The student news site of Wayne State College

The Wayne Stater

The student news site of Wayne State College

The Wayne Stater

The student news site of Wayne State College

The Wayne Stater

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Best Overheard of the Week (01/19/2022)

  • I'll be like my sister and catfish people on Farmersonly.com. She's a menace. (Upper Caf) (56%, 5 Votes)
  • It was like a wall of cheese smell. I couldn't even go in. (Humanities) (22%, 2 Votes)
  • Me being an introvert, I like to recharge my batteries. (Lower Caf) (11%, 1 Votes)
  • Dude, you guys were all over each other and I wanted to gag. (Lower Caf) (11%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

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The Challenges of Being a Student-Athlete

Student-athletes have a unique college experience in comparison to the average student because they are faced with nearly no free time, frequently travel for games, and must ensure they maintain their academic standards throughout. 

Wayne State College is home to about 350 student-athletes. Things become even more challenging when they are faced with a serious injury which obstructs their strict schedules. Student-Athletes, Chris Graham Jr. and Skylar Stueckrath, gave insight into their daily college lives and struggles. Kris Fox, a professor in the health, human performance and sport department, has first-hand experience with student-athletes and wishes athletes in general had more access to helpful resources like dieticians and sport psychologists.  

Skylar Stueckrath, a fifth-year interior design major and soccer player at Wayne State College, has been playing the sport for most of her life and competitively for 13 years. 

“The competition itself is usually harder because everyone is bigger, faster and stronger,” Stueckrath said. “Classes are also harder and there’s more travel so there’s more demand on being really good in the classroom and putting everything into your sport.” 

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Travelling for away games comes with an inconsistent schedule, unfamiliar environments and less free time which can make it more difficult to keep up academically. Professors are also not always as lenient or understanding of the student-athlete’s obligations.  

Graham is a junior majoring in sports management and a player for the WSC football team. Graham said the most challenging thing about being a student-athlete is time management between school, sport and free time. Graham said the football team is expected to do daily check-ins through a mobile app called XA where they track their mental and physical state as well as their sleep cycles. The coaches consider these results when they plan the intensity and duration of the week’s practices. “If you’re not mentally there, you won’t be able to perform at your highest,” Graham said.  

Some advantages of being a student-athlete are athletic scholarship opportunities which help students afford their tuition and living expenses and unique access to healthcare, like doctors and athletic trainers, particularly for injuries caused by the sport. One of the major challenges faced by student-athletes is to maintain their academic performance together with their athletic performance. 

“On a more positive note, I think being physically healthy and being active can also really help your mental health and benefit it,” Stueckrath said. The athletic staff such as coaches and athletic trainers offer support and advisement for student-athletes who are not coping or are underperforming either in the class or in their sport. Student-athletes, depending on the sport requirements, are expected to attend weight-lifting practices, sport-specific practices, meetings and the training room for physical rehab or maintenance. They are also expected to keep close communication with professors about missed classes due to athletic obligations. If the student-athlete’s grade drops below the NCAA required 2.3 GPA, they will not be eligible to play in the next season. 

“The lower your grade drops, the more hours you have to spend in a study hall or with a tutor,” Graham said. Teams are recognized for their average group GPA and Stueckrath said this can add pressure because each member needs to perform academically for the team to be successful, like playing their roles on the field. The college also offers access to tutors and a writing help desk for students who need extra academic assistance. For student-athletes who are especially struggling, Graham said the coaches offer a space to talk to them or they will sign you up with a counselor.  

Stueckrath said it helps being part of a team knowing your teammates may be going through the same thing and they can give some guidance from their own experience. Many student-athletes gravitate toward each other because they spend most of their time together and have a common understanding. “About 90% of my friends are athletes,” Stueckrath said. Student-athletes sometimes face a stigma that they receive special treatment especially from instructors or they think they are better than those around them. Stueckrath said this is most often not the case and it takes a toll on them mentally. Stueckrath learnt valuable lessons as a student-athlete, like being confident speaking in larger groups or to audiences and being a quick thinker.  

Stueckrath recently suffered an injury where she tore her ACL in a soccer game towards the end of their season. “My mental health when it first happened was not the best,” Stueckrath said. “With being a fifth year and having it be a career-ending injury, it hit me really hard.” Stueckrath’s injury caused a setback academically because of her surgery and recovery period. This is the case for many student-athletes who suffer an injury due to their sport and must take time away to recover. For Graham, who had surgery on his knee before the beginning of their football season, the time off allowed him to catch up on schoolwork and physically rest.  

“My favorite thing is having the team atmosphere,” Stueckrath said. “Being able to hang out with your team and celebrate with them is probably one of the most rewarding feelings.” Graham said being a student-athlete has made him a better human and taught him time management, which he believes is a crucial life skill.  

Fox focuses on the applied human and sport physiology major at the undergraduate level as well as the MSOM master’s degree in human performance and wellness management. In prior years, Fox also worked as an athletic trainer at WSC. Working as an instructor for the last 18 years, Fox has seen how students, athletes and non-athletes, struggle with time management. “But then I also see the opposite side where there are some phenomenal student-athletes who are outstanding on the court or on the field and they are outstanding in the classroom,” Fox said. “And so, it’s not every student-athlete.” Fox said every student has stressors and some handle them better than others.  

“A lot of sport organizations are hiring mental performance coaches who focus on the mind,” Fox said. Strength coaches, sport coaches and dieticians focus on the body. Fox said sport psychology is becoming more significant in the D1 level and has been practiced in elite and pro teams. Fox said it is important to not just address mental health disorders but also to promote mental health and mental performance.  

Fox said many students at this level will not pursue their sport professionally after college but will begin to focus primarily on their chosen career and for this they must be prepared. Student-athletes do not have much of a say in their schedules as coaches plan most of it. “You look at people as individuals, going back to some of the things I teach in class, some people are morning people, some people are more night people, and if the schedule you’re being given doesn’t really align with when you’re best, maybe you’re not performing the best,” Fox said.  

Fox said student-athletes learn to work in a team environment and form lifelong friendships. “It’s like a job, so you have to really love it to do it,” Fox said.  

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About the Contributor
Leah Bennett, Staff Writer

Leah Bennett is a South African student-athlete at WSC who plays for the Women’s Soccer team. She is currently a senior majoring in Digital Film Production and Theory with a particular interest in Screenwriting. She has a love-hate relationship with writing meaning that she loves writing but hates reading. She also has twin dogs back in South Africa named Marco and Polo.

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