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The reality of being a student athlete

in Campus Life/Sports by

Life must be easy being a college athlete. Student athletes have all the friends, they receive all the glory and attention from playing a great game and some might have better relationships with professors because they’re athletes. They go to school for free because of their scholarships — at least that’s the stereotype.

And, the stereotype is that student athletes get away with whatever they want. They don’t have to dedicate themselves to anything except their individual sport; they avoid all the responsibility.

Contrary to this ridiculous stereotype, the truth is that it takes an incredibly dedicated and motivated person to be a college athlete. A lot of people don’t realize that student athletes are essentially maintaining a job while going to school.

Here at UCC, athletes train between three to six hours every day in addition to being a student. Having a job while still attending school is something regular students can relate to.

If you are a college basketball player, chances are you’ll be starting your day early because your coach told you to lift weights at 6 a.m., which really means you’ll be waking up at 5 a.m. After weight lifting, you’ll be attending class. Don’t think about skipping. If you skip, you just made the entire team run extra at practice.

After attending all your classes, there might be a little time to grab something to eat quickly or take a nap before practice. Then you exhaust yourself at practice both mentally and physically. Alas, the day is still not yet complete. It’s time for a shower, a bite to eat, and then all the homework that comes with being a college student. Hopefully after all of this is finally completed, there’s enough time to get a few hours of sleep before you do the same thing all over again tomorrow.

This is a normal day in the life of a student athlete. This example didn’t even include game day or traveling for road games.

Student athletes don’t live an easier life than anybody else. They work for what they earn.

“Being a student athlete is hard, but it’s not impossible,” UCC women’s basketball guard Tasia Bilbrew said. “The most important thing about being a student athlete is time management,” Bilbrew continued. “Your sport is your job, and you have to do what you have to do to get your job done efficiently,” Bilbrew stated. “The most important thing though is being a student before an athlete. School always comes first.”

For some people, sports come naturally. Unfortunately, not everyone can be LeBron James, so most college athletes work incredibly hard to get to the level they’re at. A lot of athletes don’t even get a full scholarship to go to school. Financial aid is not always guaranteed, which leads to student loans or paying for school themselves.

“Yes, athletes get scholarships, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have expenses outside of school,” Bilbrew explained. “I couldn’t even imagine the struggles athletes go through who don’t get scholarships,” Bilbrew said. “They have to pay out of pocket or use loans or financial aid to pay for schooling and, even then, sometimes that’s not enough.”

What’s even more impressive are the athletes who maintain this lifestyle and still excel in the classroom. “The key to success is the ability to manage your time and to stay on top of all of your responsibilities and requirements,” UCC Athletic Director Craig Jackson said. “One thing that I would like people to know is that on average, student athletes are very diligent students and their GPA is generally higher than the rest of the student body.”

UCC men’s basketball guard Ethan Betts commented on the experiences that come with being a student athlete: “It was hard to get used to at first. It’s definitely difficult managing time between basketball and school.” Betts elaborated further saying, “I can’t say that I’m going to do three hours of studying before bed if I’m not really going to do that. I had to be realistic with myself. I had to come up with a schedule that I knew I could hold myself accountable for.”

Through strenuous dedication, both Betts and Bilbrew helped lead their respective teams into the Final Four in the Northwest Athletic Conference championship tournament this past March.

Student athletes choose to lead a difficult life. Multiple reasons can be given as to why it’s so difficult to reach the highest level in sports, but it’s not impossible.

Students interested in participating in RiverHawk sports can go to uccriverhawks.com to find scoreboards, schedules, player profiles, RiverHawk films of games and social media posts from the UCC sports department.

“Being a student athlete is hard, but it’s not impossible,” —Tasia Bilbrew,

UCC women’s basketball guard