Student Athlete: The two-front war
Colin Seigfried | 1/13/14 11:59am
Being a college student is not easy. It requires an incredible amount of responsibility and dedication in an environment that can be extremely distracting and overwhelming. Therefore, developing time management skills and the ability to avoid distractions early on in your collegiate career is invaluable.
Now imagine having to double that level of commitment and divide it between two completely different worlds. That is the life of a college student-athlete; constantly battling to succeed in the classroom and on the field.
However, the popular misconception that student-athletes are somehow at an advantage still remains. This consensus is incorrectly formed by those who have not lived the life of a student-athlete and are unable to realize the added amount of time and dedication that is required. It is also difficult from the outside to understand how mentally, physically and emotionally taxing this lifestyle can be.
As much as the NCAA and AU promote the idea of “student first, then athlete,” this idea is nearly impossible. Thus, for the better part of three years, my entire life has revolved around soccer. I thought I understood what that would entail when I decided to become a student-athlete at AU, but I was quickly introduced to the incredible amount of sacrifices that this lifestyle entails.
First, when everyone is traveling for vacations and having fun over summer break, we have to stay in shape and develop our skills. Many of my teammates spend their summer in D.C. so they have access to our facilities and can train together more easily.
For those that are able to go home, they are required to report back to school on August 1 for training. Therefore it is extremely hard to find summer jobs and internships that are willing to work around our schedule. This is a distinct disadvantage that student-athletes have to deal with because the majority of us will not be continuing our athletic careers after college.
Then, once the school year begins, the juggling act of dividing effort between soccer and school begins. Non-student athletes are required to multitask and budget their time with clubs and internships as well, but participating in Division 1 athletics undoubtedly affected every aspect of my life.
For example, the term “practice” is widely misunderstood. The NCAA allows for only 20 practice hours per week. Our team’s scheduled practice time was from 2:30-4:30 p.m. this fall. Also, our coach asks us to be in the locker room at a 2 p.m. (30 minutes before training).
If this practice is the day before or the day after a game, we will meet in the locker room to watch film at 1:30 p.m.. Now we are already required to be there for a minimum of three hours in the middle of our day, during which, we are expected to block out the rest of our obligations and focus solely on soccer.
However, these three hours does not account for any injured players. With a 20-game season packed into three months, injuries are inevitable. So when you’re injured, you have to go to rehab for an hour before or after practice. Add this extra hour to the previous “practice” time, along with showering/changing, and the initial two hours of practice has turned into a four-plus hour commitment.
I understand that every student has their own responsibilities or places that they need to be that is separate from their schoolwork. But we don’t have to just be somewhere for 4 hours, we spend that time running, lifting, practicing and competing at a high level that is both physically and mentally demanding.
Additionally, because our practices are in the middle of the day, often times I was forced to take classes both before and after practice which makes it very hard to get into a routine, and ever harder to turn on and off mentally by switching from school to soccer or vice versa. It’s exhausting, especially during midterms.
In addition to daily practices, our match schedule further disrupts what little normalcy that we attempt to maintain for our schedules.
We have games on almost every Saturday during the fall season and often times we have a game on either Tuesday or Wednesday as well. At the beginning of the semester we are given letters to give to our teachers to explain to them which days we will be missing so that they are aware and we will not be penalized for missing class.
However, not being able to attend class adds even more time and dedication. By missing class, often times it is difficult to fully understand the information that the professor is presenting since you are unable ask questions or participate in class discussions. Therefore, I end up having to teach myself the information or finding a tutor, which takes up more time in my schedule.
This only touches on a few of the major challenges that a student-athlete at AU must overcome, but they are all justified by the lessons learned and the experiences that you are able to share with your best friends and teammates. I owe much of my positive experience to the incredible support staff within the athletic department that is designed to help student-athletes succeed on and off the field, as well as their life after collegiate sports.
Academically, this includes access to free tutoring for any class that we are enrolled it, enrolling in courses before other students so that we can work around our practice times and an extra department for academic advising for only student athletes.
Physically, I am forced into a healthy lifestyle that includes exercising daily, eating healthy and having coaches and trainers to help maintain this routine. But again, these advantages come at a price with multiple sacrifices.
Although I am only shortly removed from my athletic career, it is easy to realize how special it was. The life of student-athlete is an incredible journey that has prepared me for life after college in the best way possible. By fighting through pain and fatigue on the field and in the classroom, I am now stronger physically and mentally to take on obstacles in the future.