The Life of a Student-Athlete by Elizabeth Stephens


I do what I have to do, because I love the sport and I love the school. I make it work.

College Athletes. They have the best life. Everyday is Nike Christmas, their teachers bend over backwards for them, they have a ton of friends, and receive privileges one could only dream of. When asked to think about student athletes in college, many will come to this conclusion. However, I can tell you this image is far from the truth. Here is what it is like to really be a student athlete in college…

There is no ‘off season’. From the moment I step foot onto campus, everything I do revolves around tennis. Many times people assume that my season is only in the winter or spring, and that my season only lasts 2-4 months. It doesn’t. It lasts all year. In the fall we play tournaments and work to figure out our lineup. The minute winter quarter starts we are playing nonconference matches, and when spring rolls around we go straight into conference. And when we don’t have matches, we are training so that we can be our best when ‘season’ comes. We are eating healthy, working out, and practicing to maintain everything we have worked so hard to achieve.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 2.46.36 PM.pngYou have long stressful days. The day starts with 8 a.m. weights and then straight to 10 a.m. office hours and class at 12 p.m. And we wouldn’t even think to skip class because then we wouldn’t be able to practice or compete. So class is always attended, and after class there is a 20-minute window to scarf down a sandwich or a granola bar and then head to physical therapy, followed by a 2-3 hour practice. After practice there is the long sprint across campus to make it to my 6:30 p.m. class. After class ends at 9:15 p.m. and I am physically and mentally exhausted, I make the trek back home. But it isn’t so I can curl up in my bed and watch Netflix or sit in the living room and gossip with my friends, it is straight up to my room to start the hours of homework I have before finally going to sleep, and waking up in a few short hours to do it all over again.

There is no break. I had two days off for my spring break. These two days were not graciously given by our coach, but they were instead days required off by the NCAA. There is no such thing as days off. If we aren’t on the court we are in the gym, and if we aren’t in the gym we are in the training room. It’s all tennis, all the time.

There are no special privileges. Attendance at every class is required and excellence in each class is expected. Missing practice or team events is not an option and don’t even think about missing workouts. Sure we get priority registration but it’s only to ensure I am at every single practice and weights.

It is hard work. The endless hours on the court and in the gym on top of class and office hours make college that much harder. There is no room for failure. You show up late to practice the entire team has to run. You make a mistake, well, you better start running. And, yes, school comes first but that is no excuse to slack off at practice.

So that’s what it is really like to be a college athlete. It’s hard work. It’s time and dedication that is sometimes hard to find at the end of a long day. But we do it because the feeling of representing your school is something unlike anything else. It is a sense of pride and accomplishment. So to the people who think student-athletes are taking the easy way out, I beg to differ.

Playing tennis for Santa Clara was the best decision I ever made. The hard work and stress seem so little when I am able to represent my school doing something I love.

Dani Silva and Madison Clarke reflect on their favorite moment from the 2015-2016 tennis season.

By Elizabeth Stephens

Photos via