Starting my fourth year at the University this fall, I must admit that I have been overwhelmed each and every year on the first day of class. Since I'm here year-round, sometimes the big dates on the calendar slip by me and leave me surprised when I encounter campus on a day when something massive is happening. I admit, I can get myopic into the my world and not pay attention to things going on around me. It's good to get a dose of reality from time to time and let the world hit you in the face and remind you not to take things for granted.
Working with the volleyball program closely over the past several seasons has shown me to enjoy the little things. One such event that I enjoy is catching a freshman out on campus right around the first day of classes. The volleyball team, much like the soccer programs, comes in near the middle of August to start preseason training because their first matches are right around the first week of classes each year (women's soccer actually played a match the day before the first day of class this season). They have some time to themselves to bond and put their own blinders on and focus in on getting prepared for the another season of competition. It's similar to summer camp. It's just you, your team and practices.
Then, all of a sudden, that blissful focus is interrupted with classes. Sometimes we forget that attending classes and studying and taking tests is supposed to be the real reason why they are all here in the first place. The looks on the faces of first-year students is fun for me to see. It's their first taste of freedom. Sure, they have played on plenty of road trips at many summer tournaments and athletics showcases in their lives, but someone was always around after school in the fall and spring to make sure homework was done.
When we're operating during the summer, there is always a parking space near the building and traffic is a breeze. Now, around 24,000 students descended upon campus Monday to start another year in earnest. That was a shock to me. Not a parking space in either of the two decks near my building. Traffic was gridlocked as regular staffers were just trying to get to work, returning students were trying to vulture their usual parking spots and newcomers were making u-turns and reading street signs to find their way around. It takes about two to three weeks each year for this to calm down and for people to get their routines established. We just have to adjust and allow a little extra time at this point in the year.
As the volleyball team gets ready for the season, I asked head coach Chris Redding about that first week of classes.
"The first week is fun to see, but you can really get in trouble by the third and fourth week, when the workload is in full swing for them. We try and do things ahead of time like get tutors and encourage them to read and study and not put it off. We emphasize strong time management due to all of the things we ask of our players."
With the new student union open (and it's really a sight to see), the proverbial center of campus has shifted down our direction on the South end of campus. We saw scads and scads of people walking around with maps, looking around at all of newness on our end. Just in the past three years of my working here, most everything around us is new from the academic buildings near Halton Arena to the union, to the one-year-old parking deck beside it to our baseball stadium and the new graduate school campus just behind that. It's amazing. I can remember coming to this campus back in the late 80's and just getting from one end of campus to another takes on a totally different trip these days.
We just had opening day for the student body and now it's opening day for the volleyball program on Friday (at Wake Forest, 7 p.m.) Sometimes, I like to live the world through someone else's eyes as they see things for the first time. It invigorates me and reminds us all to enjoy this place and not take for granted all of the great resources and new things we are a part of now and the new things that are coming on the horizon.