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The Life of a Student-Athlete

March 7, 2022

Annabel Barr

“It’s a stressful time for your mind and your body, but it’s also one of the greatest times in your life. Don’t forget to be grateful that you get to play the sport you love every single day.”

“It’s not easy to do school, sports, and social life all super well, so don’t compare yourself to other people...the main thing is to figure out what you want out of your college student-athlete experience and then chase it.”

Life as a college athlete can be much different than that of the average student. The busy schedules, intense practices, and overall time commitment set these students apart. I interviewed five student-athletes, all playing different sports and all from other schools, to learn more about the life of a student-athlete. Whether you are considering continuing your athletic career in college or just want to learn more about their overall experience, this interview is straight from the perspective of college students. They were each asked four questions:

How was your Covid experience compared to the average student?

Do you prefer spending the majority of your time with other athletes?

What does your normal day look like during in-season?

What advice would you give to incoming student-athletes or those considering playing a sport in college?

The first student-athlete I interviewed is the kicker on the University of South Carolina football team. He is going into his Sophomore year. When asked about his experience going to school during Covid as an athlete, he said, “I think my experience going to school differed from someone who was not a student-athlete in a way where I had to be a lot more protective of myself. With daily testing, I had to constantly be aware of my social distances where some people that may not play a sport would have a lot less caution.” He also said that although he enjoys spending time with non-athletes, he spends the bulk of time with his fellow teammates and would consider them his closest friends. According to this athlete, aside from the strict Covid protocols, he has had a very enjoyable experience so far. Although he enjoys being an athlete, his schedule is quite grueling. His day starts out reporting to the football facility at 6 am, followed by breakfast, meetings, practice, tutoring, and finally, class ending around 6 pm. His words of wisdom are, “​​I would tell an athlete coming into college or wanting to play a sport is to make sure you love the sport. It is truly a grind balancing school and the sport and having a decent social life, so you are not a robot throughout the day. Building relationships with your teammates is super meaningful, and it’s also super important to get your work done on time. Falling behind in school only makes it harder to catch up since the schedule is already so busy.”

The second person I interviewed is a beach volleyball player who is a rising sophomore at Arizona State University. When asked about her experience with Covid, she answered very similarly to the football player. She said, “There was a much greater eye on student-athletes during this past year. We were under a much different light, and I think, held to a higher standard. We had to constantly be aware of her surroundings and who we were around.” Also, she explained that she was kind of forced into a bubble with only other student-athletes, so she ended up spending the bulk of her time with them instead of non-athletes. However, she did enjoy this because they all understood what the others were going through during the strict Covid rules. She also has quite a busy schedule, with her morning consisting of lifting, conditioning, team practice, mindfulness exercises, and treatment and icing in the training room. Then, they finally head off to class for the day. Finally, her advice for someone considering becoming a student-athlete is, “Keep working hard. Never get complacent because when you think you’re at the top, there’s always someone working harder than you. And for incoming students, I would say it’s a stressful time for your mind and your body, but it is also one of the greatest times in your life. Don’t forget to be grateful that you get to play the sport you love every single day.” What a great piece of advice!

The third athlete I interviewed is a golfer. He is a rising senior at The University of Richmond. His Covid experience was consistent with that of the first two interviewees, other than the fact that he struggled with having limited contact with his friends that were not a part of a sports team. Since he is a senior, he has built relationships outside of athletics and did not get to spend very much time with them in fear of contracting the virus. Unsurprisingly, he is on the go all day long. He said, “ a normal day for me consists of a team workout from about 6:45 til 7:45 am. Team breakfast at 8:30 with the guys, and then we all go to class from 9-12 during the week. From there, we start practice at 1:00 most days until around 5:00. After practice, we usually head back to campus, eat dinner as a team around 6 pm and then get our schoolwork done from about 7-9 most nights.” Then, he was sure to include that he has much more free time than this on the weekends. He also offered a very valuable piece of advice for incoming student-athletes. “I think it’s crucial to figure out what you want out of your student-athlete experience. For some people, it’s fully pursuing being the best athlete they can be; for others, it’s being a solid student, and others want to have a more well-rounded college experience and maybe join a fraternity or sorority as well as their sports team. Once you really figure out what you want, the next step is doing the little things like time management and scheduling that allow you to do whatever you choose well. It’s not easy to do school, sports, and social life all super well, so don’t compare yourself to other people’s interests or how well they’re doing whatever it is they choose. The main thing is to figure out what you want out of your college student-athlete experience and then chase it.”

The following person I interviewed is a soccer player from Wake Forest University. She is going to be a junior this year. She said her experience with Covid was frustrating. Since she is involved in a sorority as well, she has lots of non-athlete and athlete friends. She said being isolated from a large portion of her close friends, considering they had to be so careful during Covid, was hard for her. Her day in the life is similar to many of the other athletes, with an early wake-up call for training. She then has classes before her afternoon lifting and practice. This is followed by finishing up work for the night and an early bedtime to prepare for the following day. Finally, she said, “My advice would be to control the controllable. There are many aspects of your sport that you don’t have a say in, so just do your best at what you are in control of. Also, find time management strategies that work for you to make balancing school and sports easier.”

Finally, I spoke to a rising senior on the Brown University baseball team. His experience with Covid was a little more extreme than the rest because their season was canceled. He said he was very disappointed that this happened. His entire team was very committed to staying healthy and being very careful prior to the season and felt that their efforts were not recognized. He said that his core friend group is his team, but he has built friendships across other teams as well. A typical day for him and his baseball team consists of waking up early to lift, going to practice, then spending the rest of the day in classes and study hall. Finally, he said, “I would say that scheduling your week out ahead of time is my biggest piece of advice as you have double or more of the responsibilities a normal student has.” 

As you can see, participating in a college sport is quite a commitment, no matter the size of your school. These student-athletes love the sport they play and are highly motivated individuals. It is clear that deciding to continue your athletic career in college means that you may face some challenges throughout your college experience, but at the same time will hopefully learn a lot and grow as a person. For the people I interviewed, playing the sport they love is enough to power them through the grind of a student-athlete.

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