“Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that, upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory.”
General Douglas MacArthur
West Point fosters a championship culture where winning matters. Once you step foot on the hallowed grounds of the base you will quickly understand that “There is no substitute for Victory.” West Point is a demanding institution charged with a mission to develop well-rounded leaders by leaning into three developmental pillars – academic, physical, and military. Cadets learn to balance these three pillars en route to reaching their full potential.
Structure, routine and discipline maximize development throughout the 47-month journey. This structure is helpful to all cadets, but nowhere is it more helpful than to the student-athlete. A West Point student-athlete must use their time wisely and capitalize greatly on moments throughout their day to complete their academic workload and compete at the high level expected of them by their coaches and teammates. With leisure time at a minimum, each minute must be used with great effectiveness.
With an enrollment of only about 4,400 students, West Point maintains 28 NCAA intercollegiate sports programs, 16 competitive club teams and 11 company-level intramural sports - this is why West Point proudly claims that EVERY CADET IS AN ATHLETE.
Megan Gould (USMA 2020) is from the USMA Parachute Team, which has a mission to educate, train, and inspire cadets to develop leadership skills and build self-confidence in an in extremis context. The USMA Parachute Team accomplishes this by providing cadets the opportunity to work towards three specific and challenging goals: train free-fall students, conduct precision free-fall demonstrations, and compete and win at the national level.
Below she offers up some advice on finding balance as a student-athlete. Here’s what she had to say:
YOU CAN’T MAKE TIME, BUT IF YOU’RE CLEVER YOU CAN FIND IT. Do school work during your off-hours throughout the academic day. Use this time wisely. This will save you much heartache and allow you to sleep after practice when you’re exhausted.
SLEEP EXPECTATIONS. Don’t expect 8 hours of sleep per night. For the most of us, we get 4-6 daily. Find the positives in each day otherwise you may forget how amazing this opportunity really is.
YOU CAN’T DO IT ALONE. Learn to rely on your teammates, your friends, your instructors. But do not relinquish your self-reliance - know how to first pick yourself up, brush off a set-back, and hold your head high. You are part of an elite institution. Respect this honor.
ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE. Many sports and clubs take up every single weekend during the year, 5-6 weekdays each week, holidays (Christmas included), and time in the summer. Joining a team means you’re committed to the team. Understand this commitment.
THIS IS YOUR NEW HOME. The Parachute Team is like a family. While it is not the classic definition of a family, this family is relentless, resilient, and will make you own up to your mistakes. But the West Point family will support you and make you better, as it did me.
IRON SHARPENS IRON. This family requires you to be at your best. Whether its academics, physical fitness, military requirements or time management. This will be a challenge, but this will prepare you for your future.
FIND YOUR BLISS. I fell in love with skydiving. This is my daily outlet. Whatever problems I face during the day do not follow me in the sky. This is my haven, my serenity. West Point offers so many wonderful outlets. It’s up to you to find yours.
IDLE HANDS ARE THE DEVILS WORKSHOP. I traded unhealthy vices for this sport. It has saved my career as well as my mental health. I am forever grateful.
THE JUICE IS WORTH THE SQUEEZE. Overall, you will sacrifice more than you can imagine but I would do it all over again.
Additionally, West Point student-athletes have the ultimate resource in The Center for Enhanced Performance. The CEP is West Point’s comprehensive student assistance center, providing all cadets with a variety of individual and group programs and services focused on helping cadets further develop as self-regulated learners and leaders of character. The CEP helps cadets achieve excellence in West Point’s three developmental pillars – academic, physical, and military – through targeted education and training on specific strategies and intangible mental skills that underlie elite human performance across all domains.
You can follow CEP on Instagram @armywp_cep and the West Point Parachute Team on Instagram @usma_parachute.