Student Athletes_The Cons

Student athletes are misunderstood. No one knows their real lives or how hard it is to succeed as a student and as an athlete. As a student athlete I am able to relate to such struggles that go on in the University of Kentucky Athletics. In this blog I plan
to inform the University of Kentucky’s students the hardships, struggles, and
negative aspects that their beloved athletes take on. Such struggles include
physical demands on the body, time constraints on a social life, stress that
may be had due to expectations and many more unsaid negativities of being a
student athlete.

High Expectations

Everyone has their own favorite college football and basketball team. Some people’s lives revolve around these athletes, but you have to remember they are also students. The positives of being a student athlete are known, but no one knows about the
negatives that these kids experience. The pressures and stresses that are put
on an athlete in college are far greater than that of a professional athlete.
Student athletes at the University of Kentucky are held at a much higher
standard than the rest of the collegiate world. UK basketball is arguably the
most prestigious basketball tradition in college basketball. These athletes,
who are the same age as me, have such high expectations by their fans. If these
expectations aren’t met the fans get rowdy and short-tempered with these kids.

With such high pre-rankings, the young Kentucky basketball team has high expectations. With five players in the top 20 in the nation at their positions, they have their work cut out for them. With sophomore Terrence Jones as the number one ranked power forward in the nation (Ramsey, 2011) everyone knows he’s dealing with some stress to fill those expectations. Athletes with such high expectations forget get caught up in the hype, lose focus on what’s important, and in the end begin to experience the negative effects of being a student athlete.

Now I’m not saying this will happen to Jones during his sophomore year because he proved as a freshman that he can be mature and help his team in any way, but the expectations can cause difficulties early. Here is a scenario: he could start the season off slow, then fans begin to wonder “is he really the best at power forward?” The
answer is yes, give it some time. Every great athlete can go through a cold
spell but they end up pulling their act together, but this is where the
negatives come in and the stress piles on these student athletes. Because this
is all hypothetical Mr. Jones has nothing to worry about, but he may end up at
the gym working on his game even more after practice. The little extra bit of
work put in puts harm on the body, and the extra time causes less time to work
on class work.

Remembering that these amateur athletes are students is tough, but they are in school and are there for an education. The extra time in the gym leads to less time hitting the books, which means the work doesn’t get done, the work is incomplete, or an all-nighter is pulled to complete the work. These scenarios don’t end well for
any student’s GPA. It seems that because of the lack of time student athletes
have harder time getting their homework assignments done. Time management is a
huge part of being a student athlete. As a baseball player, on average I put in
around twenty to twenty-five hours a week. This number goes up with more time
consuming sports such as basketball and football.

After the grades begin plummeting, an athlete will begin to have to worry more about their grades instead of their game. As a result practices are missed to do homework, social events are not attended creating more stress, and relationships are beginning to break down due to lack of time spent on them. Social events are a big part of being in college. Not being able to attend them because of school work is a
very aggravating thing as a student athlete. Not only can social events not be
attended because of school work but because of the always dangerous substance
alcohol. Alcohol to a student athlete is a very dangerous thing. People at
social activities see star student athletes and want to take pictures with them
and little do they know that alcohol is an illegal substance to every student
athlete, regardless their age.

Student athletes in the class room don’t get much slack from their peers. The preconceptions from non-athletes are that student athletes are “jocks” or are found to be dumb. These misconceptions about athletes being dumb can hurt self-esteem of athletes and can lead to stress in the classroom. One study was done on the academic achievement of team sports athletes in which researchers acquired educational records of athletes and non-athletes to evaluate their graduation rates. This study revealed athletes are less likely to graduate than non-athletes (Smith,
2001). The truth is that athletes are not dumb and work just as hard as normal
students in the classroom with their teachers.

Rough Times

These little things aren’t thought about when families are gathered around their televisions watching UK basketball beat up on every team they play. The stress of a player on a team that is considered struggling can be viewed a lot greater than a
player that is on a strong team? Everyone loves their UK football, but the
season isn’t turning out quite as planned so far. For a team that is in the
bottom of the SEC east year in and year out their fans still rally behind them
expecting great things during the season. This year with a record of 1-4 in the
SEC, only in front of the always hated volunteers of Tennessee, the players are
pressing and working hard. This leads to stress on the players because little
do fans know, players hate losing more than fans do. It is the fuel to the fire
that keeps a team working hard during the season.

The known leader of the offense, Morgan Newton, has been sidelined with an injury. The disappointment an athlete has when he or she can’t be on the field or court to help their team is one of the worst feelings. Injuries are a key component in an athlete’s life, whether they are key injuries that sideline them for weeks or nagging
injuries that affect their playing abilities. People that aren’t athletes don’t
think about the pain, physical and emotional, that an athlete endures over a
season. Many people believe that football is sometimes too physical, but that’s
why the players love to play the game, despite the high risk of injury.

Moving from one physical aspect of injuries to another of energy, athletes are expected to have high energy levels. I don’t care who you are, being energetic for a workout at 5:50 in the morning is beyond possible. This is what is expected of the
University of Kentucky’s baseball team. With a workout that lasts until 7:10 in
the morning, many people are still sleeping by the time the team is done
getting better. As college students, everyone knows that they aren’t going to
bed earlier to get their good night’s rest, but instead staying up watching TV
or doing homework seems about right. This lack of sleep leads to illnesses and
stress which can lead to inability to perform or practice with the team.

All the time in the World?

In an interview I conducted with freshman baseball player and teammate of mine Spencer Drake, I asked him what he thought was the biggest negative thing of being a student athlete was. “I’d have to say staying on top of school work and keeping
relationships strong are the toughest things about college athletics” says
Drake. “I’ve always have had time to be with my closest friends and my girl,
but in college you set your priorities and use your time wisely and hope that
the people that call themselves ‘friends’ understand your lack of time.”

Lack of time in relationships is a huge stressor that any athlete takes on. Athletes are
reported to have more stress from relationships than non-athletes (Wilson and
Pritchard, 2005). This would include conflicts with boyfriend’s or
girlfriend’s, their family, or with their close friends, all who expect time
that cannot be given. “I know that as of lately my mom has been upset with me because of the lack of home visits. I just don’t have the time to go home that I would
if I weren’t an athlete” (Drake, 2011).

Traveling on a college team can be very stressful as well. The athletes at the University of Kentucky put in a lot of time on the road being the most northern school in the SEC. The closest school to the University of Kentucky is the University of Tennessee which is around three hours away. The hours that are tallied up for an athlete on the bus takes a toll on the body. Being on the road a lot can lead to lower
grades from being away from class so much. Although there are tutors with the
team it is not the same as being in actual class.

In an interview that I had with senior baseball player Thomas McCarthy, I asked what the hardest part about road trips was. “I’d have to say being crammed on a bus for hours at a time, or the curfews. Either way those were definitely the worst things about road trips” (McCarthy, 2011). The baseball team last season had road trips that included South Carolina twice, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, and
Florida. All of these road trips range to five or more hours.

I later asked Drake how being an athlete has affected his schoolwork and because of his schoolwork how it has restrained him from going out socializing. “I’ve been able to get work done during the week, but the time it takes for baseball doesn’t allow for the normal college activities most students participate in during the weekend. I
know it’s ‘good’ for me, but everyone would like to go out and be able to live it
up during their college days” (Drake, 2011). This shows the lack of time for
free time or down time where a student athlete can relieve stress.

As anyone can tell, the negativities of a student athlete are numerous. These negativities, however are somehow outweighed by the positives, or there would not be any student athletes. Either way athletes go through scrutiny that causes stress that no one wants to be a part of. This stress was caused by under-performance on the field or in the classroom, lack of time with relationships, and the physical
stress caused on the body. Student athletes are heroes, idols, role models to
many people, but remember that they go through stressful situations just like
anyone else does.

Works Cited

Drake, Spencer. Personal Interview. 03 Nov 2011.

McCarthy, Thomas. Personal Interview. 04 Nov 2011.

Guy. “Cat Scratches.” ranks five Cats among top 20 at
their positions
. 02112011. Web. 5 Nov. 2011.

Odalys A. “G.P.A., Self-Discipline, And Stress Levels: Team Sports
Athletes Versus Solitary Athletes.” Missouri Western. Mukul Bhalla,
17 Dec 2001. Web. 21 Oct 2011.

P.E.D, Gregory, and Mary Pritchard Ph.D. “Comparing Sources of Stress in
College Student Athletes and Non-Athletes.” Athletic Insight.
(2005): n. page. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.


~ by zachstrecker on November 7, 2011.

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