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The endless grind of a collegiate gym rat

Nate+Ambrosini+working+on+his+jump+shot+before+Chico+State+basketball+practice.+Photo+credit%3A+Wesley+Harris
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The endless grind of a collegiate gym rat

Nate Ambrosini working on his jump shot before Chico State basketball practice. Photo credit: Wesley Harris

Nate Ambrosini working on his jump shot before Chico State basketball practice. Photo credit: Wesley Harris

Nate Ambrosini working on his jump shot before Chico State basketball practice. Photo credit: Wesley Harris

Nate Ambrosini working on his jump shot before Chico State basketball practice. Photo credit: Wesley Harris

Wesley Harris

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Dreams of championships, game-winning shots and ankle bruising crossovers date back to the childhoods of most basketball players. Especially when they observed the legendary professional athletes that came before them.

Being able to achieve those dreams at the collegiate level requires going through an obstacle course that very few can get through. Most are left with deflated goals and aspirations. Maintaining those childhood dreams often require a 24-hour mindset, as the will to become a better player takes more work than what’s seen on the court.

The offseason for Chico State shooting guard Nate Ambrosini is far from a break for the senior. The summer and fall months are make or break time for college players in anticipation for the upcoming season.

The glitz and glamor that comes with the lifestyle of being an athlete is nothing short of an earned lifestyle. A college athlete’s life is full of high expectations from coaches, as well as juggling a list of assignments and restless days on the court and in the weight-room.

A day in the life with Ambrosini revealed the physical and mental tasks that he has to take on each and every day.

6:55 a.m.

Nate is up earlier than usual on Tuesday morning for an early bird session of yoga with the rest of his team to help recover from the previous day’s soreness. Even though it’s early, he makes the walk from his downtown house to start the day off active.

“Once you start getting your body moving, stretching, you become more mindful of your day,” Ambrosini said. “It’s a great start for your day.”

9:00 a.m.

The morning yoga session leaves little time for Ambrosini to get prepared for the real challenge of the day, class. Before the sessions, it’s important for him to take a quick shower and get a good meal.

Ambrosini has found himself in his most academically challenging year he’s had in his four years because he’s taking the final leg of upper division classes. Ambrosini is a business management major with a minor in entrepreneurship.

He often doesn’t have enough time in each day to work on group assignments and he occasionally has to miss class. But this isn’t due to lack of effort. Ambrosini, rather, seems to need more than 24 hours in a day.

Ambrosinibike.jpg

Chico State basketball player Nate Ambrosini working out on a bike after practice at the wrec. Photo credit: Wesley Harris

2:00 p.m.

Ambrosini’s last last class ends at noon. Right away, he’s back into the mindset of improving his game and body. He has a 2:30 p.m. workout but gets to the gym early to receive some treatment on his recently bruised bone in his foot.

The preparation for his hour-long sessions begins with a warm-up on a stationary bike to get as loose as possible. As Ambrosini makes his way into Shurmer Gym, he already has a light sweat and looks game ready. He’s joined by the team manager who provides his services as a rebounder.

Today is a light workout for Nate with the focus on jump shooting, consisting of over one hundred made shots in all spots around the arch.

“A lot of my workouts are just shooting,” Ambrosini said. “I am a spot up shooter, coming off screens, so it’s important for me to get a lot of shots up.”

When getting some warm-up shots 5 feet away from the basket, the assistant coach comes in to check on his senior leader and his injured foot. There’s obvious frustration on Ambrosini’s face when asked about his foot. The workout carries on before the start of team practice.

3:30 p.m.

The rest of the team enters the gym in a swarm toward the end of Nate’s shooting workout. Immediately the gym becomes a social club. The players joke around with each other and talk before head coach Greg Clink calls everyone to center court.

Here the focus changes for the team. All eyes hone in on their coach as he motivates them with the mindset they need for the day’s focus, defense. To get the team warm, they go through a series of dribbling drills between cones with Ambrosini calling the orders. He has a presence on the floor that his teammates respect.

After the dribbling session, the intensity of practice turns up. Ambrosini, unfortunately, has to participate from the sidelines with only his words as his way to get his team going. He watches his teammates go through tough defensive assignments with eager eyes of competition.

“It sucks when you’re supposed to be the senior leader. I try my best trying to coach, but I’m not even out there,” Ambrosini said.

7026B337-C50C-4B2F-8338-750DE8120142.jpeg

Nate Ambrosini coaching from the sideline during Chico State basketball practice. Photo credit: Wesley Harris

6:00 p.m.

After the team workout, the day is still not over for Ambrosini as he enters another individual session. This time he takes a walk down to the Wildcat Recreation Center to cool down on the bike for another 15 minutes. Today he is in the WREC for some strength and conditioning.

On Tuesday the team isn’t in the weight room, but Nate still feels the need to get in an upper body workout. Assistant coach Mark Darnall appreciates the extra effort Ambrosini puts in.

“His work ethic is as good as I’ve been around,” Darnall said. “Getting in the gym, he loves the weight room. He gets after it every day.”

7:00 p.m.

Nate finally can make his walk back to his home after his workout is over, but other mental challenges await back home. This is the time where Ambrosini finishes his assignments and gets to wind down. He uses this time to recover with a lot of water, food and supplements to replenish an aching body. Another early morning and string of events await the next day.

The lifestyle of a college athlete requires a load of physical work on top of the mental challenges every student endures. It’s a life full of expectations from coaches, teachers and the athletes themselves.

“I’m definitely a motivated person. I always want to get the best out of myself,” Ambrosini said. “Holding myself to a high standard and doing what I need to do to be successful is the motivation.”

Wesley Harris can be reached at [email protected] or @Flacko_Flame on Twitter.

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The endless grind of a collegiate gym rat