Archive for The Athlete’s View

The Athlete’s View: Pros and Cons of Competing in College

What has been the greatest benefit of competing in college?
The greatest benefit of competing in college is that you get to continue doing something you love at an even higher level, surrounded by people who love it just as much as you. Being part of a team full of athletes who have chosen to make this commitment is unlike any team I’ve been on. High school is fun, but teams are usually divided between those who play the sport and those who live the sport. In college, you are on a team with athletes who have all chosen to live the sport. That environment is electric and gives you a great sense of pride in your team and your own abilities.

How about the biggest detriment?
The biggest detriment of competing in college is that you are forced to make sacrifices that not many other college students must make. Not just socially, but concerning other extracurriculars as well. There are lots of times when I’ve wanted to try other clubs or activities – and in some cases I’ve even tried them – but it is very hard to give both these other clubs and track the time and attention they deserve. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s not how MUCH you do, but how WELL you do it. In high school it was much easier to do a thousand different activities, and excel at all of them. But collegiate athletics requires a different sort of attention and thus makes it more difficult to divide your time amongst other activities.

The Athlete’s View: Balancing Academics and Athletics

Division I
Sport: Track and Field

Have you ever felt that your academics were compromised by sports, or vice versa?
There were definitely times, especially during freshmen year, when I felt that my time management had slipped and I had to compromise either athletics or academics due to the other. One example stands out in my mind that encompasses poor planning for both my academic and athletic endeavors. Finals and our conference championship usually fall within the same weekend, which is always a struggle. In this particular instance during my freshmen year, I had my conference championship until Sunday, and a final on Monday. I was having trouble finding time to study well during the weekend, especially since my coach is intent on focusing on athletics during competition weekends. Splitting my focus between academics and athletics took it’s toll on my performance that weekend and I ended up severely underperforming. Sunday night I spent the bus ride home studying but, upon arriving at home around midnight, realized that I had not studied nearly enough to be successful in this final. So, I had to make the decision to pull an all-nighter in order to ensure enough material had been studied. As a result my mind and body were fatigued upon taking the exam in the morning and I’m sure my grades suffered because of it. On top of that, I was not in good physical condition to practice the next day. While that example may seem daunting, don’t get too worried yet. Proper planning and focus could have avoided all of that. Had I started studying earlier, I wouldn’t have been worried during the meet, and I wouldn’t have needed to pull an all-nighter. This is definitely considered a rookie mistake, and I’m pleased to say it has not happened again since freshmen year! Basically, you have the tools and resources to excel both athletically and academically. There will always be plenty of tutoring opportunities, advisers and support from your coach. Learning to utilize these, and manage my time better, has helped me become both a better athlete and student.

The Athlete’s View: A Day in the Life

So how difficult is it to balance your sport with academics? Here’s the rundown of a typical day in the life of a scholar-athlete:

Sport: Track and Field
School: Harvard

Take me through a typical day during season

Although individual days vary slightly, the week becomes a routine during season, including school and training during the weekdays and traveling to meets during the weekends. A typical weekday includes a strength and conditioning workout, a track workout, a visit to the training room, and of course classes. I’ll walk you through my Wednesdays to give you a better idea.

7:20am – wake up and get ready, eat a quick breakfast in the dining hall then walk across the river to the athletic facilities

8am – strength and conditioning workout. These workouts consist of our lifting program, typically including two major lifts, alternating between squats, bench press, cleans and snatch, and a variety of small lifting movements. Lifting usually only takes 45-60 minutes, allowing some free time to shower, nap or grab a coffee before classes.

11am – my first class of the day starts. It’s a Statistics class in a lecture hall with ~500 students. Most large lectures are an hour long.

12pm – Stat ends and I walk to a nearby dining hall with some friends for lunch. I have an hour before my next class so I’ll generally use this time to catch up on reading or get ahead on work to prepare for the weekend.

1pm – my second class of the day starts. It’s a Neuroscience class in a much more intimate setting with ~8 students and a brilliant professor. This class last 1.5 hours and is geared toward students who have a more specialized interest in the material.

2:30pm – section for Neuroscience begins immediately after class and last an hour. Section is particularly important for large lecture classes like Stat, as it allows a smaller and more personal environment to ask questions or flesh out the material with a teaching assistant. However, for a small class like this, section basically becomes an extension of the “lecture.”

3:30pm – section ends and practice doesn’t begin until 4:30pm, but a visit to the sport medicine training room is necessary and transit time must be taken into account, so I leave for the athletic facilities immediately following section.

4pm – I arrive at the sports medicine training room and wait until the track team’s personal physical therapist is ready. Once he is, I lay down on his table while he works his magic with my aching back, glutes and calves. Being a full time athlete gives you new nagging aches almost every day! We’re lucky to have such a dedicated sport medicine staff.

4:30pm – practice begins. We start with a 20-30 minute warm up and then either have a specialized event day for the next 1.5-2 hours, or we have a speed/strength development day where we’ll do multiple sets of shorts sprints, plyo, medicine ball workouts,etc. for the next 1.5-2 hours.

6:45pm – after a cool down, practice is done for the day, but usually a follow up visit to the training room is necessary for ice baths, hot baths, massage, etc.

7:30pm – showered, dressed, and hungry for dinner, I make my way back across the river with my teammates to grab dinner. However, all of the dining halls close at 7:15pm for dinner except one, on the far end of campus, so we end up trekking over to the far dining hall nearly every night.

8:30pm – I finish dinner and have one last academic commitment. This is section for another class, an astrophysics gen-ed, from 8:30-9:30pm. The timing is unfortunate, but it’s the only section time that works with my athletic schedule.

9:30pm – section is over and I walk back to a university library or my dorm’s library in order to get work done. Most of my homework is due on Fridays, but during season we typically miss Friday classes due to traveling, so I have to make sure I get all of my work done by Thursday.

12-1am – I’ll finish up most of my work by then and head up to my room to catch some much-needed zzzz’s. I’m usually pretty exhausted by the end of the day and can fall asleep like a baby.

Of course, each day varies, and this happens to be one of my busier days, but it’s a pretty standard idea of what to expect. During the weekends, I usually will leave with the team to compete at an away meet on Friday morning, enduring either a 5-7 hour bus ride or a 2-4 hour flight depending on the destination. We will compete Saturday and Sunday, staying at hotels nearby, and then leave Sunday night in order to get home by Monday morning.