The unsung burdens of a college athlete

An athlete at UAA is set apart from everyone else; they are one of about 200 athletes out of a student population of over 20,000.

They have access to unique academic resources, from daily study hall, priority registration and housing, to free and unlimited tutoring.

Academic scholarships come more easily to those who play sports than those don’t. Talented athletes with an average GPA are likely to be offered a scholarship, while someone with the same GPA who does not play a sport would likely not be offered a scholarship if at all.

The advantages of student athlete status span outside of just academics however. With the status comes an image, accompanied by popularity and fans.

Many students idolize star basketball and hockey players. Their life must be perfect between popularity, getting girls, and going to all the best parties. What could be better?

But being an athlete isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure there are tons of advantages and resources that are available exclusively to them, but the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.

Traveling is one of the disadvantages. Most students would love to travel to California for a week or two in the middle of semester to escape school and the chill Alaskan winter air. But it’s not that easy.

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“School-wise it can be tough, depending on what classes you are taking,” said junior cross-country runner Jake Parisien.

As a traveling team, out of state games aren’t vacations. Traveling alters the body’s routine and sleep schedule. There are practices every day sometimes twice a day that can be exhausting especially when hours of sleep are being lost.

“Staying in shape is mental as much as physical. It’s always harder to stay in shape than it is to get out of shape,” said senior basketball player Mario Gill.

Being on top of the game at practices and performing flawlessly at games are only half of the task. Homework and academics have to be kept up with and being out of town isn’t an excuse for it to not get done.

“Your travel schedule can hinder your in class performance. A student-athlete’s actions are magnified on and off the court,” Gill said. “Being proactive is definitely an attribute to have when constant travel for competitions are on your agenda.

After returning to Alaska, despite an exhausting week of traveling and games, there is still class the next morning at eight and attendance is expected.

The average student can have a hectic schedule too, there’s homework to keep up with and extra-curricular activities, but it would be hard to compare with that of an athlete.

The day-to-day schedule of an athlete is busy to say the least. Wake up at 4 a.m. to be at practice by 5. Practice until 8 a.m. then shower and change, class from 9 to 1 p.m. and then weight lifting from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., another class from five to eight and study hall at nine until ten. You get the idea.

After an exhausting day both mentally and physically, it leaves little time for a social life. And even with such little time for a social life, friends, aside from teammates, are hard to come by.

They’re athletes so they must have tons of friends right? Not necessarily.

Genuine friends that aren’t looking to hang out to improve their social status are hard to come by.

And that’s just the tip of the ice-burg. True friends are hard enough to come by, not to mention a complicated love life.

What girl wouldn’t love to date the track star and what guy wouldn’t want to date the best gymnast on the team?

“I mean obviously people know you, especially when you have a campus like this one. You have a lot of people who will be like, ‘oh you’re that kid of the cross-country team,’ or the gymnast or the basketball guy,” Parisien said.

Athletes are always in the spotlight. They are the celebrities within UAA.

“People know if you don’t do something right. Like people who get in trouble, it’s a bigger deal than just a random person who’s not an athlete,” Parisien said.

With friendships and relationships come rumors. Attention is unavoidable when you’re one of 200 athletes out of such a large student population, naturally people are going to follow your personal life.

Despite the disadvantages that come hand in hand with being an athlete, it can’t compare with the love of the game.

“For me it’s the love of the sport,” said senior cross-country runner Yonaton Yilma. “It’s a part of me. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have it in my life. It’s made me a better person.”