Not many companies can produce a single symbol that becomes internationally known and respected. Only elite companies like Nike and Apple reach this status. Here at the University, we have a prestigious symbol that has certainly reached a status of international recognition — the Block M. This simple stylized M is more than just a letter. If you put on the Block M, you are representing not only yourself, but also the University. Putting on a Block M is more than saying “Go Blue!” It has a past that must be respected, a present that needs to be taken advantage of and a future that will only go as far as we take it.

If you have heard the new athletic director, David Brandon, speak in the past six months, you have almost certainly heard him speak about the Block M as a brand for the University. The advantage of branding is that a symbol can be an instant identifier for a company. But it goes further than that. Branding also comes with expectations, values and responsibilities — all of which are associated with the Block M.

There are enormous expectations associated with the Block M. Michigan is expected to be the best in athletics, academics, community involvement, research and facilities — basically everything. Upholding all of these expectations is difficult, but the University seems to do it year after year. Academically, the University has almost always been a among the best in the nation — often ranking in the top 20 or 30.

The athletic standard here at Michigan is also unmatched. If a team is not ranked in the top ten, winning Big Ten championships or winning national championships, it is considered a disappointing season — the football team’s recent seasons are a prime example of this.

The University’s facilities are also ahead of the rest. The newest residence hall, North Quad, gives a unique living and learning experience. The most notable facility on campus is Michigan Stadium. Now that all of the new renovations have been completed, the Big House is once again the largest stadium in the U.S. and the third largest in the world. And if an expectation is not being met, the University is always pursuing ideas to improve the facilities. Former Athletic Director Bill Martin was particularly known for this.

To an extent, all students at the University know and feel these expectations. But as a student-athlete — I’m a member of the University’s varsity volleyball team — these expectations are amplified. The standards listed above are in the forefront of all players’, coaches’ and administrators’ minds. With each new season, the past year is erased. The only focus is to improve.

Instead of just being a part of the University, we are in the spotlight representing it. Week in and week out, athletes put on a jersey and go to battle with other teams all for the glory for Michigan and to prove that we are the best. “The Victors” isn’t just a song we sing in victory, but also a battle cry before the competition begins. The volleyball team sings our fight song before each match as loudly as possible so that everyone knows that Michigan is there and we are ready to win.

The theme “Win for Michigan” is something that every athlete is aware of. We understand that winning isn’t to bring ourselves glory, but to give glory to Michigan. Think about the football team. The pressure for these young men to perform isn’t because everyone knows them and wants to see them do well as individuals. It’s because the Block M represents the winningist football program in the country and that is what is expected.

Most University students have the opportunity to make a mark on the Block M in their own small way every day. But on a weekly basis, student-athletes have an opportunity to do so on a national stage. Former head football coach Lloyd Carr addressed the current student-athletes on Tuesday and made the statement “You are Michigan.” Past players have had their time to make their mark, and now it is our turn. As student-athletes consider their upcoming seasons, we are all focused on one thing, to represent the Block M in a positive way and to Win for Michigan.

Courtney Fletcher can be reached at fletchco@umich.edu.

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