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Senior signoffs: Thrower Nick Scarvelis imparts wisdom, advice to fellow track mates

Senior Nicholas Scarvelis ends a five-year run with UCLA track and field. The shot put and discus thrower looks back on his record-breaking career with humor. (Korbin Placet/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Nicholas Scarvelis

June 5, 2016 2:22 p.m.

I am so excited for the new Under Armour deal UCLA just signed, the athletic gear we all get will be so cool. … But of course I won’t be getting any because I’m leaving. The rest of the student-­athletes will, and I keep forgetting that I won’t be on the track team next year. These are things I’ve said: “I hope they go back to cotton for our workout shirts next year,” and, “I’m so excited to go to Austin, Texas for regional championships next year,” and, “Next year we’ll be so good.”

This isn’t exactly looking backwards is it? It’s not exactly being stuck in what’s now my past. I’m still looking to the future, I just keep forgetting that it’s not really my future anymore. But in throwing shot put, if you get too excited and try to watch where the ball will land, sometimes you lose your balance and fall out the front of the ring. That’s a foul. No mark.

I mean, five years of athletic eligibility is a good number the NCAA came up with. For most it’s exactly enough, and I am ready to move on. For Pete’s sake, my future involves exciting things in its own right; in the immediate sense, it involves the Olympic Games in Rio. I just can’t help but slip up and say these stupid things that make me sound like some letterman-­sporting forty-something who peaked in the twelfth grade. Which is fine. I’m no sentimental chump. But the fact that I keep doing this, slipping up, means that this place and these people have meant a great deal. It also means that I, like a dad who gets into fights at Little League games, am going to live vicariously through all my teammates so damn hard. “That one, the one who just stole third, that’s my son. That team, the one who just won Pac-­12s, that’s my team.”

That kind of talk begs for action. What can I do to make sure my team succeeds without me being there to help? This is a question the great John Wooden must have asked himself upon retiring. Of course he already had the answer, prepped and primed: his big ol’ Pyramid of Success (not a euphemism). But I’m late to the game, I have no established philosophy. And who am I to tell these underclassmen right from wrong? Apparently coach Wooden had no such qualms. He had self­-assurance. He had visual aids.

That being said, I’m old enough to have scraped up some wisdom of my own, and I’m going to share it whether my team wants me to or not. Visual aids be damned, I’m shooting from the hip. This is so my track­ mates (and anyone so inclined to hear me out) can go off and make me proud. I don’t mean to preach, but I’m going to.

Scarvelis ends his collegiate career as one of the most decorated UCLA track and field athletes in history. The thrower will compete for Greece at the 2016 Summer Olympics. (Korbin Placet/Daily Bruin senior staff)

First, stay away from refined grains. I’m starting small, just like the Wizard of Westwood instructing his players on how to tie their shoes. So yeah, cut those out.

Second, perhaps more seriously, do your thing with passion. For my trackies, that means knocking down 200-meter repeats as if they owed you money. For the rest of you, that means avoiding lukewarm anything. Moderation has its place, just not in big life moves. Do something with everything you have.

Third, set good goals. Not just any benchmark, a good goal is one made with the understanding that our emotions are governed by expectations. Feelings are as subject to relativity as photons. Have a clear perspective of where you are and make a goal for yourself that you will, with all probability (at least 70 percent), achieve.

And fourth, purchase a reasonably priced creatine supplement from a trusted brand such as Allmax or Primaforce. Creatine loads your muscles up with water to aid in the ATP production process (We all took high school biology.) and lessen mid­workout fatigue.

Anyway, four good blocks there. Maybe not a pyramid, but I could make a nice square with them. Draw it right out on a piece of poster­ board. Bring it with me to the first track team meeting of next year. Walk to the front of the room amid confused whispers, things like, “What is he still doing here?” Tack the poster to the wall at the front of the room. Keep my balance. Exit through the back of the ring.

Scarvelis threw shot put and discus for the UCLA men’s track and field team from 2013-2016. He was an A&E contributor winter 2015.

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