By Eric O’Neal, Duke TIP Intern and NCCU Graduate
Extracurricular activities in school are a great way to build teamwork skills, stay active and build friendships. I, in particular, participated in multiple sports, from track to wrestling. They personally helped me overcome a lot of issues in my life, especially dealing with my introverted nature, and made me feel part of a team. As well as personal benefits, I was able to use many of my extracurricular experiences to aid in my social and academic endeavors.
NJROTC: (Naval Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps) Growing up in a military town with a military family and going to a high school across the street from a military base, I was bound to wade into the world of the Armed Forces. In my experience, JROTC was only available in high school, though other places may begin the course in middle school.
In ROTC, one learns the protocols, leadership skills and behaviors expected of an officer in the Marine Corps, Army, Navy or Air Force. Good mannerisms, knowing the chain of command and reliability are always a great set of skills, and will open doors and improve the fluidity of proper social behaviors for the growing scholar. People around you will respect you more as you’ll learn how to express yourself in a non-confrontational manner, obey and follow orders, and be an effective leader by using the adaptability to situations that ROTC demands of you.
Track: Running track was not always fun, as no cardio based competitive sport is truly 100% ‘fun’. I was a distance runner, competing in the 400m, 800m and 1600m races. However, doing track prepares you for the long haul, whether it be cross country, field events, or short distance runs. In running, the full ability of your cardiovascular system is exerted and your legs may very well feel like noodles after completing a 1600m race. No doubt you have heard the phrase ‘Mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter’. This is the same saying that helped me get through the grueling straight-ways and turns of the high school tracks I ran, as I had to distract myself from the soreness of my legs below me.
Breathing gusts and sweating buckets, you have to have a motivation and clear-set goal to continue pushing yourself until you run over that finish line. That finish line can either be a difficult time in your life, a goal you want to achieve, or the literal finish line on the track. Pushing yourself to it will yield the greatest personal reward, in that you proved to yourself that you CAN do it.
Swimming: Diving into a pool is still one of my favorite activities. The feeling of weightlessness is one that is unrivaled, and the soothing touch of water all around is nearly therapeutic. Even though my friends weren’t avid swimmers, it was an activity that we could all take part in just by dipping our feet in. I was always the one running into the surf at the beach before my parents could apply sunscreen to me.
Swimming is a great cardio exercise, surpassing running as it works the entire body. I, as well as many others, use it as a stress relief. Feeling weightless (well, almost), clears my senses and works my body as I am quite literally submerging myself into another realm where I am free of all responsibilities, even if it’s only until the pool calls for a thirty minute break.
Marching Band: Though I am sadly far removed from my musical career, nothing was more pleasing than participating in my band program at my middle and high school. I played three instruments, all brass: The trumpet, baritone/euphonium, and tuba/sousaphone. Personally, the benefits of musicianship didn’t transfer to proficiency in mathematics. But participating in band did give me opportunities to travel and serve as a respectable representative for my school. Studying the fine arts, I developed an appreciation for mastery and a passion to strive to only put out my best effort.
Through years of studying sheet music I gained an appreciation for music as a whole. I listen to an assortment of genres, from rock to R&B, as I learned how they were made, what instruments made which sounds, and the stylistic differences. Listening to different types of music then helps me to understand others and to vibe with them. Being able to relate and ask someone what music they enjoy and why can open doors and introduce you to concepts you yourself may find interesting!