For student-athletes, sports are anything but just a game. A season-ending injury is not just the end of a season; it’s a devastating loss of time and effort, and it’s a mental setback which, at times, can be nearly impossible to bounce back from. One of the hallmarks of being a great athlete is an insatiable drive for improvement, but this drive can be impeded by frustration and self-doubt if the athlete is not equipped with the proper mental abilities.
Being a dual-sport athlete, Ray Robinson, a junior from Jackson, Michigan, understands this on a personal level. He is designing his own major in sports psychology, which he hopes to put to good use by helping student-athletes and professional athletes alike work through the mental struggles of their respective sports.
“I want to be a sports psychologist; it’s not offered here. So, what I’ve been doing is taking some psychology classes and some kinesiology classes and talking to people to kind of infuse those,” said Robinson. “I want to help athletes with the mental game. I want to help them figure out what they need to do to keep their mental game up to par with their athletic systems.”
Sports have always held a special place in Robinson’s heart. The cornerback and track star began his football career in fourth grade, which is the earliest the recreation league in his area allowed him to start playing. While he did dabble in other sports throughout his earlier years, football, baseball and basketball were his three focuses.
Thus far, Robinson has had extensive accomplishments in his career as a collegiate athlete. In the 2017 outdoor season of track and field, Robinson not only placed fifth in the triple jump during the MIAA Championship, but received an MIAA title after distinguishing himself as league champion in the javelin throw.
Without discounting the well-deserved pride and joy which coincides with such a successful athletic career, there is more to sports than league titles and championships. Sports are a way of life, a deep passion and, as Robinson puts it, an escape from the real world.
“Sports have really been everything,” said Robinson. “They’ve been my getaway. They’ve been like my off switch from the real world. I know when I go to practice, all I have to worry about is that sport, and I don’t really have to worry about school or life at that point.”
Robinson’s life wasn’t always easy growing up, so having an escape like sports to fall back on in times of need was essential. Living with a single mother who worked long hours each day, Robinson took on the responsibility of caring for his younger brother and sister. After 11 years working for a pharmacy, Robinson’s mother lost her job when he was in his adolescent years, and their house foreclosed directly after. His family lived in and out of friends’ homes and cars, and the situation seemed dire. Throughout high school, Robinson took initiative and looked after his siblings while his mother searched adamantly for a new job. Eventually, she was able to find a new source of employment, and things began to look up for Robinson and his family.
“I wouldn’t say my life growing up was the best. Do I wish it was better? No, because, I mean, it shaped me into who I am today, and it didn’t shun me from the real world,” said Robinson. “We’ve been through so much, especially my sister. She has Down syndrome, so she’s basically like my baby.”
Robinson’s family, who live nearby in Jackson, remain one of his biggest motivating factors. He plans to use his hard work and success to benefit them as he grows older.
“My biggest motivation would be either making a better situation for myself, like making myself a better person or making a better life for my family back at home,” said Robinson. “Family has been an important thing for me, so trying to be a better person, and being in a better situation, I think that I can help them.”
For now, Robinson’s plans are to go to graduate school and receive a degree in sports psychology. From there, he will continue to inspire and make his mark on others through his positivity, which shines brightly on and off the field.
Photo courtesy of Albion Athletics