A Letter To My Younger Self Mandy castro '17

Dear 18-year-old Mandy,

You are young and naïve but you are coming into college eager to put in the work to be a collegiate athlete. Who knew that your 6am lifts in high school with Dad would only serve to be a warm-up in comparison to your college lifts. You just wrapped up your first workout as a Smith College Pioneer and honestly, could say it was unlike any workout you have completed before. I mean, you were upside down for half of it doing handstand push-ups and the other half of the time you were playing 2-on-2 full court. Crazy exhausting… I know!

You’ve never experienced fatigue like this before, nor have you ever felt your legs burn so badly from the lactic acid build-up than you do in this moment. How can this be just the first day? If it’s this tough and exhausting, are you going to make it through the first week, let alone making it through these next four years? Is this what they say is the learning curve between high school and college ball? The “intensity” they say that make or break players at the next level? Is this something I am willing to endure through what people call the “best time of your life”? ABSOLUTELY. No doubt about it.

The words “Hard work, Dedication” on the shirt you wore during the workout aren’t just words for show. It is what you will be all about moving forward. It will be the team’s identifier! So I won’t lie it will not get easier. The workouts will get tougher as you get stronger and faster. The strength and conditioning trainers will keep pushing you to shave off more time on your sprints and lift more than you did the week before. But your passion and love for this game will keep you going, no matter how much pain you are feeling or how much you want to quit. You are not as tired as you think you are. You will be able to push through the 6 a.m. conditioning, the lifts, the on-court work, film, and ice baths all before going to Calculus class that morning. You are a Smithie for a reason, don’t forget that.

Because of your cross-country move for college, your teammates will become so much more than just teammates for you. They will be your sisters. They will be there for you through the good, the bad, the ugly and the even uglier. Yes, you got a glimpse of that in AAU ball but nothing would compare to this. These girls will be there for you from the first time you get sick to when you need help editing your first college lab report. But most importantly, they will not take it easy on you on the court. They will block your shot or steal your telegraphed pass to make you and the team BETTER. So no its not to pick on you because you are the first-year. Its purely out of love to make you battle-tested.

People back home in California did not know where Smith College was before you said you were going there. In fact, many still do not know there is more to the state of Massachusetts, than the city of Boston. You were told countless times you were undersized to play at the collegiate level. You were told by other coaches you picked the wrong college for hoops. And you were told you wouldn’t be able to handle the east coast climate. But boy, you will be getting to live a life many people only dream of, while showing those who doubted you that they were wrong.

You will experience some great highs and some deep lows, but rest assured; it is all in God’s plan for you. You will evolve into a person you love being because of all of these defining moments. You will learn so much about life through basketball and so much about basketball through life at Smith. I hope you didn’t already forget that this is where women’s basketball got started.

You will play this game for the last time as a senior and you will look back only to realize that this truly was the best experience of your life. Basketball is your first love and it will always be in your heart. You first picked up a ball at age 2, and will putting the ball down for the last time at age 22. You will then see the millions of ways in which this game has transformed you and that it will have everlasting impact on your life.

With love,

Mandy

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