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What Does It Take To Be A Professional Athlete After College?

Image: Matt Roberts / Stringer

What does it take to become a professional athlete? How are you going to become the greatest you can be at your sport? What are the next steps after college to become professional? How can you deal with all the intensive training and life itself? All of these and more should be the types of questions you ask yourself when you think about working to live the dream life, the life of a professional athlete.

My name is Natalia Giron, I’m from Guatemala and I got the opportunity of a full scholarship by playing for the Florida International University’s Panthers beach volleyball team in 2014. Before I even got to this amazing opportunity, I was in the process of qualifying for the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. I believe the preparation for this tournament has been probably the most intense, tiring, sacrificing, and emotional of my life. I was in my last year of high school, and I remember setting my alarm clock at 4 a.m. everyday before school, then going to school and sleeping at recess, and then going to my weight training practice in the afternoon. Then, right after weights I trained for another two hours or so at night. When I got back home after all of this, I remember going straight to do homework, then eating, showering, and trying to be in bed at 11 p.m. at the latest; however, some days it was impossible to finish it all on time and went to bed later than 1:00 in the morning.

Even though it seems like it was super exahusting and tough, I clearly remember I enjoyed every second of it and I was willing to do even more if possible! But then I also remember that sometimes when we traveled to other countries to train and play, like that one time when I went to Cuba for two weeks, I couldn’t bear the disappointment, the physical and emotional stress I felt playing and training against top teams. In Cuba for example, I trained for about eight hours a day, playing in a really hot weather, no time for family or friends, no "free" time and literally no time to BREATHE.

After such experiences, I remember thinking that what I was doing was only a little part of all that I had to do in order to become the greatest version of myself as an athlete and to become professional after college. What I’m trying to say is that in order to become a professional athlete for ANY sport, you must first be willing to SACRIFICE a lot of things in life such as family, friends and even time for yourself. You must also be willing to CHANGE both physically and mentally, by prioritizing nutrition, strength, recovery and doing physiological work as well. Lastly, you must be willing to PUT IN THE WORK! Life itself is not easy, and an athlete’s life is not the exception, but let me tell you that from experience, it is definitely WORTH IT.

Beach volleyball has created this incredible discipline in me that not only helped me become a better athlete, but a better student & person.

The best reward I’ve got from all my sacrifices, losses, wins, training, etc. has not only been trophies and medals, in fact, I probably have not got as much of them as I should’ve. But instead, it has been all the JOY, FRIENDSHIPS, MEMORIES, LOVE, and DISCIPLINE I've got from playing and training around the world. Every time I think about my happiest moments in life, it involves a tournament, practice or game I had with my volleyball partner and best friend. All of my other friends are involved either in my sport or in others and I’ve met them through competitions and have been able to share experiences and create memories with all of them.

Beach volleyball is my PASSION, it brings me happiness and love every time I play it. And even though sometimes it is not easy or about winning, but more about LEARNING. Beach volleyball has created this incredible discipline in me that has not only helped me become a better athlete, but also a better student and person. With that being said, I’ve learned that with discipline and hard work, you can accomplish almost anything!

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