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A day in the life of a college athlete

Written by Grace Beyer, Special to The Spectator. Photo courtesy of Grace Beyer.

Painting an accurate picture of a student-athlete’s day is no easy task.

With changing practice times depending on the day of the week/revolving around my team’s classes, long stretches of some weeks with road trips, and home games and events, our schedule is not something that we, as student-athletes, can rely on for consistency.

However, despite the uncertainties and unknowns, the expectations are constant: to show up on time, stay focused and give 100% effort.

This particular Monday, my day started at 4:45 a.m. as my phone’s alarm sounded.

Dim light from my bedside lamp illuminated my room as I hesitantly made my way to the bathroom.

My morning routine stays relatively consistent throughout the year: brush my teeth, wash my face, get dressed, eat breakfast.

I’ve found that having a consistent meal—overnight oats—gives me enough energy to perform, no matter the circumstances or expectations for the day.

I usually follow my favorite oatmeal recipe, which consists of ingredients such as banana and vanilla Greek yogurt, mostly because it is familiar and easy. I also know that it will give me sustained energy throughout a practice or workout without weighing me down.

Sometimes others find humor in my strict adherence to my morning habits. Most people like to have a bit more variety in their morning meal.

However, call me a “creature of habit” all you want; I take pride in my habitual nature; I take pride in my overnight oats.

If there was any truth behind Aristotle’s quote “we are what we repeatedly do,” my consistent morning routine helps me create consistency as I work within an evolving schedule. I find comfort in knowing that I will be properly fueled and mentally prepared to maintain a high standard of discipline.

After eating breakfast, I threw some loose clothing on and headed to The Complex.

For a 6 a.m. practice, my teammates and I are required to be on the court, dressed and ready-to-go at 5:45 a.m.

Working backwards, that usually means I need to get dressed at around 5:30 a.m., get my ankle taped around 5:15 a.m. and leave my apartment around 5:10 a.m.

Approaching the only door to The Complex at this early hour, I took a deep breath and decided where I should direct my steps first—perhaps to the training room to get my ankle taped, or perhaps straight to the locker room to get changed.

After reasoning that most of my teammates would arrive to the training room a little later, I decided to beat the ankle-tape crowd that usually overwhelms my athletic trainer between 5:30 and 5:45 a.m.

My slides squeaked on the gym floor as I made my way to the athletic training room.

Hayley Widman, my athletic trainer, wrapped my left ankle in her normal fashion: a few wraps around the bottom of my leg, a few around the heel and foot in a “U” shape, a few in a figure-eight to secure the ankle and then back up to my leg to secure everything.

For a few of us on the team, she also adds additional tape to support ongoing pains and injuries. For me, this means adding some tape to the arch of my left foot to relieve some stress from plantar fasciitis.

Adding the tape only takes a few seconds, but it makes all the difference when we run sprints—especially in the early mornings.

Hopping down from the table and thanking Hayley as I head out the door, I headed to the locker room to change into my practice uniform and put on my shoes.

I found my own bit of joy this morning by finding humor in my awkward walk to the locker room—one foot had a sock on, the other no sock, stiff with tape. I wore my large, futuristic-looking headphones and carried a bunch of random things in my hands: a water bottle, phone, keys and random snacks.

I’ve learned that being a creature of my morning habits does not necessarily mean looking “put together” all the time, and that’s okay. I’ve accepted the fact, at least for now.

I punched in my code to enter the locker room and moseyed to my locker to locate my practice uniform and shoes.

I threw on my black, compression long-sleeve undershirt, compression spandex, bright red basketball socks and practice uniform.

Although our practice jerseys are reversible, I tried to stay consistent throughout the season in starting with wearing it flipped to the darker side.

No, practice will not always be predictable, and yes, I do need to be able to adjust. However, routines and habits gave me a comforting sense of control in my weekday—even as small as what I wore and how I wore it.

I noticed that most of my teammates also wore their practice jerseys on the same side to start practice, so I can confidentially say that I am not the only one.

As soon as the time runs down on the clock at 5:45 a.m., my teammates and I positioned ourselves on the baseline, ready to stretch.

Around two hours later, after running through full-court drills and game-like competitions, we ended our practice right back in the same spot—lined up on the baseline.

Whether we have one sprint or 20 to close practice is unpredictable.

Often times, we do something called “free throws for sprints”: a pressure drill that sounds exactly like what it is. For every free throw we miss, we have to run.

No matter what my coach decides to challenge us with at the end of practice, we always run something called a “pride suicide.” The “pride suicide” is one final sprint, ran with passion and heart. It tests our mental fortitude by challenging us to give it our all, despite how fatigued we may feel.

After the last sprint, practice was officially over.

Within twenty minutes after practice, my teammates and coaches all go our separate ways: some to 8 a.m. classes, some to the training room to grab some ice and others home to take a shower.

At around 11 a.m., we reunited for a shooting workout. Although not as rigorous as practice, our coaches pushed us to work on different skill-based components that are important in our offense, such as shots off the move, pass and dribble.

In-season shooting workouts had the same requirements as practice, regarding our stretching routine and our expectation to be ready to go 15 minutes early.

Often, the three-hour gap between practice and workouts feels like it flies by, especially with classes and homework.

It flies by even faster if you throw a nap in the mix.

After the shooting workout, everyone went their separate ways again—some to the training room, some to class, some to the shooting machine to get extra shots up and others to who-knows-where.

My body was still cooling down from workouts when I arrived to my 2 p.m. class, hence my typical slicked-back ponytail and flushed cheeks.

My schedule varies after that—it might include a meeting with a coach, revisiting the gym to shoot extra shots, working in a light lift or taking care of my body.

On some days, watching game film is also worked into the schedule, whether it be before practice or later in the day.

Film is prioritized if we are approaching a new opponent within one to three days, which wasn’t the case this day. When we do watch film, we usually split our film sessions across a few days to break down the opposing team’s personnel, offensive play calls and defenses with enough focus to absorb the information.

I structured the rest of my day according to my priorities: I went to class, I turned in a few assignments, I got some extra shots up and I spent some time journaling and praying. I also spent some time with a few of my teammates and friends.

If I wrote this article about a different week or day, I can’t guarantee that the narrative would have been the same—perhaps my team would have practiced later, perhaps we would have been on a road trip to play an away game or perhaps it would have been an off day.

But, for now, that’s it. A day in the life.

Author’s Note: Grace has transferred to Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois, to continue playing women’s basketball. 

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