Lauren Dobish’s Class of 2012 Acceptance Speech
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been scared for the day that my entire athletic career would actually come to an end. How could I possibly survive without athletics?
I’ve struggled with somewhat of an identity crisis my whole life, thinking that I am just Lauren Dobish, the athlete. I’ve been insecure thinking that playing sports is all that there is to me. I’ve practically spent my whole life going to practices, and playing in games and tournaments because playing sports, well, it’s just what I did, and I thought it was all I knew how to do.
When I tell people that I play three sports in college, they’re often surprised, but to be honest, playing three sports is all I’ve ever known. Since I was little, my routine has been that in the fall I get out my soccer cleats, with the winter comes my basketball shoes, and once the snow melts, I lace up my softball cleats. I did have a brief stint as a cheerleader in the third grade, but let’s just say that’s the only thing I’ve ever quit in my whole life.
I’m not a person that likes change. In fact, I am so afraid of change. I would stay at Bates forever if I could. But as much as I have tried to hope and pray for things to never change, I’ve always known that one day I would have to face the fact that my life as a college athlete would come to an end.
But if I’m just Lauren Dobish the athlete, then what happens when the day comes that I can’t put that Bates jersey on anymore? This fear has been the topic of a lot of conversations that my friends and I have had, trying to figure out just how we’re going to make it in life after sports are over. But what’s interesting is that during all those conversations, I never anticipated the clarity that would come when my career was officially over.
I realize now what I couldn’t see back then — that being an athlete isn’t actually what defines any of us, but instead, being an athlete is what has refined us. Our experiences as athletes are in large part responsible for our development into the young adults that we are today. At the beginning of all our careers, we were all like a brand new block of clay. We were all inexperienced and untouched by athletics, but we possessed the basic capabilities to get the job done, and we were interested in competition. We hadn’t yet acquired any shape or form. With the progression of our careers, however, we encountered all types of situations and challenges that forced us to adapt and change in order to be what it takes to be successful.
By committing ourselves to our teams, we were invested in something larger than ourselves and had no choice but to comply with the unpredictability of athletics –- whether it be responding to a setback, respecting opponents, supporting teammates, or receiving constructive criticism from our coaches, all such aspects begin to chisel away corners of the block of clay. Over the course of our careers, participating in athletics has pushed us to limits we didn’t know we could reach. We’ve made bonds with people that will forever impact our lives. And we’ve accomplished more than we ever knew we were capable of. And as a result, we are molded as athletes and furthermore, as citizens of the world. We’re no longer just capable and passionate about competing — we are now trusting, resilient, competitive and adaptable, and inevitably our individual talents and contributions have been unveiled through athletics, such characteristics that are now translatable to our lives post our sports careers.
Like a block of clay, we, as athletes, are always changing shape and being remolded into better versions of ourselves. So with the end of my career, I am no longer scared. The fear that was once constantly lurked has miraculously disappeared. I am no longer scared to say that I am just an athlete, because that means so much more than what I used to think it meant. Being an athlete is not as simple as I had convinced myself. So even though I can’t stand here today and honestly say that I’ve participated in any sort of physical activity since my athletic career has ended, I know that even without that Bates jersey, athletics will continue to play a large role in all of our lives and it will continue to refine us into better versions of ourselves.
So thank you, Bates Athletics, for opening my eyes to a new appreciation of what it means to be an athlete.