Post 2: Do What You Love Series Part One

My first year of college I attended Lee University; it is a private Christian University consisting of about 5,000 students nestled in the mountains in Tennessee. Lee University offers outstanding academics and has one of the most beautiful campuses that I have ever been on. The atmosphere there is absolutely electric, and the people are extremely nice. On a surface level the university seems flawless. However, life at Lee is not as perfect as one is lead to believe, and as with every university it has its flaws. Most of my “Life at Lee” consisted of dating the same girl, taking religion classes, going to chapel, participating in intramural sports, and ultimately staying inside an innocent little bubble. The culture there constituted that we were to only think in a Christian worldview. The endless required chapel sessions, religion classes, and recommended Monday night small group gatherings did not give one the opportunity to break through the bubble that encompassed the campus. Now things were nice and peachy if you were a dedicated Christian, but what about the people that attended the school who were not religious? They were, and probably still are, treated as outcasts. This happened to be the case for a lot of the international student athletes that I met. The fact that they were not “believers” caused others to avoid them in many regards, but it also caused them to form tight knit groups. They were only at Lee because they had been offered athletic scholarships to compete for the university. Apparently though, the coaches had not taken the time to explain how different the school was compared to most other American colleges when recruiting their athletes. The student athletes, especially the ones from abroad, envisioned their college experience to be full of parties and new experiences. However, when they arrived on campus they were met by a whole new reality: the college that they were recruited to is hardcore Christian. The combination of studying in a foreign place and being surrounded by religion can cause some hard-hitting culture shock. This being said, most of the international student athletes on campus tended to stick together and be rowdy. They would openly state how they thought Christianity was stupid and this offended a lot of people at the university. I don’t blame them though because if I was in there shoes I would have acted out as well. The international athletes were surprisingly cool guys though if you got passed the whole “they’re not religious” thing. They had a lot to offer, one just had to be willing to hear them out.

Below: A snowy day at Lee University with the flame still burning strong.

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I was a strong Christian for most of my time spent at Lee University, and with my Christian views at the helm I put up relational barriers towards the international athletes that I met. They came across as a threat to my faith because they openly disagreed with the foundations that I was raised on. It scared me to hear their points of view for some reason. Maybe I was afraid that I would actually agree with their viewpoints, or maybe I was just afraid of being judged by other Christian students at the University for associating with them. What I do know is that I am grateful for getting to know some of them in the end.

At the conclusion of my freshman year at Lee University I connected with the international students on my hall. They were all student athletes who came from many different backgrounds. Their stories were the complete opposite of mine: they hailed from all over the world, they were all collegiate athletes, and none of them were remotely religious. Each difference that they exemplified was something that I wanted to explore. I desired to travel outside of the South and see the great big world, I was currently working my ass off to become a collegiate tennis player, and I was starting to fall off the whole religion train that I had been on my entire life. I got to know them my last few weeks at Lee University because I finally decided to let my barriers down. It was one of the best decisions that I could have made.

Below: Me with Eirik (A former tennis player at Lee from Norway on my hall) after he accidentally hit me in the nose with the cue ball.

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My last few weeks at Lee University were extremely eye-opening as I began to spend quality time with the international athletes on my hall. Hanging out with the international athletes from my hall allowed me to see the University from the other side and I got a glimpse of the underlying counterculture that existed at the school. This culture consisted of parties, speaking one’s mind, having fun, and ultimately being free to explore new possibilities. So, I began to try new things; I started to view the school from a “worldly view” rather than a Christian one, listened to new outlooks on life, met new people, talked to new girls, and even attended a party or two. It was exhilarating to explore this new way of life towards the end of my freshman year. The international athletes on my hall gave me new perspectives on how to view the world, taught me about their cultures, introduced me to their native languages, exposed me to incredible music, and most importantly sparked in me the desire to travel. I had been introduced to many different cultures and I was thirsty to know more about everything else that awaited me in the great big world. I desired to travel and see amazing places with my own two eyes. It turned out that traveling would become a present-day example of me Doing What I Love.

Be on the lookout for part two coming soon!

Sincerely,

Captain Kosz

Post 1: Do What You Love Series

Have you ever heard the phrase “Do what you love”? When I was younger these words caused me to spring into action. I remember pondering on this phrase for a bit before finally dropping the sport that drained me and picking up the sport that gave my adolescent self life. I kicked soccer out of my life so that I could cause a racquet in tennis. It was a tough decision for me to make at the time because I was so good at soccer. At the age of 14 I was the starting goalkeeper for my club’s top team, I had just previously gone through a year of training with the Georgia Olympic Development Program, and I was in my best form. However, my heart was not in it. The combination of burnout, continual pressure from coaches, and discovering my love for tennis had caused me to fall out of love with the sport of soccer. So, when tryout time came for spring sports at my high school, I stunned everyone around me by choosing to tryout for the tennis team instead of soccer. All my coaches, teammates, friends, and family were taken aback by this decision. The coaches reminded me of my talent in soccer while my father reminded me of all the money and time that he had poured into my training, but I would not budge on my decision. With soccer I felt too much pressure but with tennis I felt complete freedom. I was free to suck at tennis because I quite frankly had no reputation to uphold. By playing the sport of tennis I did not have to hold the team on my back by protecting the goal and I certainly did not have past successes placing pressure on me.

Below: Picture of me my junior year on the pitch at the College of Coastal Georgia.

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The sport of tennis gave me the opportunity to start anew. I fell in love with tennis and the way I felt every time I stepped foot on the court. I loved how I was responsible for my shit and my shit only. I loved the intensity that arose in me with each and every point that I played. Whether I became successful or not was up to me, and it felt good to start from the bottom. By starting at the bottom, I was also able to create my own style of play. I learned to play tennis with two forehands, which was very unusual. Sure, I got criticized by seasoned veterans in the sport for not having a backhand, but I also turned a hell of a lot of heads. People were intrigued by my style of play because it was so different from the norm. The attention that I got by doing my OWN thing was amazing. Also, it just felt amazing to do what I loved in a way that was unique to me. Starting anew by doing what you love gives you this wonderful opportunity to be creative. You have this unique freedom to express yourself however you desire to and that is what makes doing what you love so very worth it. Now I did not turn out to be a professional athlete by any means because, well, that would be too good to be true. I did however get some college offers which eventually lead me to transfer to the college that I attend today.

Below: Picture of me the summer after my freshman year of college when I got offered a spot on the College of Coastal Georgia’s Men’s Tennis Team.

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I was able to get a taste of how life should be by choosing to do what I loved rather than sticking with what I was good at because it was familiar. I discovered a sense of freedom in doing what I loved and found myself along the way. I found that life should be about pursuing the things that you love, even if you are not sure that they will turn out the way you expect them to. Choosing to do what you love at least gives you the opportunity to pursue the future that you dream about. Doing what works at a given moment will get you by but doing what you love will energize you to chase your dreams. Don’t just do what works for you, do whatever it is that you love to do.

I am happy to say that I have picked up the sport of soccer again and that I very much enjoy it now. I play on my college’s club team and have some awesome teammates that I consider family. In fact, some of those very teammates helped to re-energize my passion for the sport. Tennis is also still a part of my life, but it is not my sole focus anymore. I enjoy tennis more as a spectator now and occasionally pick up the racquet when I am feeling keen. Moving onward I will continue to do what I love in the sports realm as well as in the rest of my life.

Look out for the next post of this series coming soon.

Sincerely,

Captain Kosz