It is incredible the amount of growth one can achieve in four short years.
That is especially true of students who head off to college as mere kids at age 17 or 18 and depart campus as productive young adults in their early 20s.
Even looking on from the outside, it is fun to witness the physical and emotional maturation of student-athletes over the course of their collegiate careers.
Many start out a bit shy, at least in terms of dealing with the media, as they make the transition to college life while fending for themselves for the first time away from their immediate families.
Even so, it usually doesn’t take long before considerable growth becomes obvious.
Before you know it, most student-athletes are able to relax and speak clearly and intelligently about their own performances in the athletic realm and the dynamics that affect their teams’ success or failure.
It is much easier for most people to make comments that are both impassioned and intelligent when they are doing well and their teams are winning.
But you can learn a great deal about people from the way they deal with adversity. Many times, interviews are conducted within 10 or 15 minutes after the conclusion of a contest, when emotions often are still running high.
I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize a handful of University of Maine senior student-athletes whose cooperation in dealing with those of us the media has been noteworthy.
During the fall, I could always count on an honest response from Black Bears quarterback Warren Smith. He was seldom at a loss for words and was happy to share his thoughts.
Equally impressive was his classmate, QB Chris Treister. Despite losing the starting job during preseason, he was always classy and thoughtful whether discussing himself or the team.
Defensive lineman Raibonne Charles, one of a handful of Mainers on the football roster, also stood out for his ability to evaluate situations.
Despite significant struggles, the members of the UMaine women’s basketball team persevered and didn’t shy away from difficult questions.
Samantha Wheeler recounted her struggle with concussions, which derailed her playing career. Despite her frustration, she maintained a positive, team-first attitude that must have aided the team’s off-court chemistry.
On the men’s team, Andrew Rogers was the epitome of a senior leader. His competitive spirit was evident on the court and he shared a well-rounded perspective once the final horn had sounded.
One of his classmates, Gerald McLemore, also handled himself well despite a steady barrage of interview requests — both in good times and bad. He is another young man who represented UMaine impressively.
Twins Justin Leisenheimer and Ian Leisenheimer have shouldered leadership responsibilities on the baseball team. Each maintains a sense of humor while providing insights that reflect a spirit of camaraderie.
These are only a few examples of the quality student-athletes who attend UMaine.
One unmistakable trait of virtually all Black Bears is their commitment not only to becoming the best athletes they can be, but handling themselves with a sense of humility and good sportsmanship.
Aided by the example set by their UMaine coaches, their teammates and their parents, they come to focus on team principles and goals rather than their own desires.
It has been a pleasure dealing with so many impressive student-athletes, and not only at UMaine, but those at Husson University in Bangor and other schools across the state.
Hopefully, the lessons they have learned during their experience as student-athletes will help them be more productive as they graduate and begin a new chapter in their lives.