NORMAN, Okla. -- One can only truly appreciate the lifestyle of a student-athlete if they have been in those shoes. The number of hours and the amount of work required for practice and games, combined with trying to balance school and social activities, is exhausting. For most student-athletes, all of this time and energy is invested knowing they will never be on television or receive the same publicity as other sports. They do it simply because they love to play the game.
Lauren Harris is a perfect example. When she began playing soccer at a very young age, she had no idea where it would take her. Now heading into her final season of college soccer, she is simply living in the moment and enjoying the opportunity to play the game she loves at such a high level. With the start of the 2007 season just around the corner, Harris is doing everything she can to make sure her senior season is a huge success.
We sat down with Lauren last week to discuss her thoughts on this being her final year of college soccer.
On what the seniors are hoping to accomplish in their final year:
"Before we got here the team made it to the NCAA Tournament and we haven't been there yet. We've made it to the Big 12 Championships two out of the three years we've been here, so this year we're really hoping to break into the national tournament."
On the senior class being a tight-knit group:
"We are a tight-knit group and sometimes that's why we butt heads a lot. We're all out-going. We all speak our mind and we all have our own views of how to get things done. Like sisters, you always have your disagreements, but for the most part we're pretty tight-knit."
On how the experience of the seniors will benefit the team this season:
"It's going to help us a lot because we've been here from the beginning. Nobody in our class has decided to quit playing soccer and we actually added one to our class which is very rare. We all know what to expect, we know how to get things done and we can help the underclassmen get where they need to be."
On what the seniors bring in terms of leadership:
"We all have the same goals in mind. We want to lead the team together and make sure we're doing the things that are best for the team. Obviously it starts with ourselves. If we are doing what we're supposed to individually, then everything should fall into place."
On what she is most proud of over the last four years:
"What I'm most proud of is just being able to play collegiate soccer. Coming in right away and starting as a freshman is really rare, and Coach (Randy Evans) has no problem playing freshmen if they come in and win the spot. I think that's what helped me out the most - just because I was a freshman he didn't sit me on the bench. He took a chance on me and I am very grateful for that. I'm also grateful to have played with so many awesome people."
On whether it has sunk in that this will be her last season:
"Sometimes it does because I think about all of the things I will get to do when I'm done playing soccer. At the same time, I wonder what I'm going to do when I quit playing soccer. I think about my life after soccer and see both the pros and the cons. I've been playing soccer my whole life, so it's weird to think about."
On balancing school with playing soccer:
"When you're in class you have to pay attention and take notes and all that, and then when you're out on the soccer field it's your time away from class. You get to just do what you love to do. Then after soccer you have to worry about homework. In the spring it was hard because we had workouts at 6 a.m., then we had to go to class and had workouts again in the afternoon. By the time dinner hits everybody wants to go to sleep and then you have to wake up again at 5:00 just to do it all over again."
On how much she is going to savor her last season:
"I definitely don't want to take any chance for granted. Every day I'm worried about getting in shape because I don't want to miss an opportunity to go as hard as I can every game. Every time I step on the field I want to think of it as my last game and how I want to be remembered."
On carrying the momentum from the end of last season into this year:
"We had a tough spring, so I think we proved to ourselves that we have it in us. We have the grit and the fight. Waking up at 6:00 is hard in January and February when you don't even see the sun and it's cold. It shows that we are here and we're willing to work. We need to carry that same attitude into the season. We don't have to make every pass the best pass or make every save as long as we go in there with the determination and don't forget what we put in during the spring. If we don't make it to NCAAs, that's probably just the way it was meant to be, but I'd definitely like to be there."
On her excitement to start the season:
"I am so excited. Sometimes I can't even sleep. I have so many expectations for myself and the team so I want to get started as soon as possible. I'm not looking forward to preseason because it's very rigorous, but when I think about the games and all the fans, it's something I always look forward to and always get up for."