By Emma Polefko
Eat. Sleep. Practice. Repeat. That’s the average student-athlete’s day. Well, plus hours and hours of school. In the fall, cross country runners are rolling out of bed at 5:50 a.m., already dressed in our running clothes, sprinting out the door to go run somewhere between six and nine miles, all before most students wake up. After practice there are classes, then, for me personally, work at the Office of Admissions.
For most other sports, practice is in the afternoon, but that doesn’t make the time frame any better. In the spring, we’re getting up, going to class, working at the Office of Admissions and going to practice. By the time our day of classes, practice and work is over, it’s 6 p.m. at the earliest. We go home, eat dinner (have you seen our appetites?) and then do homework.
Some people think we’re crazy for doing sports and going to the University of Dallas. Others don’t understand why we would want to. But for most UD athletes, it isn’t a question about how we balance both school and athletics; it’s second nature at this point in our lives.
UD is a Division III school. There is no athletic scholarship money in it for athletes. But that does not mean that we are less of athletes than DI and DII athletes. We still practice the same amount, at a nearly equal intensity. All athletes here participate in sports because we genuinely love the game. Our incentive is personal drive, the support of our teams and the desire not to let our coaches down.
In an average week, we spend at least 10 hours practicing. Add onto that travel and game time to equal anywhere from 10 to 20 hours a week for athletics alone. By National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) standards, the minimum number of credit hours athletes have to take is 12 hours, but most student-athletes here take at least 15.
While academics should be every athlete’s first priority, participating in athletics is essentially a part-time job. Combine the time spent for athletics with UD’s average academic workload and you have a completely full schedule. Not to mention 94 percent of students at UD are on scholarship money, leaving many athletes in need of work-study, on-campus jobs or off-campus jobs.
And though we’re students, athletes and employees, we still want to be college students. We all want to enjoy spending time with friends and lounging on the Mall on a perfect Friday afternoon. The average student-athlete’s week is demanding and a tangle of time management, but to most, it is just second nature at this point.
It’s not something to complain about. It’s just what we do. It’s our choice and it’s one we make for the love of sports.
It is not always easy, and there are times when it is not even fun. We miss out on traditions here and there. We go to bed early because working out reminds us just how important sleep is. Some might say we miss out on parts of the fabled “college experience,” but I would argue that it is a fair trade. There is never a doubt that we will manage doing school, athletics and work. We might complain here and there, but at the end of the day, we wouldn’t change a thing. Your teammates become your best friends, and the feeling of accomplishing a goal — whether it is a personal one or one for the team — is unbeatable.
From personal experience, I can say that the runner’s high is a very real phenomenon. Each sport has a feeling similar to it. And that feeling drives us to manage our time, put our nose in a book, make the grade and play the game.