and had completely forgotten what it was like to move pain-free. I started using ATG methods with my athletes and despite them already getting good results, the results have never been. I even had an athlete go from a 20″ vertical to a 32″ in one off-season!

I might be the oldest athlete to get their first in-game dunk at the young age of 33! I always had the belief, and even though sometimes doubt would creep in, it never stopped me from relentlessly pursuing.

Now, I’m entirely pain-free and helping athletes around the world get pain-free themselves. “Pain-free sets the gains free” is something Ben has said that I’ve seen not only in myself but all the athletes we’ve trained.

YOUR POWER IS GREATER THAN EVEN YOU MAY REALIZE

David Mariani

 

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Basketball

The Sound of Opportunity

Giving back to the forgotten ones

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Images credited to Lauren Green, edited by Calvin Marley
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By Lauren Green

Navigating the world of youth sports is already challenging. 

For me, the basketball world has always been somewhat chaotic–you travel across the country to get the chance to play in front of college scouts and try to make your dreams of reaching the next level become reality by performing well. Simple, yes, uncontrollable, very. 

For me, I had been a point guard my entire life, directing my teammates on plays, and being pretty much like a coach on the court.

But being a great leader on the court means that you have to listen to your teammates, right? 

I would think so. 

At larger tournaments, I began to struggle to hear what my coaches and teammates were saying on the court. I thought that it was simply because of the number of games going on simultaneously on other courts, and I had a history of slight hearing loss on my left side, so I simply thought nothing of it.

Next thing you know, when I was having my yearly physical for sports, the nurse testing my hearing noticed some irregularities. I had a significant hearing deterioration on my left side. I thought nothing of it, really, I just thought that it was slightly worse than it was before.

I was wrong though.

After a visit with the audiologist, I found out how severe my hearing loss truly was. A couple of days after my sixteenth birthday, I was handed my hearing aid. 

After putting it into my ear, it felt so… loud?…

It felt like everything was amplified, and I realized how much I had not heard before. 

Instead of relying on my right ear and my guessing skills, I could hear everything. 

Going back out onto the basketball court with a hearing aid has only improved my game. I can rely on my ears once again, and I do not have to worry about not hearing my coaches or my teammates. While it is nice to hear, sometimes the microphone and the receiver on my hearing aid sound foggy, and it sounds as if I am underwater. 

After some research, I found out that there are currently no athletic hearing aids available on the market. So, since January 2021, I have been working on developing a sports hearing aid; by athletes, for athletes. This would hopefully allow athletes from all sports who have hearing loss to be able to fully participate without having any difficulty.

My hearing loss hasn’t made me any less of a basketball player or an athlete. Instead, it made me more grateful for what I have, and the opportunity to relate with and help many other young athletes who experience hearing loss, too! It’s amazing how sports in more than one way can bring people together that otherwise might not have ever come to know each other.

 

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Basketball

Dreaming of Geneva

Seasons ended early, schools were shut down, and opportunities to get recruited were now little to none…

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Image credited to Joseph Grab, edited by Calvin Marley
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By Joseph Grab

The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.

That is something I live my life by.

People often sell themselves short, and they limit their capabilities by not taking risks. If I never took risks, there is no way I would be where I am today with the experiences and memories I have made.

Before last year, I had everything in my life mapped out. 

I was going to keep playing basketball, continue to develop, and earn myself a scholarship to college before graduating from the school I had gone to my whole life. 

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, Covid hit. 

Covid took a lot of things away from a lot of people, especially athletes.

Seasons ended early, schools were shut down, and opportunities to get recruited were now little to none.

I had just come off the best basketball season of my career, averaging 24 points, 3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game my junior year of high school. With my senior season coming up, I was ready for my recruitment to take off that summer while preparing to play for a circuit team before Covid hit. 

I ended up not having an AAU season and did not get recruited by any schools. So, with my senior year of high school ball coming up, and rumors of our league not having a season, my family and I had to make a decision.

My trainer had just gotten the assistant coaching job at Spire Institute, a prep school in Geneva, Ohio. This school was widely known as Lamelo Ball’s old school. 

My coach reached out to me, asking if I would come to play for them, knowing the gravity of my situation. After visiting the campus and meeting the guys on the team, my family and I decided that this was the best situation for me to ensure that I would not only have a senior season but one where I would be playing against the best competition in the country, while simultaneously getting myself ready for college. 

When making this decision, I did not really understand what it entailed. 

Transferring schools was hard for me. I was leaving the place I had been going my whole life. I had to adapt from a chill, relaxed environment to a much more professional environment, rapidly. 

My schedule consisted of a 6 a.m workout, seven hours of school, and strength and conditioning training, all followed by a two-hour practice.

The regimen was not the only hard part of the new school. The thing that struck me the most was homesickness. I knew what I was doing this for though. I was not here for fun; I was here for business.

I knew that I needed this environment to push myself to the next level. After a while of just focusing, keeping my head down, and putting in the work, I got used to it. 

I started to do things and see results that fueled my fire to keep pushing forward. 

It was a great year! I traveled across the country with my team, playing in some of the biggest tournaments with the top players in the country, including Mikey Williams, Keynote George, and Robert Dillingham. As a 5’10” kid from a town in Pennsylvania that no one has heard of, this is something I never could have dreamed about. I never would have made it here had I not taken the risk to transfer. 

I am here to say take a chance on yourself! 

You are capable of so much more than you know, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will only make you stronger. 

It will take you places and do things that you never imagined yourself doing before. I know this firsthand. There is no way I would be where I am today had I played everything safe.

Taking a chance on myself put me in the best position to succeed, and I am so grateful for every step of my past journey and the unknown one to come.

 

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