Vanderbilt announced that defensive backs coach Dan Jackson will step back from the program for the time being. (Hustler Multimedia/Emily Goncalves)
Vanderbilt announced that defensive backs coach Dan Jackson will step back from the program for the time being. (Hustler Multimedia/Emily Goncalves)
Emily Gonçalves

Inside an Athlete’s World: We’re more than just athletes, we’re students too

Exploring the frustrating nature of Vanderbilt students’ perception of student-athletes
(Photo courtesy Blair McDonald)

I have used my little nook of The Hustler this semester to discuss some of the inner happenings of life as a student-athlete. Within my column, I have affirmed that being a student-athlete requires focus and dedication to be successful. For the most part, I’ve found that the athlete part of our identities is sufficiently validated through congratulatory sentiments and confirmations by those around us for all of our hard work in our athletic domain. Despite our prowess on the field, I want to emphasize that we are students just as much as we are athletes

During my time here at Vanderbilt, however, I’ve often overheard other students crack jokes at the expense of an athlete in their class because he may not be up to their academic standards. I’ve personally shrugged off the name-calling one or two times but lately, the stereotype of the “dumb jock” here has become of particular frustration to me. Unfortunately, we can’t spend every waking moment of our time on the field or in the weight room. Half of our time is split between our coaches’ demands of us in the locker room and our professors’ expectations of us in the classroom. Similar to every other student, we wake up every day and head to class, preparing ourselves for a day filled with academic rigor. After all, Vandy is currently ranked as the 15th best university in the country

In my opinion, sports are a vehicle for our education here at Vanderbilt. As students, we all understand the weight that a Vanderbilt degree caries when we graduate. Soccer has allowed me to attend an outstanding institution while playing the game I love. Yet, the task of being a student-athlete is not without its challenges. That’s why I personally find it frustrating when other students mock or look down on student-athletes for our perceived intelligence or, in their opinion, the lack thereof. 

Usually, our schedules do not permit large gaps of time where we have the opportunity to spend hours on an assignment or studying for a test. Once we account for training sessions, games, travel or recovery, we have a very limited amount of time to then prioritize sleep, nutrition and school work. We then jeopardize our bodies because we decrease the efficiency of our recovery processes in order to satisfy the standards of a Vanderbilt education. Despite these pressures, every semester numerous student-athletes work hard to achieve a 4.0 and even more athletes find themselves on the Dean’s List as well. We chose the life of a student-athlete and we understand the sacrifices we need to make; however, we value the education Vanderbilt has to offer every day. 

During bus rides, plane trips and away games, my teammates and I spend every free moment working on homework or studying for a test. Last Thursday, the soccer team traveled to South Carolina to play our first game of the NCAA tournament against Clemson University. While we would have loved to relax all night and enjoy the experience, instead, most of the team worked for hours to thoroughly complete an assignment due Friday. In August, we traveled to Southern California to play two preseason games. After a long day of soccer and traveling, the team sat on the floor of the Los Angeles International Airport and completed assignments until we boarded our flight at 11:30 p.m. back to Nashville. We are dedicated to our craft as both athletes and students and work hard to achieve excellence in both. Simply because other students don’t see it every day, doesn’t mean we are any less committed to our school work. 

Sometimes, we have our off days. I am the first to admit that I have fallen asleep in one or two classes, but we are also trying our best. It is extremely discouraging to hear when students make light of our daily struggles and casually make jokes and fuel inaccurate stereotypes. Generally, athletes here don’t lack intelligence or hard-work, but we are tired and, sometimes, it shows. Nevertheless, this is not an excuse for the student population to make assumptions about our academic capabilities. Many a student-athlete has gone on to do great things in life, and we will all continue to pursue academic excellence in addition to athletic achievement every day while on this campus.  

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About the Contributors
Blair McDonald, Former College Voices Managing Producer
Blair McDonald ('22) was the College Voices Managing Producer from Long Beach, California. She majored in Communications with a minor in World Politics. Blair also played on Vanderbilt's Varsity Women's Soccer team. In addition to playing soccer, Blair enjoys writing short stories, watching crime shows and finding new food spots in her free time. You can reach her at [email protected].      
Emily Gonçalves, Former Multimedia Director
Emily Gonçalves (‘20) was the Multimedia Director of the Vanderbilt Hustler. She majored in Mathematics and Economics and minored in Latin American Studies. When she’s not taking photos, you can catch this Jersey girl making puns, singing, advocating for girls’ education and drinking lots of chocolate milk and espresso!

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