The Cost/Benefit of Being a Student Athlete by Evan Shirreffs
Picture walking out of your dorm room at 5am on a Friday morning with a jug of water in one hand and a granola bar in the other. With sleep still in your eyes you’re wondering, “what will the workout be like today? Intense conditioning or a grueling squat day?”
Then, as you reach the door to the parking lot, you encounter a few students stumbling around, standing in their outfits from the evening before. One of them lost their student ID at some point during the night in between shots of liquor and their failed attempt at chasing after that one cute girl from Calculus class. Lucky for them, here you come to the rescue before they pass out in the bushes.
During my first few weeks on campus as a football player at the University of Miami, this moment put into perspective what the following few years would encompass.
Sooner or later, every student-athlete has experienced a similar moment that made them realize the depths of dedication it takes to play a sport in college. To say it is a job is honestly an understatement. Do not even get me started with compensation, but the pure will it even takes to commit to such a rigorous lifestyle is much more demanding than any job could ever be, and that’s coupled with much less reward.
What job is so physically taxing that by the end of an early morning lift session, you need to take a nap before most of your colleagues are even awake? What job gives you twice as much “optional” work as mandatory work, yet expects all of it to still get done despite the repeated statements that, “school comes before football?” If this was truly the case, then why would my only free time to study be after hours in the library with the thought of that early morning practice distracting my efforts to learn the importance of a balance sheet, or developing a business model for a business world that I have only heard of in theory and not yet experienced?
Learning class material was never the issue for me. It’s a bit easier to go into an exam with a general concept of what will be on it, and BS an answer that will satisfy your professor. If you BS your preparation for football however, you will be exposed by your opponent. And he will let you know about it before you even get to the sideline to get ripped by your coaches and teammates as well. As a quarterback, I need to know everything that all the other ten guys on the field are doing. The amount of focus it takes to go through hours of daily practice, meetings, and film is something that is quite difficult to understand until you must do it. No other position is like that; few positions in business are like that either.
Yet with all the challenges involved, the cool thing about committing to something like this lifestyle is the absence of regret, and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from doing everything in your power to succeed, even if the venture results in failure. In a society so focused on perfection, it is hard to see the value in failure. Football has taught me that success is never possible without failure.
I have lost battles for starting jobs, had coaches that did not believe in my style of play, I missed games because of injuries, not performed when my number was called, but none of that is what defines me. Failure not only showed me that I was not as badass as I thought by beating me down during some of the toughest moments of my life, but it gave me the opportunity to overcome obstacles during those times that makes success so much sweeter.
Failure gives you the chance to learn how to respond when things are not going your way. It humbles you when you most need it. This has been the single most impactful lesson learned from football. When you accept that the outcome you are working so hard for may not be attainable, you learn to fall in love with the grind and process of even giving yourself the opportunity to reach the result you are striving for.
As I sit behind my computer screen gathering my thoughts on my final collegiate football season to come, and my eventual “transfer” into the real world of business, I cannot help but smile at the opportunities ahead. I have no idea what the future holds, but I know that nothing I face in life will be as hard as the days of being a student-athlete. I understand that there is so much to still be learned, but there is no doubt in my mind that I will be successful in whatever career path I take. In all honesty, I just fear not finding that one thing in the real world that I am as passionate about as football. But I know that when I find it, I will make a difference in this world.
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