March 20, 2023

Between crazy schedules and being in the public eye, student-athletes are in a unique position at California Baptist University.

Students who are not also athletes do not have to perform in front of hundreds of people — let alone peers — on a weekly basis. But in the end, student athletes are also students who are trying to pass their classes like everyone else. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, student-athletes need to earn a 2.0 cumulative grade-point average every year to continue to play.

“Student-athletes also typically devote more than 40 hours per week to their sport,” reads a study conducted by Eddie Comeaux from the University of California, Riverside. “This creates tremendous demands, expectations and stresses outside of typical college life. 

“In the modern era of intercollegiate sports, student-athletes endure the day-to-day demands of practice, extensive travel for competition, midweek games, team meetings, rehabilitation for nagging injuries and mental fatigue. In many cases, college coaches have near complete power and control over the lives of their athletes, and as a result, student-athletes’ ability to integrate fully into the academic and social systems of college is disrupted, and they may have difficulty fulfilling their academic obligations and goals.”

Student-athletes have to balance being 100% athlete and 100% student. This may lead to bad experiences with others who are not understanding and treat athletes according to their own assumptions.

“Division I student-athletes face negative stereotypes about their characteristics and behaviors,” Comeaux’s study reads. “They are rarely perceived as ‘highly intelligent’ or as deserving other descriptors or related behaviors that suggest they have the capacity to achieve the highest levels of academic success.”

Comeaux uses the term “athlete microaggressions” to describe negative behavior toward student athletes.

On top of negative assumptions and unique schedules, student athletes can struggle socially.

“The biggest assumption people have of me is that I am stuck up, but everyone who has told me that and actually got to know me has said that I am actually a nice person and easygoing,” said Leo Mendez, striker for the men’s soccer team.

He goes on to describe his experience being a student-athlete.

“Some people do treat me differently for being an athlete,” Mendez said. “I’ve had both good and bad experiences with this, but it just depends on the person. Some are very nice and supportive, and others are rude and envious about certain things. 

“I have had a few negative experiences with both students and professors. In high school, I had a teacher that would tell me that playing soccer was a waste of time and I was not getting anything out of it.”

In the end, student-athletes are just like us. We all prioritize what is most important to us and we commit time to what we love to do.

“My schedule does affect my social life,” Mendez said. “It’s a sacrifice that comes with being a student-athlete, but I love the sport enough to keep playing even though I don’t have much time to hang out with friends and family.”

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