If you thought being a student was hard, try being a student-athlete. Not only do they have to juggle the workload of an academic scholar, but they also have to hold the weight of trying to become the next champion. In the life of a student-athlete, there is not enough emphasis on what it fully means to be a student. There is hardly any time for extra organizations or internships that can provide a student with the experience that they need for their future. This lack of opportunity makes me question what is more important, being the student or being the athlete?

Being a student goes far beyond sitting in a classroom and asking questions. To be a student, you have to be active in things outside of the classroom because it’s those opportunities that can help prepare for the future. Dealing with a heavy schedule can make it difficult for a student-athlete to find time for activities that are outside of their predominant sport. In college we have the opportunity to get involved and learn ways to better our skills for our careers. Being a student-athlete helps a lot when it comes to time management and leadership. However, it can’t help much if you want to be a nurse or a lawyer. In my experience as a student-athlete, I was always caught up in practices, team meetings, classes, study halls and track meets. I was busy and enjoyed every moment of it, but sometimes I felt like I missed out on a lot of opportunities that I wanted outside of my sport. I knew that I was a student first, but the athlete in me seemed to always take up my time. I ran track because it got me into school; it gave me a chance to get the education that I need. I know that this is the case for most student-athletes. We use these sports as a gateway for opportunity because it isn’t easy getting into college. However, it becomes unfair when we can’t use all the tools that are provided. Luckily for me, I had a coach who made it his duty to help his athletes; he helped me discover what it was I wanted to do as a career once I knew it was time for me to make a choice.

In an interview with football player Christian Haynes, Haynes said, “As student-athletes, we are not getting as much experience as other students, but being an athlete alone can help. I want to learn how to shape my communication skills so that I can be on top of my game.” Haynes is a senior with a communication major and hopes to work in sports commentary after he graduates. Being involved in a popular sport definitely puts Haynes ahead, but it’s the lack of experience he is missing. Haynes said being an athlete teaches leadership, time management and looks good on a resume, but even then, specific skills are needed for certain careers.

When your scholarship is on the line, that pressure can become overwhelming. The pressure that comes with being a student-athlete begins to create a crossroad of what is more important. These scholarships motivate students to work harder, which can also lead to stress that pulls them away from some priorities.
The coaches tell you that you are a student first. A coach is more than a person who tells you how to fix your form, they also try to tell you how to fix your life. My former coach helped me realize what it is I truly wanted with my future. Not only did he help me with my career, but he helped me grow as a person. It’s those connections that a coach should build with their team that can help them all succeed. When a coach understands their players, they learn how to lead them in a way that helps them work together, making them a stronger team not by weight but by the bonds they create. My former coach made it his priority to bring the team as close as a family and make sure each one of us was on top of our game. Creating mandatory study hall sessions are great, but coaches still need to go beyond the classroom. Coaches should place an importance on helping an athlete succeed on the field and off, thus building what it means to be a student-athlete.

Student-athletes are trying to keep up their grades, become the next champion, and have a social life as well as trying to figure out their place in this world. Coaches and athletes are fully aware of what is defined as important and they work together to get the job done. Student-athletes miss out on the things that other students have the chance to do, but even with the lack of opportunity they still learn skills that can help them in the future. So, maybe it’s not a question of what comes first, the student or the athlete, but an understanding that the athletic experience can sometimes deter student-athletes from getting that extra academic experience.

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