A First-Gen Student’s Experience as an Athlete
Balancing academics and sports is already a struggle for student athletes at a rigorous school like the University of Dallas, but being a first generation college student adds an additional necessary level of self-awareness and habit-building. Anthony Maldonado, senior business major,#17 and center fielder for UD’s baseball team, shared his own experience as a first generation college athlete.
Maldonado began by describing his family life and the impact of his parents upon his current life.
“They’re kind of like my rock, academically and athletically,” said Maldonado. “They’re the reason I’m here today.”
Maldonado emphasized the importance and encouragement of his family in his current life as a student athlete, as well as his gratitude towards them. He also revealed some of the stresses and struggles he has faced as a first generation college student.
Coming out of high school, Maldonado worried about being able to play baseball in college as he actively tried to showcase his talent and passion to different colleges. The college application process in general was stressful to Maldonado, since he was the first to undergo it in his family. Despite this stress, Maldonado was nevertheless determined about the college application process.
“But if anything, it was more so exciting than it was scary,” said Maldonado.
With his family supporting him, even the daunting and unfamiliar tasks of college applications were changed into hopeful challenges.
Adapting to life as an athlete and a college student was initially difficult for Maldonado. Adjusting to UD’s rigorous curriculum while balancing a busy athletic schedule led to challenges overall in Maldonado’s college career.
“You have a commitment to not only yourself but a whole team,” said Maldonado. “You can’t let anyone down.”
A normal day for Maldonado and his team consists of morning practice, followed by classes usually until the afternoon. After classes, the baseball team has practice until the evening, after which they eat and do homework. Weekends during baseball season are especially busy, since there are home and away games to compete in. Overall, there is little time to study.
Although, as a senior, Maldonado has been less busy because of a lighter class load, there were times, as a freshman, that people doubted his ability to persevere as both a successful student and athlete. With the expectations of university, his team and the desire to make his family proud, Maldonado has been under the pressure of success since his freshman year.
Maldonado however surprised those who doubted him as he continued to make his teammates and family proud. Despite the difficulty of balancing his schedule and the stress of being a first generation student, Maldonado made the Dean’s list in the past: a sign of his hard work and accomplishment at UD.
“Not only just making it for yourself but for your family,” said Maldonado. “I made the Dean’s list for all the people that got me here to do so.”
To those wanting to pursue collegiate athletics, Maldonado advises to take the opportunity and to fully commit.
“Do it and don’t hold back,” Maldonado shared. “If you’re gonna do it, commit to it.”
Even in the face of multiple aspects of stress, Maldonado said, “You’re going to balance a lot of things but it’s worth it.”
To Maldonado, the fun, the accomplishments and the new experiences outweigh the struggles of being a student athlete.
For other first generation college athletes, Maldonado advises they never give up, even in the face of difficulty.
“It may seem scary at first, but it gets a whole lot better,” said Maldonado.
Especially for freshmen, Maldonado advises taking advantage of the writing lab, getting to know your professors who want to help you and learning to be good at time management.
Being a first generation college student has presented a unique series of challenges for Maldonado. Not only has he had to learn how to balance academics with athletics, but he also had the stress of the unknown upon him as a first generation student. However, as can be seen by his success, Maldonado’s perseverance, adaptability and determination is an inspiration to all first generation students and college athletes alike.