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The fine act of balancing college sports

Wed, Nov 23rd 2016 12:00 pm
Alex Laubret, in her fifth track meet of the season, jumps over a hurdle and heads toward the finish line, striving to reach (hopefully) another victory.
Alex Laubret, in her fifth track meet of the season, jumps over a hurdle and heads toward the finish line, striving to reach (hopefully) another victory.

By Akira Thornton

College can be heavily stressful. The workload given each week is massive, homework and exams are tremendously difficult, not to mention trying to balance all of this and a social life. Take into consideration juggling a sport. The pressure that comes with playing a sport in college can be sometimes more difficult than imaginable.

Athletes have to deal with the fear of being cut, not being up to the caliber of college-level play, and the commitment to practices and games. Therefore, the result is many students eventually quit pursuing their sport and move onto other endeavors. Mostly because of stress, the lack of sleep they sustain, balancing their lifestyle, as well as all the pressures that come with being a Division 1 athlete.

Alexandra Laubert, a newcomer to the track and field team at Niagara University, is feeling the pressure of college and sport colliding. Even though she is coping well, on many occasions she still finds it hard to balance her busy schedule as well as continuing to be successful in the classroom.

"I'm a biology major, so it's really hard for me to find time to juggle my sport and the heavy load of homework I'm given every week, and I've had to sacrifice my social life in order to be successful." Laubert says.

It's common for athletes to feel like they are missing out on the social scene of college. College, for most students, is their first time experiencing freedom away from parents. Students are able to attempt activities they've never tried before, and create lifelong memories. Within the lifestyle of a Division 1 athlete, on some occasions, it can feel like sports are strictly business, and consume all time. Sometimes this can feel like a state of isolation: From the outside looking in, being an athlete in college may seem like a privilege, but often times it can feel like athletes aren't fulfilling their college experience. Student athletes are unable to participate in some of the activities that their other peers are involved in, because of the sheer fact they just don't have time in their busy schedules to attend to other interests. These activities include, but are not limited to, clubs and Greek life. This explains the reason why many Division 1 athletes refer to playing a sport as more like a job and less like a hobby.

When we are younger, sports can feel like they are carefree. There's more of a fun aspect that goes along with playing. Most student athletes have played a sport their entire lives, perfecting their craft so they maintain the capabilities necessary to compete among college athletes.

The higher conference level in which an athlete participates in can dictate the caliber of skill they are expected to obtain. When you are looking to be drafted or possibly play professionally, the play gets tougher, and skill set has to be borderline exceptional.

Arizona State University Division 1 soccer player Jazmarie Mader can attest to this.

Being a part of a team in the Pac-12 Conference can be extremely strenuous on her college schedule, especially when she is working hard toward the dream of becoming a professional athlete. Mader says she hopes to be drafted within her years of playing college soccer. Leading the PAC-12 in goals at one point in her junior year season, her dreams don't seem very far-fetched.

"Being an athlete in college is very tough," Mader says. "During the season, I find it hard to make time for my family, and it's hard to fit school work into my busy schedule. However, I have the passion for it. This is the lifestyle I chose, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I love being an athlete, and I wanna do this for the rest of my life."

Although some find it easy to adapt to this lifestyle, others crack under pressure. Many student athletes quit after a semester of participating in their sport. Statistics show that, after a full year of playing a sport in college at the Division 1 level, 15 percent of students quit playing and desire to be regular students.

There are many reasons why athletes tend to give up on the sport they love, although it may seem like they have the passion for it. The stress starts to outweigh the love for the game. The stigma can be heavily difficult to manage: the worry of being cut, not receiving playing time, or not living up to the expectations the coaches have set before you. Stress plays a huge factor in an athlete's life; being below average amongst their teammates can take a heavy toll on their mindsets. Working hard toward a dream practically your entire life and not benefiting toward it can be discouraging for many student athletes.

As well as missing out on family get-togethers and holidays, many student athletes have to miss spending time with their beloved ones. This can put a strain in relationships with relatives. Athletes are expected to be fully and completely committed to their sport and nothing else. This means they lack the time to be focused on anything else but their sport. Setting their priorities straight is imperative in order for them to achieve success on the field and in the classroom.

"There's good days and there's bad days," says Jai Moore, a Division 1 basketball player at Niagara University. "I think that, when you are fully indulged into your sport and truly love what you are doing, it doesn't feel like a job."

Moore, from Brooklyn, says she dreamed of an opportunity like this her entire life. She looks at sports as being a privilege. Not many students are granted the chance to play at a higher level and have their education paid for. Sometimes it is easy to fall off track; however, students often times step back and realize how truly blessed they are. Playing amongst some of the best competition in the country is an amazing experience and, for some athletes, this is the path they always prayed for.

"It is hard for me sometimes; the option to quit is in the back of everyone's mind," Moore says. "However, I feel as if that's taking the easy way out. No one ever said that playing a Division 1 sport in college was easy. Coping with the pressures is tough, but I refuse to back down from any challenge or obstacle that will get in the way of me achieving my dreams."

Ultimately, student athletes are given the opportunity that many others don't have. Athletes are able to play and receive a free college education. Although it may seem gruesome at times, student athletes have devoted their entire lives to their sport. If the passion is within them, than giving up is never an option.

Jazmarie Mader goes in for a header against a component and nudges her off the ball. 

Jazmarie Mader goes in for a header against a component and nudges her off the ball.

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