Photos by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By Jovan Popovic, Contributor

If you’ve ever read Mac Confessions, you’d know that sometimes students can have a tough time balancing their full-time load, but when you add a couple of hours of practice per day, things can get particularly spicy. Not only do student athletes deal with the typical difficulties of being in university, but they also devote large amounts of time and effort to their teams in order to continue performing at high levels. 

However, playing sports at a university level isn’t all work and no play; it has its benefits. Being able to access high-level physical training, connect with teammates and develop a social network early on in university are just some of the perks that come with the lifestyle. Being a part of a university sports team can also develop many life skills, such as understanding commitment, organization, time management and teamwork. 

However, playing sports at a university level isn’t all work and no play; it has its benefits. Being able to access high-level physical training, connect with teammates and develop a social network early on in university are just some of the perks that come with the lifestyle. Being a part of a university sports team can also develop many life skills, such as understanding commitment, organization, time management and teamwork. 

With that being said, no one can understand the student athlete experience more than, well, the athletes themselves. For that reason, we sat down with Holly Connor, a first year student on the women’s water polo team; Andrew Davies, a second year student on the men’s cross country/track team and Brandon Chong, a fourth year student on the men’s baseball team. They shared how their lives are different from regular students, how they deal with their struggles and what they’ve learned from their experiences. 

As a first year student, Holly Connor just went through a major transition from high school to university-level sports. 

“At the very beginning of the year when everything was so new, it was difficult, but once you get into the groove of it, it worked out better,” said Connor.

Despite the time management struggles, Connor does not regret her decision to play university-level water polo, as it has its upsides. 

“Playing the sport itself helped me in so many different ways. I made so many friends through it, some of my best friends. [Waterpolo] helped me in my health because I was initially very concerned about eating habits and my exercise I’d be able to get while transitioning into university, and it really helped me stay on top of it. It was also really nice to have that outlet to go and relax and not have to think about school all the time,” said Connor.

Athletes like Connor love the opportunity to play their sport and work on their craft. They take on the mentality of getting to go to practice, rather than having to go to practice. Practices and games are a release for athletes like her. Not only do they act as breaks, but they help maintain physical health while in the company of teammates and friends. Chong has had a similar experience as Conner. 

“You take your mind off school, you get to hang out with your teammates and play baseball. They always like to have fun, so it gave me a place to take my mind off school. A release for me,” said Chong.

One of the most important parts of a team is of course, its teammates. The bond between the players on the roster is so much deeper than just being on the team together. Relationships that stem from these teams can be extremely helpful for new students coming in. 

“A lot of my teammates are in the same program that I’m in, and all took the same classes, so it was really nice to be able to get together and do some work together,” said Connor. “It worked really well having that unit, who I not only spent all my time in the pool, but also spent a lot of time outside, getting to know them.” 

“A lot of my teammates are in the same program that I’m in, and all took the same classes, so it was really nice to be able to get together and do some work together,” said Connor. “It worked really well having that unit, who I not only spent all my time in the pool, but also spent a lot of time outside, getting to know them.” 

Davies also touched on the academic benefits of having teammates, saying, “There’s definitely some people on that team that are good for advice, who have done it before and are really good role models to follow in school and an athletic sense.” 

Being a second year student, Davies has picked the brains of upper year students, which made his transition much easier. Despite not being in the same program as his teammates, Davies still experienced significant benefits from the mentorship provided by his teammates. They helped him transition into university sports, assisting him with the ins and outs of time management. 

Time management is critical for student athletes.

“We practice three days a week, then weekends are just double headers each day (during the season), so probably about 24 hours a week maybe. Sometimes you just fall behind because it’s a lot of hours. It’s very hard to balance, but it’s doable,” Chong said. 

The support system of coaches and fellow teammates helps ease the struggle of time management. 

“I would say to know your schedule and your workload and everything,” said Chong. “If you need help, talk to someone, a teammate, talk to a coach, say that you’re stressed out about something. Let him know, he’ll understand. Just make sure you have a good scheduling system for yourself.” 

Chong mentioned that being a part of the team significantly improved his leadership and time management, which are critical life-long skills. 

The busiest time of the year for these athletes, of course, is the regular season. Currently, all three athletes are in the midst of their off-season, but that doesn’t mean they have it easy. The off-season grind can be as strenuous as the regular season.

“Practices are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday,” said Connor. “We have to keep up with our diets, and make sure we are eating enough. The off-season is from mid-December to June, and it is the same practice schedule. However, we are less focused on skills that would apply right away, rather long-term techniques. It’s still the same amount of practicing, so it still affects me in similar ways that it did previously, but now I have better abilities to cope with that. In the summer, we have workout programs that we are supposed to do on our own, where we focus on strength and cardio training.”

According to Davis, when it comes to the off-season for cross country and track, things get a little different. Davies has to deal with longer seasons, competing during the majority of the school year, so training intensity stays up there fall and winter terms, meaning he does not get to slow down and take a break from his heavy schedule. 

“We have both cross country, and track seasons, we are competing almost the whole school year. We train right from the start of the semester, up until near the last few weeks. We have competitions going throughout the year,” Davies said.

All three athletes feel that although student athlete life can be challenging, the positives outweigh the negatives. Being able to make friends through their team, receive advice from upper years and develop life skills are why they would recommend sports to future students. 

 

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