They're the easiest to spot on campus. You'll see them covered in head to toe in school gear- their backpack probably even has their name and their number on it. They're normally seen in groups or pairs, rarely ever alone. There will be a handful of them in your classes, sometimes just one or two depending on your major. Who might I be talking about?
You guessed it. The student-athletes.
People are always talking about what it is like to be a student-athlete, but what is it like to be a "has been"?
I've been a student-athlete for as long as I can remember, but it wasn't until I transferred to USF, that I became a regular student. I stopped playing division 1 basketball to focus on school and my future career. Being a student-athlete isn't all it's cracked up to be. Yes, you do get the free gear, you're never alone and always have your teammates, but even though it seems like we have everything, there are definitely pros and cons.
Being on both sides of the spectrum has been a extensive transition. What's the other side you ask? I am going to call myself a N.A.R.P., Non-Athletic Regular Person. Although I am still "athletic", I don't play any intramural sports on campus, I go to the gym when I can, and I most definitely am no longer a "student-athlete".
This transition has been a cluster of confusion, especially being a senior transfer student at USF. First off, as a student-athlete, my coaches always made my schedule for me. I never asked any questions, and they just handed it. BUT, as a N.A.R.P., I didn't even know the first step in registering for classes, how to use degree works, or even which classes to take! It was the hardest thing I had ever done, and the most important task I needed to finish to get my academic career started at USF.
Not only that, I am now starving. EVERYDAY. I don't pay for a meal plan, and when I was a student-athlete that was already a given. I commute to class and sometimes I'll bring food from home, or snacks, but nothing beats being able to walk to the school cafeteria and get whatever you want.
Next is, getting involved on campus. When you go from living on campus dorms to commuting from St. Pete to campus, you have no idea what is going on, or what events are happening on campus. My coaches used to keep us up to date on all of the events, and sometimes we would even go as a team. Now, I actually have to read my email, consistently check the school's website and calendar, and decide if I want to go (going to these events is now a choice, not an obligation like it used to be).
In addition, being a student-athlete, you have to battle with the student-athlete stereotypes. Some professors will automatically pre-judge you because you're an athlete, as will some students. Some students don't want to do group projects with you because they think you'll be gone traveling so much. Some professors don't care if you miss class due to games, they want you to get the work done regardless. But now, as a N.A.R.P., I am an equal, just like the other students in a class.
Being a N.A.R.P., has a ton of perks don't get me wrong. Student-athlete life may seem like its amazing, but here is the tea.
The first privilege you get as a regular student is TIME. Being a student-athlete, you owe your time to your coaches, to your team, and to the program. You can't opt out to travel because you have to stay on campus for a project. That would be equivalent to getting paid when you never show up for work (in a perfect world). Your scholarship is what is paying for you to go to school, so you have to pay homage to that as a student-athlete.
The next pro about about being a regular student, is actually being able to enjoy school breaks. When you're a student-athlete, whether it's spring break, winter break, thanksgiving break, or even MLK day, you are either practicing, watching film, or conditioning. There are no days off whatsoever. When I was playing, I once had only 4 days for winter break to go home, and I had to be back and ready to practice on CHRISTMAS DAY. Yup, Christmas Day.
As a regular student, you also get freedom. Freedom to do what you want, nothing holding you back. You can do your homework on your own time, you are not required to go to x amount of hours at study hall. You can decide to go to the gym if you want, or not go if you don't want to.
And, although making your schedule can be difficult, you can make it yourself! You don't have to take certain classes or move courses around your practice times. You can take night classes, day classes, even online classes whenever! The world is practically yours.
Lastly, you get to make your own friends and college experiences. Being a student-athlete, you're basically put into this pool full of people you don't know, and you're forced to do every single thing with them and hopefully get along. If you don't get along, you still have to see these people everyday and be cordial. When you're a regular student, the friends you make are fully up to you, and you have the freedom to venture out and meet more people. Sometimes as a student-athlete you can get trapped in the student-athlete bubble. I never had time to join any clubs or organizations when I was playing. In my free time I was either doing homework, or practicing. However, now I am able to be a part of the campus community, AKA, "The Odyssey" (which I am so thankful to be a part of!).
Sometimes I do miss being a student-athlete, but then I remember that being a regular student isn't so bad. You have more freedom, time, and energy that's for sure. Which would you rather be?