I was a student athlete in the US playing soccer on a sports and academic scholarship, this was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life. I can tell you that it was not all easy going. When you have to juggle playing your sport at a high level as well as keeping grades even higher, so there are huge pressures but as you will read in these next few blogs there were just as many fun, adventures and exciting times that teach you certain life lessons you won’t learn anywhere else.
Most people I talk to ask – what was the life like as a student-athlete at university in the United States…
Well here is a quick break down of a game week in the life of a soccer student-athlete. In a close-knit NAIA University in Lebanon TN close to the city of Nashville, Tennessee.
Game week prep – match days Wednesday and Saturday.
Start the day off by waking up at 6 am, with your teammate’s alarm blaring in the other room and him not even budging an eyelid in his sleep. Wake him up with a huge bang on his door. Key tip: it’s always nice to live with teammates from your own sport, otherwise this happens when the wrestlers or golfers have early morning sessions in your offseason. Slight upside, the guys living with the golfers are often the first to snap up the free rounds during the off season.
Fill up with some fast working protein bars or cereal that you have in your room or the commons kitchen, say a quick hi to all your family and friends back home on WhatsApp (remember they are already eating lunch). Some of the unlucky guys have to make a trip down to the athletic training rooms (physios) for their pre-training strapping or rehab, you can hear them all complaining out your window. That’s why you don’t fake injuries, it will catch up with you.
6:30am – 8am:
Once you have had your meal, downed your protein shake, it’s off to the training field. Already out are the Grad students, who hate the early morning sessions even more than we do. Coach arrives with coffee in hand and training schedule on paper. Today’s early session is mostly running, fitness and strength training with the ball.
8am – 8:30am:
Training is finished, ice packs are on the body parts that feel like they’re going to fall off, it’s a mad dash to be the first one in the showers and at your 8:30 am class.
8:30am – 1:30pm:
Run into the lecture hall, having grabbed whatever fruit you could on the way. Spending the next few hours moving from class to class with your mates and teammates, talking about the training session that almost killed us, the past weekend’s Premier league action or the great weekend we had together after the win at our home ground.
1:30 – 2:30pm:
You have finished all your morning classes, now its lunch time. As you get to the school cafeteria and are lucky enough to watch other students eating the mouth-watering pizza, hamburgers and fries. You know that if you have to have that one slice of pizza you will pay for it at training. So it’s off to the salad and chicken bar, fair to say the Chicken Mayonnaise at our school was top notch so we always went for the same. Making sure to drink only water as you know that any carbonated drinks will give you cramp when you playing in 100% humidity in Kentucky. So water and Gatorade it is, knowing it’ll all be worth it come conference playoffs.
2:30 – 3:30pm:
Back to your afternoon classes, a bit more awake than in your morning classes but worrying about what the coach has in store for in the afternoon session.
3:45 – 5pm:
The afternoon training session has started, the team gets split into the presumed travelling squad and the JV (Junior Varsity, normally the guys who won’t be travelling or are red-shirting for one or two reasons. This is something we will talk about in a whole other blog.) Teams, tactical training starts. Now this might be less physical but is mentally draining as the strategy changes game to game. We go through some strat work and a few tactical changes to the team, then we have a mini-scrimmage to see if we can put these new tactics into play. It works out fairly well most of the time, luckily we have another day before match day Wednesday.
5pm – 9pm:
Off to the ice baths and physio massages which at the time feels like a torture chamber in the heat of the Tennessee fall season. Once we have completed all the rehab and post-training it was time to chill and go grab some dinner (supper). It’s then time for the every important daily Pro Evo/Fifa battles (some would go visit partners while others vegetated in front of the TV), until it was time for study hall with the team. Now I’ll be honest, study hall was not my favourite part of the day but I do remember some of my best times being there. After studying and doing any assignments we all make our way back to the dorms, have a cup of the strongest coffee ever (yep you can do that in college and still sleep) and say goodnight to all your housemates. Tomorrow is pre-game day, it’s a big day at school.
Catch the rest of the blog tomorrow, for the Pregame day rituals and traditions of our soccer program.