“BURRR! BURRR! BURRR! BURRR!” It’s 5:00 A.M. and you reach for your phone to turn the most annoying alarm clock tone you could find off. After literally rolling out of bed you pull your sweats and t-shirt on, brush your teeth, grab a granola bar and run out of your dorm to your 6 A.M. practice, which you have to be 30 minutes early to because “If you’re early you’re on time. If you’re on time you’re late.”
For those of you that don’t recognize this absurdity, this is what the average college athlete’s preseason looks like. For two weeks you wake up to that alarm, eat that granola bar, and run your tail off trying to get in shape for the season. This is all before attending a few classes, then an afternoon practice, then more classes, then night practice. That’s right… practice three times a week, for two weeks, every August, for four years.
This is usually the make-or-break moment for students; when they find out if it’s just too much for them or not. For the ones that do make it through those first two weeks, there is some good news: it gets better! Those morning practices will lessen until eventually you will just have one practice every day, along with two or three games a week.
Being an athlete and a student really can be a difficult experience. You REALLY have to know how to manage your time and make sure to get all your homework done in between all of the running around. However, from experience I know that it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences.
You will get stressed, you will feel overwhelmed, and you will want to quit. You may find yourself wondering why you didn’t take the easier route, but after that first month you realize why it’s all worth it.
Below are a list of things that I learned and gained from my experience as a student-athlete:
- You learn how to be passionate. There’s something to be said about someone who chooses to commit to a sport in college, especially when you aren’t getting a scholarship to play. This dedication will flow into your life later on and then no matter what your dreams are you will go after them. Someone who is passionate about something can go a long way.
- Time-management. I learned that this is one of the most important things to implement while being a student-athlete. You’ll want to hang out with friends, make new friends, go on adventures, and maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher, all while still wanting to kick ass in your sport. It can be tough, but if you’re able to manage your time efficiently and prioritize then you’ll do just fine. By my second year I really understood what it meant to manage my time and now I’m almost a pro. ALMOST.
- Patience. You’ll never be alone. Every single day you will be with the same group of people. Sometimes you will get tired of them, sometimes you will fight in the locker room, either way you have to find a way to get along with one another. If not for each other, for the team. I witnessed so many of my teammates go at each others throats (figuratively) over silly arguments or gossip, but then after a couple of days get over it and become best friends again. When you’re stuck with people you pretty much learn how to live with each other. For better or for worse.
- Your body needs you. I never realized how important exercise and what I eat and drink were until playing soccer in college. If you don’t stretch enough you’ll tear something, if you stretch too much you’ll tear something, if you eat too little you’ll wear your body out, and if you drink a little too much you’ll feel like a slug the next day at practice. (No, I’m not talking about drinking water..) It’s all about balancing what you eat and how much you exercise.
- You will have a home away from home. Being a part of a college team allowed me to make friends that I will have for life. We all endured the same early practices, injuries, and “tough love” from our coach. We became a family. If you saw one of us in the cafeteria, you saw all of us.
I could literally write a book about what it’s like to be a student-athlete, but for now I hope this gave you enough insight. Just remember: it’s a strange, stressful, crazy, but amazing experience that you will grow so much from. (Not to mention, getting up for work in the “real world” will seem like a piece of cake!)