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The Life of a Student Athlete

Written by Blaine Kimery 17 Feb 2021
Collegiate Sports

     It’s 2nd & 26 yards to go from the Georgia 41 yard line in the first overtime of the National Championship. Alabama trails 23-20 and a touchdown would win it. Tua Tagovailoa, the freshman quarterback that was put in at the start of the second half, led Alabama all the way back from a 13-0 deficit at half time. It all comes down to this drive!

    Tua takes the snap and drops back into the pocket, he surveys the field. De’vonta Smith is streaking down the sideline, Tua launches the ball down field… It’s hauled into the endzone by Smith, Alabama wins the national championship 26-23, Mercedes-Benz Stadium erupts in celebration!

    Tua goes on to become a great college football player, but we all see him as an athlete and as an athlete only. We don’t always consider his life as a student at the University of Alabama. There is a lot more that goes into being a student athlete than we give all of these talented players credit for. There is a lot more that athletes have to deal with than simply playing football or any other college sport.

    Have you ever considered the fact that these players that we rag on for making one bad play, have a lot more than just sports going on in their lives? These kids are not only athletes- but some also have to juggle being a brother, son, student, and friend. The fact that they are also fantastic athletes, is quite amazing!

    These great athletes work day in and day out to get where they are now. Along with being an athlete, student and everything in between some of their lives are monitored under a little microscope. This just adds to all the pressure that is placed on these 20 year old kids. They go through a ton of things to just make it to gameday. Then when they don’t play well, it’s all over ESPN and all we do is complain and talk about how our favorite team lost because of how poor one guy played. We most certainly don’t give them room for a bad day because we never account for the school, tutoring, practice, traveling, and I would even bet that the majority of these athletes are trying to maintain some sort of relationship in their lives on top of everything else. The negative media because of one bad play, or sometimes all of the positive media following them around does not help relieve any pressure.

    One of the hardest things about being a student athlete is balancing the school work. Most athletes have an early morning workout or practice. Dwight Lawrence, who plays at Stetson University says he has to wake up at 5:30 for a 6AM practice. After this players will usually get a short break to eat breakfast and do whatever they need to do before going to their first class of the day. These players don’t even have the luxury of scheduling their classes whenever they want because of the strict athletic based schedule, instead classes are scheduled around their teams workouts and practices. After all of the players' classes that last from about 9AM until the early afternoon they will usually have some sort of team meeting to discuss film. Then they jump straight into about a 3 hour practice, and to think your day is busy! This is not even close to the end of these athletes' days! After practice they will go get treatment from the team trainer before getting dinner and heading home. “Finally, I’m home, another day in the bag”, but not yet! After arriving home around about 9 o’clock, it is now time for homework. This isn’t like a page or 2 of math, no this is hours of college homework. Players usually don’t get to bed until about midnight, every single night. Then they are right back to it getting up again at 5AM! Clearly, this is a very long and tiresome day for these athletes.

    There are also all of the travel days going to and from competition. While one of the advantages of being a part of a big time program is traveling the country, it’s not all fun and games. All of the class time they miss is not excused and they will usually have to do work while on a plane, bus, airport, or even the hotel lobby. While this does not seem like very much fun, it has to be done or they can not play!

    Finally, one of the most important parts of our lives is having relationships with our friends, family, and in most college kids' lives, a boyfriend/girlfriend. Some of these kids have younger siblings that look up to them and they have to set a good example. They have friends that they have to find time to hang out with. Another very important relationship is that of a girlfriend or boyfriend. These kinds of things take time and energy that has to be put forth to maintain a strong meaningful relationship. Where in that schedule do student athletes find time for it? I don’t know where they fit these relationships into their schedules but it has to be done. Relationships are a big part of our lives, but if we don’t find the time to build relationships with other people we end up losing them. This just adds to the very hard and stressful life of a student athlete and how impressive it is that they still come out and play like a star!

    As you can see, there is a lot that we don’t consider about all the things that student athletes go through just to play a sport for their fun and our entertainment. These kids have to manage not just athletics but school, the media, and important relationships with their coaches, friends, and family. The time and effort that goes into being a student athlete is unbelievable, but somehow they make it work one way or another. There is a lot more that student athletes have going on in their lives than just athletics. Next time an athlete makes a bad play or has a bad game just remember that they are trying the absolute best they can and how impressive it already is, that they are playing a college sport in the first place!