That’s not a mistake in the headline. Right now the head is playing a lot of mind games on young college students and athletes throughout the land. Many universities have been in session long enough now for serious home-sickness to take hold.
Coaches face real challenges during this delicate time. The heart might have brought a student to a particular school, but it is the head that leaves them yearning for or even running for home.
To combat this, efforts are made to try to bring home to the student-athlete or at least to highlight the fact that coming to Lawrence or any university isn’t that much different from being at home. Here are a few examples from my experience.
Once, I was asked to photograph businesses in the Lawrence area for use in recruiting materials. I thought about all the great local restaurants, coffee shops and stores that bring unique flavor to Lawrence just as they do in Eugene, Lincoln, College Station or any good college town. Instead I was asked to focus my lens on Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Applebees, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and other national chains. The reasoning was simple. Leaving home and coming to a university, a young athlete will still find all the same stores and restaurants they are used to seeing back home. On a track trip to Oregon this past June, I stayed with the team at a hotel quite a distance from the track. I was told one of the reasons the team hotel was further from the track than I expected was that a Best Buy and a mall were near the hotel.
Consider the pre-game meal of one team. Everyone knows that vegetables are good for us all and especially for young, growing athletes. Just don’t make them fresh. Spinach and green beans are great, but they are better coming from a Green Giant can than from the local farmer’s market. Fresh pasta? No. Go with Spaghetti-O’s. This is the food these kids grew up with and what makes them feel good. Try to find a coach that would tell you that feeling good isn’t good. If fried chicken does that, then fried chicken is what’s for dinner. True comfort food.
The latest Pandora’s Box for us all are the various social networking sites that have brought good and bad wrapped up in an electronic package. We all text, my wife has Facebook, my youngest daughter Twitters and my oldest daughter talks every night to her fiancee via Skype. That’s all good. Of course, Tiger’s texting was the tool of a fool, the photos on Facebook can be very scary and Tweets have gotten many an athlete in trouble. However, Skype in the opinion of one coach, is the latest electronic devil. If you are a young student-athlete away from home for the first time, seeing Mom on your computer screen might tug at the heart. Just imagine the pull of a boyfriend or girlfriend left behind on a young 18-year-old’s psyche.
Most pull through these early moments of self doubt and settle into a life filled with as much home comforts as can be provided. Soon their hearts are filled with school spirit. Just keep an eye on where their heads are at all times.