By: Kyle Spencer, Sports Editor, @kyledspencer
The opportunity to play collegiate sports remains an intriguing option to walk-ons and offers a singular experience
Walking on at a university that just entered the WAC may seem like an unrealistic idea for former high school athletes focused on academics and the many other new experiences commonly pursued by freshmen, but the lessons learned by UVU students that have succeeded in doing so are invaluable.
Every year the university selects three finalists for its annual “Walk-On of the Year Award.” The honor is bestowed upon a walk-on student athlete that best exemplifies excellence both on and off the playing surface. To even be considered for the award, the student must first complete the extensive process that still mirrors some of the obstacles romanticized in the film “Rudy.”
To try out, the UVU student must be enrolled in at least 12 credits (a minimum of 15 credits are necessary to play most sports). The student must fill out a clearance card and have it approved by an academic adviser. Once the obligatory fees and paperwork are satisfied, the administration will approve or deny clearance. If cleared, the student must submit the results of a physical exam. At this point the tryout can be scheduled at an NCAA sanctioned location and the opportunity to demonstrate the student’s athletic abilities will either solidify or negate his or her chance to suit up in Wolverine green.
It may sound like a daunting task, but past UVU walk-ons can’t help but boast when they evaluate what making and being a part of the team means to them.
“You learn to develop a better work ethic,” said Markale Chadaz, who was honored as one of last year’s finalists for the annual award during her second season as a member of the track and field team. “You understand you have to go after something that you want, despite the fear that you might not make it or whatever because it’s rewarding when you do.”
While the task isn’t the same as the one depicted in the famous “Rudy,” it isn’t so dissimilar. It may not include the exchange of dating tips for tutoring or living in a storage closet to save up for tuition, but the challenges of the walk-on personified in the movie are real. The walk-on must work rigorously each day to improve and maintain playing shape if he or she hopes to have a chance of landing a roster spot.
“[You have to] stay positive and work your hardest,” said Tasha Sanborn, who was also recognized as a finalist for “Walk-On of the Year Award” for her four years of dedication to the women’s basketball team. “What you’re building now is a building block for the future in terms of what you want to do. [The experience] makes you more motivated, and it makes you want to go after your goals more. It makes you a stronger person, and a more confident person.”
Whether or not an athlete is recruited to play sports at the university he or she attends is not the ultimate factor that controls the student’s athletic destiny. The choice lies within the aspiring student-athlete. That student may have not been inspired by pre-game speeches delivered by hall-of-fame coaches to the beloved Golden Domers, but the dream to achieve athletic excellence at the highest level remains alive and well for all UVU students that have the determination to make it a reality.