“If You Run Out of Hours in the Day, So Be It”
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Skidmore College junior and member of the women’s soccer team, Christina Sanzari, attributes her survival in the fall to granola bars. They are the only thing that can get her through the daily struggles of being a student athlete.
For the past 17 years, Sanzari has been managing the obligations of being both a student and an athlete, though it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier.
As a student, she describes herself as “car[ing] more about academics than [I] do [my] mental health.”
College students have a host of responsibilities, and serious students take it upon themselves to work hard in and out of class to succeed. During the day, Sanzari can typically be seen running back and forth from class to the library, always with coffee in hand. Late in the afternoon she can be spotted making a run for the sportscetner while scarfing down a granola bar, hustling back to the library and trudging home when her eyes can barely manage to see the lamp lit sidewalk.
Sanzari estimates that she spends somewhere around 50 hours devoted to academics and joked that she hits at least 60 if you count all the work she does on the weekends.
On top of her commitments to her academics, she participates in other activities that aid her pursuit of a career after college. Sanzari manages two different psychology labs at Skidmore and also works as a tutor. She actively seeks internship opportunities and spends much of her time engaging in events that support her goal of eventually achieving a PhD in psychology and running a lab of her own.
However, her obligations don’t end there. On top of the energy she puts in as a student, her role as an athlete brings on a whole other realm of commitments. It was not difficult for members of the women’s soccer team to rattle off a list of all the activities involved in being an athlete at Skidmore.
Emily Mendes, a sophomore captain, explains that her commitments as an athlete extend beyond the staples of daily practices and weekend games. She elaborates that injured players, in efforts to take care of their physical health, spend extra time in the training room, before and after games and practices.
An unfortunate history with ankle injuries draws Nicole LoRusso, a senior player, back to training room almost daily. Her routine to heat, stretch, and strengthen her ankles adds an additional hour and half to her time in the sports center.
Mendes also mentions that both the men’s and women’s soccer teams participate in volunteer work throughout the year in the forms of clinics, camps, and organized visits to the elderly home.
One clinic they work is Soccer Without Borders. During the week of April vacation, local school children come to play with the college players. Mendes justifies that “some people came to help at 7:45 and left at 9 for class, and then came back. It’s a pretty hectic week but the kids love it.”
Most athletic teams are also required to contribute to the athletic program by working the games of their fellow student athletes. Members of the Skidmore Women’s soccer team estimate that they spend about 30 hours a week filling their role as an athlete.
Making it Work
Between practices and late library sessions, every player’s favorite silence filler is groaning about fitting the demands of athletics and academics into every day. Mendes shares, “quite honestly I think I plan my day around our workout,” and her feeling is shared by teammates.
Sanzari reveals that soccer not only lays the groundwork for planning her day-to-day activities but also dictates when, what, and how much she eats and drinks in order to sustain herself throughout the day and to be in optimal condition to perform.
Mendes also brings to light that players must plan their classes around practice times to avoid conflict in the fall semester. This compromise can be challenging for athletes and prevent them from taking classes they’re interested in, but as Mendes has accepted, “it’s hard, but you just have to deal with it.” Sanzari expressed similar sentiments and described compromise as “the nature of the beast when you are playing a collegiate sport.”
Student athletes may accept their rigid schedules, but it affects other people as well. LoRusso describes the requirement of athletes to be adaptive, which stems from the innate spontaneity of athletics, despite their effort to plan.
She recalls one instance this past fall in which an unexpected post-practice team meeting kept players at the sports center for almost an hour. She remembers having to explain her tardiness to a group meeting scheduled right after practice and feeling very frustrated with the entire situation.
Jacqueline Carames, another senior player, reiterated the difficulty of scheduling with peers and recounted, “sometimes your times don’t align because you’re just on a different schedule than other people.”
Another memorable moment for many of the players was when their bus broke down four hours away from Skidmore while traveling home after a Sunday away game. The team had to change buses twice and did not arrive back to campus until almost 2 A.M. — 6 hours later than expected.
“I sleep enough to keep me functioning.”
As adamantly and unanimously voiced by the players, late nights are not uncommon in the life of a student athlete. When discussing sleep, they all agreed that they do not sleep enough in-season, and Carames eloquently states, “I sleep enough to keep me functioning.”
Players also note that the lack of sleep impairs their cognitive abilities, frequently causes them to get sick in season, and affects their performance in and out of the classroom.
Why do these student athletes purposefully destroy their bodies, deprive themselves of sleep, and force themselves into schedules with barely enough time to breath?
The players on the women’s soccer team unknowingly revealed the vice that bring them back to the team. As crazy as it sounds, the bonds they have with one another outweigh the chaos.
When asked about her favorite part of being on a team, Sanzari summed up that the easy answer is her love for the game, but in her daily life she loves being close with a large group of people. Being a student athlete allows Sanzari to be close with her team and with the greater athletic community.
The other players unveiled their underlying reason for continuing to be a collegiate student athlete is the 20-something people who they want to hang out with and who want to hang out with them. Carames clarifies, “I get to hang out with people I wanna be with every day in the time we are required to be on the field.”
Every player has a passion for the game, but their addiction to each other draws them to be student athletes.
The players of the Skidmore women’s soccer team couldn’t imagine their lives any other way. When asked if she wanted to share any other comments about managing being a student athlete, Mendes relays, “I don’t think I would be able to succeed in one without the other.”