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Do College Athletes "Have it Made"?

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Mar 16, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Members of the Utah Utes huddle before the start of a practice day before the first round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit:
Mar 16, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Members of the Utah Utes huddle before the start of a practice day before the first round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit:
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve argued with many people that college athletes, especially at the division one level do not "have it made."  I can see why someone from the outside looking in might have those beliefs, but if they truly knew what these athletes go through on a daily basis, I’m sure their views would change instantly.  To the misinformed, it’s easy to see why athletes might have it made; the popularity, the free gear, the scholarships, it all looks great from the outside.  What they’re seeing is only the end result though; they don’t get to see what it’s like in the trenches during the offseason or being away from home for 11 months out of the year.

Before my short time with the Utah Football program, I spent 5 years at Binghamton University – where I played basketball.  Due to injuries, I only played two full seasons and red-shirted two as well.  Life as a red-shirt athlete was much more difficult than not being one because at least when you’re not red-shirting, you get to play in games.

The average day of a division one athlete usually consists of 6:00 AM conditioning or weight training, 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM class, mandatory study hall, 4:00 PM film study, and 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM practice.  This schedule obviously varies from program to program, some teams might have early morning practice and weights later, some may have study hall at night – either way, it’s the same amount of work.  What separates the good from the great is what they do in their "off time."  Elite level athletes put in extra skill work, extra film study – extra everything, including academics.

During an average basketball season, which lasts half the academic year from November to March, athletes are required to travel near and far for games.  The difficulty of having homework, writing papers and studying for tests magnifies because of the limited resources on the road.  There are no libraries, no bus Wi-Fi, and everyone’s mind is focused on the game.  Still, there are no excuses for poor grades; most coaching staffs pride themselves on graduating every player who passes through their program.

The amount of hard work and dedication it takes to be a successful division one athlete is astronomical.  We’ve all had ill feelings towards our respective sports, especially during 6 AM runs or sprints in 100 degree heat.  Through all of that, we’ve learned to respect and cherish the process and take things one day at a time.  The journey is never easy, but the reward that comes with it exceeds everything.  Don’t get me wrong, some athletes do have it made, but it didn’t come without a great amount of hard work and sacrifice.

What do you think?