More than a game

Lessons learned on and off the field


Richard Crank

The C-USA Championship Trophy gets presented after the Marshall University football team beats Louisiana Tech University Dec. 6, 2014 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington.

For those who have played at the collegiate level, sports have never been ‘just a game.’ At Marshall University, the rich history surrounding the football program has taught many players life lessons on and off the field.

These lessons learned in sports are not limited to the football program, though.

Student-athletes at Marshall and former student-athletes have gleaned valuable life lessons from competing in sports.

1. Persevere through difficulties

In the ‘70s, people in the Marshall community learned this lesson the hard way.

The 1970 plane crash brought the Huntington community together in a time of crisis. Huntington Mayor Steve Williams was a freshman football player for the Herd in 1974, while the players who were granted special permission to play as freshman by the NCAA were seniors.

“You also need to understand that while this defined us, we didn’t stay right there,” Williams said.

Marshall’s Athletic Director Mike Hamrick also played football for the Herd in the ‘70s.

“As a young guy here, I learned so much,” Hamrick said. “The most important thing I learned was to persevere through difficult times and I think that’s really important.”

2. Work hard

Former Marshall baseball pitcher John Winters said the work ethic he learned as a student-athlete is similar to having a job.

Student-athletes have to balance going to classes, having time for practice and making up any missed work while at away games.

Hamrick said he learned hard work and discipline in sports pay off.

“The harder I worked, the luckier I got,” Hamrick said.

Williams said the work ethic he created in college follows him today in his duties as mayor as he tries to be the first in the office in the morning and the last to leave the office at night.

3. Stay positive

Senior women’s golfer Korakot Simsiriwong said she loves the game of golf and she did not think it would teach her as much as it has.

“It’s the mental game, I think,” Simsiriwong said. “To be able to bounce back from a bad hole and being positive about stuff and the scenario, you use that a lot for everyday life.”

Life will have its own set of challenges, different from the way the wind can curve a perfect drive down the fairway, but Simsiriwong said figuring out those challenges on the course relates to making sense of those challenges in life.

4. Be a good loser

Former women’s tennis player, Roberta Ferguson learned the lesson of sportsmanship in her time playing for the Herd.

“The other probably biggest lesson I learned in competition is you do learn more when you lose than when you win because you reevaluate yourself more,” Ferguson said.

When teams lose, they are driven by coaches to run an extra lap in practice or work on perfecting their defense.

When teams win, they do not take as much time and effort to evaluate how they play the game.

When it comes to losing in life, use the loss as an opportunity to take time to evaluate how to play the game.

5. Don’t cheat

Marshall men’s golf head coach Matt Grobe said golf has helped him develop self accountability and character.

“It’s one of the few games where you’re responsible for yourself, you’re responsible for calling rules on yourself, you’re responsible for knowing the rules of golf, you’re responsible for that area and it’s very easy to make bad decisions and to cheat,” Grobe said.

Whether it is wanting to look too long at a classmate’s paper or grabbing an extra brownie while dieting, the opportunity to cheat will present itself in life.

6. The meaning of a team

Whether it is braving a 5 a.m. workout or 15-hour bus rides, the bond a team makes can be irreplaceable.

Few collegiate level sports have success based on individual accomplishment.

The 2014 Thundering Herd football team could not have posted a 13-1 record with one player.

This season, Marshall’s women’s basketball team could not have gone to postseason play for the second time ever as a part of the NCAA with only one athlete.

When Hamrick and Williams played football at Marshall, they often went against each other in practice.

The challenge they gave each other pushed them to become better athletes.

The bond the two created in practice lasts today, as is the case for many former teammates at Marshall.

“If I need somebody to have my back, I know I can always count on Mike Hamrick,” Williams said.

7. Be decisive

After a quarterback takes a snap, there are only a few seconds available for him to scan the field for an open receiver.

Williams started to learn to be decisive in is former role as quarterback for Marshall and now takes that decisiveness into leading the city.

“People expect someone in a leadership position to be decisive,” Williams said.

The ability to be confident in decision-making is a quality of a good leader.

“You set an example by how you conduct your own life and you can lead people in that fashion,” Williams said.

From the field or court, student-athletes learn more than ‘just a game’ when they compete at Marshall University.

Kasey Madden can be contacted at [email protected]