As a Division I athlete, I get asked crazy questions and hear ridiculous assumptions on the daily. Here's a list of the five common assumptions made about student-athletes and the behind the scenes of what it's really like to play a sport in college.
1. We pay people to do our homework.
We see it on television all the time; the "jocks" pay the "nerds" to do their homework. Well, this is completely false. The first thing a coach ever says to an athlete is "being a student comes before being an athlete." We have up to six hours of mandatory study hall weekly, our grades, homework, and attendance are monitored like a hawk, and academic dishonesty is highly enforced. Trust me, if we cheat, coach finds out right away, and that doesn't end well at all. In reality, all athletes are in college for the same reason: to be successful, graduate with a degree, and get a good job in the real world.
2. We think we run the school.
Yes, some athletes think they're the "best of the best" and act like their royalty, but that's not true about all athletes. Just because we play a competitive sport doesn't mean we don't have feelings too. We hear the comments that are made all around us, and they don't feel too good at all. Most of us just want to get to class, get to practice, and carry on with our day. We don't feel the need to cut the line in the cafeteria and we don't think that everyone is "beneath us." Most of the time athletes don't even want to have conversations about their sports because they basically take over our lives. We're no different than anyone else, and we just want to be treated like normal students.
3. We miss class because we don't feel like going.
Missing class has some serious repercussions, including practice and game time suspension, physical consequences, and even getting kicked off the team. Whenever we miss class, it's because we're in-season and have to travel. Sometimes, athletes have to miss class week after week, which, in reality, none of us want to do because we end up with loads of make-up work and we're missing out on chapters on top of chapters that are covered for tests. Another thing about traveling is it's not all fun and games, most athletes actually hate to travel. Yes, we get to go to cool states, but the whole time we're traveling it consists of practices, games, and homework, that's it. Traveling is nonstop work and gets really exhausting, especially when we're traveling to places with drastic time-zone changes for only three to four day periods.
4. We only talk to other athletes.
Yes, athletes do tend to travel in packs, but it's because we're all going from practice to class at the same time everyday. We eat together because we have practice right after, and sometimes it's just nice to talk to people that understand your struggle. Aside from this, athletes want to make other friends so they can escape from their sport, even for just a few hours; we're surrounded by the same people for hours on end, and a lot of the times we just need a break from that. Most of the time, we feel like other student don't want to talk to us because we feel like others are intimidated by us, which is not a good feeling at all. I don't want to feel like I'm scary or have people think I don't want to talk to them. We're just a bunch of regular students with really busy schedules; we want friends other than our teammates but we're sometimes afraid other people don't want to give us the time of day.
5. We party all the time.
This assumption makes me laugh. When you have six classes, lift at five o'clock in the morning and practice from one in the afternoon to five at night EVERYDAY, the last thing an student-athlete wants to do is go out and party. In an athlete's free time you can typically find them sleeping, getting their homework done at ridiculous hours of the night, or catching up on work they missed while they were traveling. To top it all off, we only get one day off a week, and it's typically a Monday, Tuesday, or Sunday; none of us want to go out with classes early the next morning. We also have really strict alcohol and drug policies, and if we get caught (which is very likely), it can lead to suspension or even being kicked off the team.
I hope this cleared a few common assumptions about student-athletes. Please come talk to us, we really could use some new friends.