Ice Young

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What really comes first, the student or the athlete?

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.

Hair discrimination

If you ask me, I’d say my hair looks great as it is, but if you ask the person across the desk conducting my interview, they might say it looks unprofessional. The discrimination against unique hair textures has always been an issue for me and many others that have been gifted with fun curly hair. The discussion of hair discrimination is often not brought to surface in today’s conversations, due to the fact that we decide to talk about the topics that we think people want to hear and not always the ones we need to hear. I think that it is important to discuss the difference in how a birth given look can place a hold on an individual’s daily motivations and routines because my hair is not unprofessional like some people claim, it is simply strands on my head that do not label nor depict my further actions.

Business professional attire for men requires a suit, a tie, button down dress shirt and dress shoes. For women the attire is either a dress or a pant suit. Most business jobs require professional attire, but no one said hair texture fits into that closet. Natural hair styles such as braids, curly or dreadlocks are labeled as unprofessional. This stereotype labels an employee before they have the opportunity to get the job and prove their contribution to the team. Knowing that there is a possibility of being judged based off of hairstyle can demotivate an individual and their ability to perform confidently. Hair does not determine my ability and motivation to work. Perception of the company is what companies fear most; therefore, hairstyles affect their image. In reality, it’s not what the employees look like that builds a company, it’s how they work with consumers and coworkers. Instead of worrying about how hair makes the company look, focus on how the individual, as an employee, can contribute to the company’s image.

I started getting relaxers put in my hair when I was 7 years old. It wasn’t until I got to college that I stopped that trend and realized I wanted to embrace my own hair. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my hair; I was afraid of being different. Between me, my brother and my sister I was the only one with a thick texture of hair. In my high school years, I was a competitive dancer and if you have watched any reality dance shows you would know they are very serious. Everyone was required to look the exact same and most importantly, we all had to push our hair in that tight bun. Unfortunately, my relaxer wasn’t enough to get my hair in the bun; therefore, I cut all of my hair off just so I could be on stage with the rest of the team. Though I was lucky enough to have a teacher who understood my hair differences, I knew that if I wanted to be a professional dancer my hair would be a problem. Realizing how my hair could affect me then as a child made me fear for the future. My freshman year of college I decided to get my hair braided for the first time and most of the reactions were “Wow, you got new hair” which followed with a “can I touch your hair?” Being picked out because my hair was different was an uncomfortable feeling, because I don’t see anyone else with long, thin and straight-hair having their hair touched. I never understood why my hair made me so different, but the more I embraced my natural hair I broke those walls holding me back from moving towards the things that I wanted in life. I’d rather have my hair that makes me who I am rather than hair that makes me just like everyone else.

Hair discrimination goes a long way on the timeline, but New York City has decided to put an end to this trend. The city has placed a ban on the discrimination against unique hair textures, labeling it as racial discrimination. New York City, the city that never sleeps and now the city that speaks. This colorful city continues to shut the mouths of the ones who don’t understand and open the mouths of the ones needed to be heard. This law opens a door for opportunity to many people of color, making it possible to feel accepted when embracing their own culture. Since hair discrimination has become a great issue, New York should not be the only city deciding to take action. Places all around the world should take note to New York City’s actions.

Last year, Netflix released an original movie Nappily Ever After. The movie was about a woman who spent her whole life wearing “perfect hair” to the point where she stressed about it until the day she decided she had enough. The main character shaved off all of her hair leaving jaw dropping reactions. Not only did she learn to accept her hair, but it made her accept herself and feel more confident in her daily routines. Netflix isn’t the only company creating change, Feb. 5, 2019 Dove and Kelly Rowland collaborated to release “My hair my crown” a song about embracing the hair that you rock everyday. Motivational impacts like these and actions like New York’s law against hair discrimination is just the first step. When I began wearing my natural hair out and not wrapped in braids, a little girl came up to me and said she loved my hair. That not only touched my heart, but it showed her that she wasn’t alone. To all my kinky haired friends, embrace your hair because remember your hair is not a flaw, it’s a gift.