By Khaalia Hillsman
With all of the expected and required obligations to our sports, being a student-athlete can sometimes limit our opportunity to partake in certain activities and traditions – one of those traditions being Fish Camp. Usually when Fish Camp is happening we are either bound to school, our sport or we are taking extra time we have to see our family. This year, in large part because of the work of Coach Blair, our athletic department found a way to work around all the athlete’s schedules and gave us the opportunity to experience Fish Camp. And it is definitely something I won’t forget!
What is Fish Camp? Generally Fish Camp welcomes the Freshman class to Texas A&M each year by giving them the opportunity to have fun, make friends, and learn more about Texas A&M. When we get there, they split us into “camp” groups that includes upperclassmen counselors. The goal is that your camp share a special bond as you spend time getting to know one another, attending programs that highlight the opportunities and services available on campus and participating in Aggie Traditions such as Yell Practice, Aggie Muster, and Silver Taps.
When we first arrived, the different sports that were there had their team members split into two groups, green and yellow. I was part of the yellow group and our name changed from “Yellow Group” to “Yellow Squad” in a matter of minutes. Everyday when the groups would be together in the assembly hall, we would go back and forth representing our colors in yell and dance battles. This was one of the funniest (and loudest) parts of Fish Camp that brought us together and made people more comfortable with our new groups.
During our 3 day adventure at Fish Camp, we had the opportunity to really get familiarized with our school’s traditions, stories and basically everything that makes Texas A&M one of the best schools in the nation. As a senior, I was already very familiar with our school’s history and traditions; but the way our camp counselors represented themselves and showed the younger athletes how our school has created and celebrated all of our traditions was amazing to me. The counselors truly bleed Maroon and are so proud to be Aggies. I could literally see their positive energy towards our university trickling down to us as each day passed. It was truly special for me when our team would participate in school traditions such as the Aggie War Hymn, Yells and even learning the Spirit of Aggieland.
Particularly with the newbies, they were so attentive and engaged with learning about each of the traditions. I think when the focus was on our more sacred traditions like Bonfire, Aggie Muster and Silver Taps, it really hit home for them. I didn’t see a dry eye in the room when those traditions were honored and I feel like that represented a transition from the perspective of just old traditions to holding a special place in their hearts and a new respect for our dedication to honoring the lives of our fallen Aggies. They hadn’t had a chance to be able to experience first-hand what we do here yet since they’ve only been here during the summer so I think being able to come to Fish Camp got them acquainted to our history and all the fun things we do here will be beneficial to them in the school environment.
For me, my favorite Aggie tradition is the Aggie Ring. As a student athlete at a premier university that A&M is, it is so hard to juggle sports and academics. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the degree of commitment it takes to excel in the classroom because I’m already heavily committed to my sport and I feel like one can’t excel without me holding back from the other. But the Aggie Ring is a physical representation of all the hard work, struggles and dedication that I’ve been able to balance along with being on an elite team. Yes, we get a degree which is also a physical representation of being able to complete college, but the Aggie ring isn’t just a symbol in regards to education, but it represents the unity of our family as well. Anyone who sees someone wearing that beautiful golden ring around their right ring finger, or on a chain around their neck, or anywhere else, knows they have come from a place of respect, selfless-service, integrity, loyalty, leadership and excellence. A place where our core values aren’t just implemented, but carried through during and long after you’re at Texas A&M.
Throughout our days at Fish Camp, it made me so grateful to be with such a great group of athletes. When we would participate we would do so with pride and joy for our university. We all sang, whooped and laughed together and were exposed to all the things that make Texas A&M so special. I could tell that everyone on our team was exposed to something new and loved learning about the traditions through the skits our counselors organized and performed. Even though we were divided into two groups (green and yellow), we still had the opportunity to come together, meet new people and just have fun as an Aggie Family.