College Athletes. They have a perfect life. They receive tons of gear, get special attention from professors, have tons of friends and have unique privileges that no other students have. This is the image that a majority of people have about student athletes in college. However, as a collegiate athlete myself, I can tell you this is so far from reality. Here is what it is really like to be a student-athlete in college…
You’re always in season. Yes, everyone thinks you only have a certain number of games and your season lasts for 2-4 months. But what they don’t know is that while you may only have games for those months, the rest of the year you have to train to be in the best shape you can be for when you are “in season”. You have to eat healthy, workout every day and keep practicing in order to maintain your skills, endurance and strength. So no, we don’t have an off season.
You have long stressful days. However, your classmate doesn’t think so because he has four classes, work, and studying to do. But what your classmate doesn’t understand is that you have 6 a.m lifting. Which means waking up at 5 a.m, and then after lifting you have to go to your classes. No, you can’t skip your class even though you are exhausted from waking up before sunrise every day that week, because if you skip you don’t get to practice or play that week. So you go to class, and after you try to squeeze in lunch or maybe a 20 minute nap before you head back to the gym or field for practice. You then put yourself through a two to three-hour practice. Practice ends. You are now physically and mentally exhausted, but you are not done, because you have to shower, eat, and study or do homework before you finally hit the hay, only to wake up in a few short hours to do it all over again.
Your every move is watched. There is no room to mess up, but many think that collegiate athletes are exempt from having real responsibilities. What they don’t know is that when your teammate misses a class, you are going to run until you puke. Someone is late to practice, run until you puke. Have a bad practice, run until you puke. And then as if that wasn’t enough, at practice, you condition before, you condition for punishment, you condition if you lose a drill, and you condition if your coach feels like it. Also, you are a student-athlete, right? Your coach will emphasize that school comes first, and so you better do well in your classes but don’t you dare slack off at practice because you were up until 3 a.m studying for that test. It's a never-ending cycle of finding a balance between being a student and being an athlete. So no, we are not exempt from responsibilities.
You don’t ever get a break. Coach canceled practice today, but you still don’t have the day off. You have to go to the athletic training room for rehab on that constant ache and pain. You have to take the recruit around and convince them to play at your school. You have to have a meeting with your coach. You have to watch film for the game that upcoming week. You are always doing something for your sport, so when practice is cancelled, is it really cancelled?
You don’t have many friends. You miss a majority of the social events, you are too tired in class to mingle, and you are consistently with your teammates. Therefore, they are your only friends.
You really don’t have privileges. You have to go to every class. You have to do well in school in order to stay on the team. You don’t miss practice. You have to attend every team event. You have to eat healthy. You have to work out on top of practicing. You have to find time for sleep. You have to take care of your body to prevent injuries. You have to miss social events for practice and games. You have to set an example for future recruits and the student body. So, what are privileges?
This is what it's really like to be a collegiate athlete. But we do it because we love our sport and all the things that we don’t get to do are made better by being able to compete with people you love at a high level. So when people think you have the easiest, most luxurious life as a student athlete, let it slide, because they don’t get to experience what it is like to make a game-winning shot and hear the crowd roar behind them.