By Bella Garone
The commitment of being an athlete in college is tremendous. As opposed to high school, your life revolves around the sport you play. You eat, breathe and live sports.
I am a freshman and part of the Niagara University softball team. Although softball is a spring sport, our team has been working out and preparing for the season since the first day of classes in August. We've been putting in work in our free time since the summer. Over the summer, we all usually play some sort of travel team, as well as go to the gym on our own, hit off a tee in our backyards, or go to the field with friends or teammates.
Taking the summer or winter off would be detrimental to our own personal game, as well as the team.
The offseason is where you need to get better and stronger - especially at this level. If you are not 100 percent committed to putting in the work on and off the field, college sports are not for you.
With this level of commitment, you may wonder what kind of free time we have, if any.
We wake up around 6:30 a.m. and lift and condition until 9 a.m. After that, we eat together and attend our classes. During the fall, we have a practice typically three times a week. In the spring, we have practice everyday.
In the afternoon and night time is when we have our free time, which is usually spent studying, doing homework, sleeping or going out to eat with our team.
Karsen Cotton, one of my teammates on the Niagara softball team, said, "In my free time I like to go to other sporting events to support my fellow athletes."
Usually, sporting events here at Niagara take place at night, therefore making it possible for us to go watch. I personally also love going to sporting events, because it's fun - especially when your friends with the other athletes.
Even though our free time is limited compared to regular college students, I do feel as if I have enough free time outside of softball to get done what I need to without feeling completely overwhelmed.
Weightlifting and conditioning is also a major part of being a college athlete. We lift and condition three times a week, as well as practice speed and agility once a week. Staying in shape is crucial for athletes in order to be stronger, faster and less injury-prone during the season.
Personally, since I first came here and started consistently lifting, I've seen major growth and improvement in my body.
My teammate Kelsey Harrigan agreed. She said, "I feel that lift and workouts are very productive."
Although several people may dread waking up early in the morning to go workout, it actually is extremely beneficial, because we get it out of the way early. This leaves us with more time in the rest of our day to get other priorities done. We always workout as a team, even when it is not mandated by our coach, due to the simple fact we all want to work hard and make each other better.
As a student athlete, being a student always comes before being an athlete. Of course, sports are a major part of all of our lives, but the main reason we are here in college is to get an education. Balancing a sport with school work can be very challenging at times, but it all comes down to time management and choices.
As opposed to non-athletes, we have to make sacrifices in what we can and cannot take part in, such as going out on a Friday night when we have practice at 6 a.m. on Saturday. Time management is extremely important in being a student athlete due to the fact that, if you get ahead on your work and finish all your assignments on time, it leaves you with more freedom to be able to do fun stuff.
Being a college athlete, especially a Division 1 athlete, comes down to your priorities being set to this order: school, sports, and then leisure time and activities.
A major plus of being a college athlete as a freshman is when you come to the school you automatically have a big group of friends, which is your team. Especially because I live far away, it was great having a bunch of girls show me the ropes around campus and the area. Outside of practice and workouts, we still do everything as a team, which creates great chemistry with one another. That will transfer onto the field.
Teammates become your family and best friends due to the tremendous amount of time spent together. Every girl on our team is more than willing to help another teammate on and off the field. We usually meet up at the library and do our work together, too. Upperclassmen are extremely helpful when it comes to helping out with homework or papers.
Our assistant coach, Sarah March, said, "Academics is also a huge part of being a Division 1 athlete. First and foremost, the girls are here to get an education, so we pride ourselves in being dedicated students as well as athletes."