My Experience As a Collegiate Athlete
At the start of the semester, I was privileged to join the men’s basketball team as a player. Previously I had been the team's manager, but after many injuries and roster changes, Coach Jesse Balcer offered me a spot to help out with practice. In my short time as a player, I have learned a lot about what it means to be a student-athlete and all that comes with it.
After playing in high school, my original intentions were to try out for CHC's team during my freshman year. Although I ended up not trying out, I kept up with the team and was at almost every home game to film for my work-study job. During the summer of my freshman year, Coach Balcer asked me to be part of the program as a manager, and I accepted. It was great to get involved with the Athletics Department, and I enjoyed hanging around the team, traveling and observing the goings-on of the season from a different perspective.
This season got off to a good start. The team was playing well in critical moments of our big games early on, and we ended up beating two good teams including Division I Coppin State University. After a 4-4 start, the team went on a 13-game losing streak and experienced no shortage of injuries and off-the-court drama that hurt the team. Before I knew it, we were down five players, and I was asked to lace up my sneakers again to give us an extra person for practice.
Since then, I’ve learned a bit about what it takes to be a student-athlete, and my appreciation for athletes at Chestnut Hill College has definitely deepened. First and foremost, adjusting to practice each day was not easy at first, especially because I was not in basketball shape. It took a few practices to adjust to this more intense conditioning, which made me realize just how good your endurance has to be to play basketball at the collegiate level. The game was undoubtedly faster and more strategic than in high school, and players have to be prepared for that pace. Not only are practices physically wearing at times, but, when you are an athlete, you have to plan your meals and sleep patterns around your practice schedule.
“Should I really be eating this an hour before practice? “
“Okay, practice starts at 4:00, so I won’t be able to get to dinner in the cafeteria. I’ll have to run to the Griffin’s Den between classes to grab a quick bite.”
“Practice is in two hours, do I have enough time to fit a quick nap in?”
These were just a few of the things I had to ask myself and consider during the week. Not to mention potential conflicts with classes, meetings or other outside work. Because practice times vary, players must stay on top of their schedule, and sometimes plan days ahead to ensure maximum preparedness and that no conflicts arise. Additionally, completing and staying ahead of your work in your classes must remain a top priority. I personally found it a bit tough to find the motivation to complete homework after an intense two-hour practice. I also found that playing a sport is a different type of commitment in that there is very little leeway or flexibility. If you don’t show up to practice or are late, for example, there will be harsh punishments. It’s essentially an additional class that requires a few hours each day and comes with more pressure to perform. Overall, the time management skill, which is already important for any college student, is that much more so when you’re an athlete.
Another thing that I have been giving thought to since joining the team is weighing the overall importance of the sport against your professional career goals and endeavors. As an in-season athlete, it’s always at the top of your priority list to do the best you can, and earn as many wins as possible for the program and for the school. The sport is such a grand commitment that it may sometimes overtake potential career opportunities or academic achievements. Finding a harmonious balance between remaining eager to play the sport, while simultaneously being focused on career and academic goals can be difficult. I have definitely gained respect for student-athletes and their grind to find that balance.
Overall, being an athlete has been a fun and unique experience. In addition to teaching me a deeper sense of time management and prioritization, it has come with many great things, including awesome teammates and experiences. In my first college game on the court, I was able to net home two points, much to the delight of my teammates, coaches, and the crowd!