Student-Athletes Deserve the Same Respect as Other Students

Nick Pearson ’19

I played four years of football here at Davidson College. I’m an English major and Communication Studies minor, but, like most Davidson students, I’ve taken classes in nearly every subject. I’ve written papers on buses, completed tests in hotels, and walked into 6:00 AM lifts running on three hours of sleep. 

Everyone knows that Davidson can be difficult, but it sure can be fun to complain about it sometimes, especially as a student-athlete. 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) ensures that the college and, by extension, its professors are holding its athletes to the standard set by the rest of campus. That also means that regardless of schedules and competitions, Davidson student-athletes must keep themselves accountable.

Yes, some teachers are accommodating, but only because that is who they are as educators, not because of our status as athletes. 

Conversely, there are some professors who seem to target athletes. They remain rigid on due dates and refuse to acknowledge the difficulties that come with balancing school and athletics. 

Student-athletes aren’t looking for handouts, but sometimes life happens and work gets delayed, and inflexible teachers can complicate even the most dedicated student’s life. 

Davidson prides itself on emphasizing the “student” half of the phrase and sometimes ignores the latter portion, while some of our peers only see us as athletes. 

There are people who believe that athletes don’t achieve in the classroom like they do on the field, but I’m here to tell you that we do.

The average student-athlete’s day includes a lift, team meetings, class, homework, and practice, but many athletes are involved in other things as well because the nature of our school is one in which many students can add any number of extra-curricular activities to that slate. 

All Davidson students know the weekly grind; by the time the weekend hits, everyone wants to relax and work at their own pace…except student-athletes have to compete, sometimes all weekend, and then restart the week on Monday.

Unlike some meetings or activities, our sports are mandatory. There are no emails or excuses that can get us out of practice at the end of a grueling day, and, like it or not, our schedule is our schedule. 

You will have athletic requirements, like film and injury treatment, regardless of classes, labs, or seminars. 

Common Hours are consumed with field work and position meetings, instead of a much needed respite between 9:40 and 12:15 classes. 

If your schedule changes, like a shift in your professor’s office hours, and a conflict arises, then you can very quickly lose any free time that you hoped to have. Yes, athletes “love the grind,” but most of the time we say that to convince ourselves, not you.

To quote the great Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights, “You don’t pass, you don’t play,” and while that may have just been a television show, the saying applies in real life as well. 

Athletic programs require study halls, grade checks during the semester, and even tutors when necessary. 

When I got here, our coach required all players who didn’t achieve a certain GPA to attend two-hour study sessions every Sunday night, directly following lift, conditioning, meetings, and practice. 

Unlike other schools, most athletes at Davidson are dedicated students—perhaps even better in the classroom than they are on the field—because they have to be. Away games and travel eat up classroom absences, so if you’re sick or tired, you’d better suck it up. Late night homework and early lifts drain your battery, so it’s hard to inspire yourself to do much more than snatch a nap during the middle of the day.

All that being said, I’ve run into students during my time here that believe the opposite is true—that athletes slack off, fail to turn in work without penalty, and drink every day, all just because they can. 

This may be true of the wilder players at less stringent schools, but it’s not accurate for even the wildest ‘Cats at Davidson. 

Yes, each team has its slackers—I’m not trying to argue that point—but so does nearly every group of people on campus, athletes or not. 

No one forces us to play sports. We love it and wouldn’t have it any other way, but it can be confusing when you hear people say that athletes are uninvolved or privileged. Student-athletes, especially at Davidson, are busy and focused, but mostly just tired.

Nick Pearson ’19 is an English major from Matthews, North Carolina. Contact him at nipearson@davidson.edu.

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