By LUIS “LUIGI” FINSTON
Waking up early for practices, making sure not to sustain an injury, keeping grades up to be eligible to participate in your sport, and making time for friends and family. All of these are lingering thoughts on an athletes mind.
The athletic life in college is hectic and demanding. It could be compared to a full time job and is not easy. But even with so much on their plate these young men and women dedicate their time to training and represent their school on the field, in the pool, on the track, or in the rodeo.
People hear about athletes scoring a game winning basket, or getting national recognition in their respective sport. Fans watch them perform and cheer them on as they represent NMSU. Some may have athletes in their classes for weeks and never realize it. Some tend to simply hide.
Aimee Hatfield, a 19 year old sophomore at NMSU is one of those athletes. The Phoenix, Arizona native is a swimmer on the NMSU Women’s Swimming and Diving Team.
Hatfield attended Xavier College Prep High School in Phoenix, where she helped her team earn 2nd place in the State competition. In an interview with Swim Swam News, she said she felt completely at home at NMSU. “Coaches Rick and Rachel are very nice and friendly. What ultimately led me to make my decision were the girls on the team. Their zealousness and eagerness for swimming and for their education is inspiring.”
Being on the swimming team is no cake walk. Practices are twice a day Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s from six to eight in the morning and then again from three to five in the afternoon. On Tuesday’s and Thursday’s from two to three the team will be lifting weights and then returning to the pool from three to five to practice. There is also practice on Saturday from seven in the morning until ten.
“We do everything from weights, dryland exercises like push-ups, ab’s, and medicine ball workouts, and of course, cardio in the pool” said Hatfield. The swimmers practice at the NMSU Natatorium.
One thing that student athletes must do is maintain a good academic standing and GPA. If you don’t maintain good grades, you risk being cut from the team. The University offers tutoring to athletes who have struggling with classes to get them caught up. For the swimmers, it’s similar but a little different.
“Most of the team is taking fourteen to eighteen credit hours” Hatfield said. “We don’t really do specific study groups outside of study hall. For the first semester it’s eight hours of study hall a week at the Fulton Center or if you have below a 3.0 GPA.” Maintaining a solid GPA is what keeps athletic scholarships alive. As mentioned on athleticscholarships.net, “to be eligible for scholarships, the student must have an academic record that demonstrates good grades.”
A common problem occurs when a student cannot earn a scholarship because his or her grades are poor. If a student, on the other hand, has good grades, a recruiting coach may push to offer that student an athletic scholarship. In this case, the chances of the student receiving the scholarship are much greater because the student has a good academic record.
Coaches do not look for students who possess athletic abilities only. They look at a number of things, but primarily they look at a student’s academics and dedication to the classroom.
To qualify for academic scholarships, a student generally must have a 3.5 GPA or higher, a 25 ACT score or higher or a 1200 SAT score or higher, and must rank within the top 10 percent of the class. Every college or university may have different requirements.
With an athletic scholarship, if a player quits the team or is cut from the team, the scholarship is gone. If the student does not have another way to pay for the education, he or she may be forced to drop out. Students with poor grades and test scores will not qualify for any type of academic scholarships.
“Our team GPA was above a 3.0” said Hatfield. “Our Academics always come first. If our coach sees that we are struggling, he will address us and ask us if we need any help such as tutoring. He may even ask us if we need time to take practice off so we can improve.”
But there are other hardships that student athletes confront in order to give their best performance. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits is a must. This doesn’t mean they have to eat vegetables, fruit, meat, and drink protein shakes twenty-four seven, but certainly that they need to be watchful of what they ingest to not get out of shape.
“It depends on the person as well”, Hatfield said. “Some people are health nuts and then there’s people like me who just like to eat things like bread or nutria-grain bars.” Food is energy. The way that Hatfield phrases it, “Food is First!” She laughs about it but it’s a certainly true.
“Once you’re done eating, it’s back to working immediately, because if you don’t sit down and do anything you’re not going to get anything done.”
One fear for student athletes is suffering an injury. No one wants to suffer a serious injury and then be out for the season. Some injuries can be career ending if they are serious enough.
“We’ve had several girls come back after having surgery and they are ready to go” said Hatfield. “If you sustain a serious injury, you can still keep your scholarship but you can’t swim. That all depends on what the doctor says though.”
Last August, Hatfield had a heart monitor implanted in her chest. She said this affected her season and she wasn’t able to accomplish as much as she wanted. “I was in and out of the pool most of the semester, so last season didn’t really go that smooth for me.”
The student athlete life is rewarding, but there is no such thing as taking the easy way out. Trying to juggle family and friends, with your work, school, student organizations, and beliefs is as hard as it sounds.
Hatfield agrees that is certainly a challenge but she has no regrets on doing what she does. “It’s such an honor”, she said. “It’s a privilege to be a student athlete, and I’m proud to represent NMSU.”