A Student Before An Athlete
Feb. 10, 2009
As a young girl, Chavon Robinson recalls racing in the streets of her hometown in Milwaukee, Wis., with her two brothers, cousins and other neighborhood friends. On a summer night, if one listened closely they could hear the soft pounding of feet churning up pavement as Robinson neared the finish line. And if one looked even closer, they could see that there was more than just distance separating Robinson from her challengers: she was the only girl, and losing was not her style.
“After winning the races, the boys would always tell me that I should run track when I got older,” Robinson said. “I didn’t really think of it then, but sure enough, when I grew up I took an interest in running, and I here I am today.”
But it was not until Robinson was on the brink of her teenage years when she began to develop a serious interest in the sport as she learned there was more to track than just running. At an annual middle school meet, Robinson was introduced to the hop-step-jump, which allowed her to showcase her true natural talent. Robinson continued to test the waters with different events throughout her early years, but finally found her niche in the sand pit. Although the runner within would never die, Robinson had finally found her place on the field, and decided to jump into her new role with both feet.
During her four years at Rufus King High School, Robinson collected a pair of state championships in the triple jump and one state crown in the long jump, including two titles in her senior campaign. A seven-time indoor and outdoor conference champion in long and triple jumps and a three-time All-Conference selection, Robinson had taken all the right steps toward earning her choice of scholarships. But perhaps the most impressive accomplishment of Robinson’s prep career was the four years she spent on the honor roll.
“My main priority was to get my education paid for,” Robinson said. “I love track, but I definitely utilized it as a way to get an education so I could pursue bigger dreams after college.”
Now, a senior jumper at the University of Wisconsin, Robinson is one year away from earning her undergraduate degree in human development and family studies. But before entering graduate school, Robinson wanted to cement her place in Wisconsin lore in another field other than track.
After attending Senator Barack Obama’s campus rally in the winter of 2007, Robinson started thinking about the economic stability of the country and its impending effect on her educational future.
“The main change I hope to see in our country is more affordable education and opportunities for college,” Robinson said. “This is a crucial demand for today’s youth and there are so many people who do not go to college based on funds alone. That worries me because this generation knows that you have to have a college degree to be anything in the world today.”
If the nation was going to change for the better, Robinson knew she would have to do her part. True to form, Robinson decided to go the distance and get others involved too. A dedicated member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Robinson spearheaded “Sport the Vote,” a campaign designed to assist fellow student-athletes register to vote in the 2008 presidential election. What began as a simple conversation between two friends soon grew into a widespread campus movement; and with a hop, step and a jump, Robinson found herself deep into politics.
“It was a very historical election and I saw a chance to be part of something special,” Robinson said. “I wanted to show other students how important this election was and help them realize that they could play a part in history with a simple vote.”
Under Robinson’s direction, “Sport the Vote” facilitated student-athletes’ busy schedules by establishing registration centers at the McClain and Kohl Centers on campus, where athletes frequent for practices and study sessions. By catering to the student population, Robinson ensured that every student-athlete had the opportunity to vote and convinced her peers that voting was not only their right, but their responsibility.
“I wanted to spark something in people that I knew was already there, but just needed a little push,” Robinson said. “I wanted to represent athletes in a positive way and convey that we’re not just athletes, but students first.”
Ultimately, the campaign proved successful, generating a multitude of registered voters within the student-athlete population. By the time the last registration center closed on October 8, Robinson discovered that although student-athletes were divided on who to vote for, what mattered in the end was that they took responsibility for themselves and voted.
It is no mystery why Robinson’s efforts left her with this lasting impression of individual responsibility, for it is a skill that all track and field athletes must master at some point in their career.
“The nature of the competition is so individual that it requires you to take responsibility for yourself,” Robinson said. “It forces you to really trust yourself, and it’s a great feeling to be able to look back and see what you have accomplished on your own.”
Whether considering her time on the track or in the classroom, Robinson has earned the right to look back on her collegiate experience and smile.
In the end, if “Sport the Vote” was about prioritizing responsibilities, Robinson’s example reminds us all why student comes first in student-athlete.