When it comes to university, athletes are often regarded as the god tier of the typical student hierarchy. They are allusive, and hard to find. Tall, fit, and relatively good looking (the majority of the time), a real catch on a night out. However, this begs the question, is it all it’s cracked up to be?
These are the 10 realities of being a student athlete, the good, the bad and the ugly. Not necessarily in that order though.
1. You are constantly tired.
Training 25+ hours a week really can take its toll on you, mentally and physically. Combine that with a restricted diet and you have a direct ticket to the land of nod. Trying to squeeze in a cheeky snooze during class is sometimes the only thing that will get you through the day. Contrary to this, doing a dreaded all nighter feels like a breeze compared to anything you have done in the gym.
2. You struggle to make friends on you course.
Your degree is no longer your top priority. The less time spent in class the better. Unfortunately, as a result of this you miss out on all the fun your classmates are having, whether it is getting to know each other over a pint in the union, or a big night out.
3. You sacrifice parties and socials.
The phrase, “I can’t, I have rowing” was a default for me when anyone asked me to a party of event. The nightlife of a student athlete is centred around getting as many hours of sleep in as possible. Eight hours is never enough! Therefore, nights out and team socials are few and far between. That being said, when these sacred events take place they are so much more memorable, and so is the hangover that accompanies them!
4. School holidays are NEVER holidays.
You want to go home over the easter break? Sorry, not a chance! Every holiday is an opportunity to get stronger/ faster/ better! Holidays become an opportunity to have a training camp. No rest for the wicked. Relaxing is overrated anyways.
5. Friendships out with university struggle.
This is particularly true for long distance friendships. Weekends are for training, and so are weekdays for that matter. Your free time is so limited that trying to arrange a time meet up with your friends is about as easy as an ancient Chinese logic puzzle. This is especially true if your friend is not a sports wiz and doesn’t understand the level of sacrifice it requires.
6. You refer to regular clothes as ‘people clothes’.
Sports clothes become your normal clothes, and your regular clothes become mysterious items forced to the back of your wardrobe to make more space for that new pair of leggings you definitely didn’t need to buy. Style goes out of the window. Leggings and a hoody is now considered socially acceptable for anything. Comfort over everything. You start to question what happened to the person you were prior to becoming a student athlete.
7. Your teammates will become your best friends.
When you spend every waking minute with your teammates they become more like family. Much like a family, arguments and fights are a relatively common occurrence. However, no amount of time was too much time spent together. It isn’t long before you are comfortable enough to bare your soul to each other and more importantly, confidently fart in thier presence. These are the people that share the highest highs and lowest lows with you and therefore, the bond that is formed between you is for life.
8. You get to unleash your competitive beast.
As an athlete you live for any opportunity to prove that you are the best. The racing season is short, but it was what we live for. Hungry for victory, all fighting for the same goal is the reason we all train so hard, and sacrificed so much. To race so frequently over a short period of time was the satisfaction we craved. Nothing can beat racing with your best friends by your side.
9. You will be in the best shape of your life.
Reminicing about the body I once had is a daily hobby for my now. Being bikini ready without having to go on a serious crash diet, more like starvation at this point is something I remember fondly. However, do I fancy training excessively to get there — absolutely not!
10. Trips away with your team make the work worth it.
Whether this be for a camp or a competition, any opportunity to spend more time with your best friends is time well spent. The bonds formed on these trips is unparalleled in any other walk of life. The countless inside jokes formed still brings a cheeky smile to my face several years on. Cherish these moments!
So, is it all worth it?
By comparison a student athlete may live a somewhat sheltered life when it comes to the general university experience, but the experience you do gain from it cannot be replicated. You walk away from uni with the best friends you’ll ever have, a seriously strong work ethic, and if you’ve been successful, more silverware than you have space for.
It’s a once in a lifetime experience and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you have the opportunity, do not waste it.
However, one piece of wisdom I wish I knew before my degree is that however much you want to be an athlete, university sport is not the be all and end all. Enjoy that party, get drunk, have fun, let go and relax. University is often considered the best years of your life. Don’t waste them being too serious and uptight.