Growing up, hundreds of thousands of young athletes dream of playing college sports. Then reality sets in. Everyone on your JV basketball team isn't getting a full ride to North Carolina or UCLA. There comes a time when your illustrious high school sports career comes to end. There are no more halftime oranges or road trips on the short yellow bus. Only a select few athletes continue on to the college level, others are left to imagine what could have been.
From the outside looking in college student-athletes seem to be indulged in a lifestyle similar to the rich and famous. It seems that for a college student-athlete just about everything is free, and if you need someone to hold your hand for four years, that can be arranged. Life for a college student-athlete would seem to be easy.
I realize that I am fortunate to be in the position I am. I earned a full athletic scholarship to a four-year university. Many people would love to be where I am. I get paid to play football, in the grand scheme of things I don't have a lot to complain about, but the life of a college student-athlete is far from easy.
When everyone on campus was leaving for summer break, so was I. But my summer break was 10 days instead of three months. Just 10 days after finals we began "optional" workouts. What "optional" really means is that you have an option of whether or not you actually want to play this year. Therefore the majority of the team is on campus during the summer working hard and getting ready for the upcoming season. But these "optional" workouts are only the calm before the storm, because fall camp isn't optional.
Fall camp marks the beginning of a new season and the beginning of the longest three weeks of the year. At any given time during camp approximately 89 percent of the team couldn't tell you if today was a Monday or a Friday. That's because during camp there are no days off and every day is the same. A camp day goes something like this.
You wake up at 7:00 A.M. to get ready for meetings at 7:30 A.M. Watching cartoons in the morning is fun, but for some reason watching film of last night's practice in the morning doesn't seem to be as attractive. After fighting sleep for a little over an hour it's time to head over to the stadium for the first practice of the day. After two and half hours on the field it's off to lunch.
For a lot of the guys on the team, outside of dinner, lunch is the highlight of the day. Lunch is a time when everyone gets to eat which a lot of guys on the team really seem to enjoy.
After lunch there are position meetings at 3:30 P.M. At meetings we take a look at the film of the practice we just had only a few hours earlier. After another hour of film, it's time to get a lift in. After lifting weights for a little over an hour it's time for dinner, which besides lunch is the highlight of the day for a lot of guys.
After dinner there are more meetings. After meetings there is more practice. Now that all football related activities are finally done for the day it's time to get some sleep, wake up in the morning and do the same thing again tomorrow.
During camp, football is a full-time job. When school starts, that doesn't change. There are a few fewer hours spent on the field, but those hours are now committed towards the classroom. Regrettably I don't play football for North Carolina so I do have to take real classes, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that balancing your sport with your school work is no simple task.
Because of our football schedule we cannot take any classes after 2:00 P.M. And after practice finishes at around 7:00 P.M, catching up with school work isn't always the first thing on your mind. Traveling every other weekend can cause you to miss out on class time and a social life.
Being a student-athlete is a full-time job, it's not easy. But in the end team comradery and a scholarship check at the beginning of the quarter or semester makes it all worthwhile.