By Melissa Garciglia Banuelos
Michelle is a CSUSB student-Athlete whose desire for excellence is entangled between being the best student and striving to become a professional athlete. Her daily schedule begins at 6:45 am. She is expected to be in the gym at 7:00 am for a one-hour workout and only has 50 minutes before her first classes at 8:50 am. This means that there is no room for makeup, and thus she has no privilege to live like any other female student. Since she must be a full-time student to qualify for the student-athletics scholarship, Michelle spends the rest of the day attending several other classes in which she is expected to perform with excellence by both her teachers and the CSUSB athletic department.She goes for various physical training between the classes, which comes to fulfillment on culminated Fridays and Saturdays during the actual games. The day ends at 7:00 pm, but it is not over yet because she has to nurse her injuries, deadlines for class assignments, cooking and cleaning, and many other daily chores. Attending to these noble chores might also cost her the scholarship, primarily if they affect her sleeping schedule. It means that she cannot wake up in time to attend to her daily chores. Michelle is a fictitious character but represents the plight and dilemma that most students go through.
To be a student-athlete, one must accept that they cannot live an ‘ordinary student’ life. For example, they can barely wear makeup or dress up like other students- neither can they hang out like other students. For those 21 years and above, even a single glass of wine could frustrate their schedule. In short, they always have to be alert and, at best, can only take a shower and put on sports attire.
Against this backdrop, there is a thin line between dedicating your time and energy to education and sports. Many align their dedication to one thing which they believe might give them opportunities in the future. However, such an endeavor possesses greater risk. First, you could likely lose your scholarship, and thus both. Second, you might choose to dedicate your energy to one thing, i.e., sports but end up with an injury that compels you to retire from that you love most. What then could be considered an optimal solution? In my talk with several student-athletes, the idea of balancing was the best solution.
Balancing is not a new phenomenon. It is the normative standard for living a dignified life. In other words, whatever you do in life, you are recommended to assess your choices based on whether you are balancing one thing over the other – that is why a balanced diet is an ideal thing. However, one thing that is never emphasized is that balancing requires individual choices in the sense that one has to have the freedom to choose between one thing over the other. But, do student-athletes have that choice other than not choosing to be student-athletes? In other words, can student-athletes choose between dedicating more energy to one of the two? In reality, it is difficult to conceive that option in the student-athletes paradigm where the demands are barely made through personal choices but by the needs of the class teachers and the coaches. As mentioned earlier, if you fail to perform as an athlete, you will most likely lose your scholarship, and the same is true about failing to perform as a student.
There are days when school or sports overwhelms me, and I just need a day of sleep to balance my life. But the consequences for that might be ghastly to contemplate. Over time, I have learned that sometimes I just have to move on with life even when my body or spirit is unwilling. I have learned that my freedom is too limited to decide what I would call a balanced life. Unfortunately, I cannot stop questioning the value of such an experience and whether it will help me in the future when I am no longer a student-athlete. At most, what is the purpose of such an experience? Will a time come when I will say, “I wish I did that or did not do that as a student?”