Student athletes say most perks outweigh demands

Adrienne Burch

6 a.m. in the pool.

8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in class. 2:30 p.m. back in the water. 5 to 6 p.m. in the weight room. 6 to 10 p.m. homework and friends. 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. sleep. Repeat.

This is the daily life of The University of Alabama men’s swim team captain, Jake Reynolds.

The life of a Division 1 college athlete is demanding. They spend hours in the gym, pool or on the field all while keeping up with a college course load. Athletes may not go out on weeknights or have lots of spare time, but the demands are worth getting to do what they love.

Nikki Hegstetter is a freshman on the UA women’s basketball team. She said adjusting to college has been difficult not only because of basketball but because of her course load.

“I expected basketball to be as demanding as it is, but I didn’t think school would be,” she said. “School is hard. College is strenuous in general, but playing a sport makes it much harder to manage.”

Hegstetter said an example would be when the team got home from a road trip at 2 a.m., and she had class at 8 a.m.

“It takes mental toughness as a coach would say,” she said. “I have to remember I’m not only here to play basketball but also get an education.”

But, Hegstetter said she wouldn’t rather be doing anything else. She watched her sister choose to forgo a college basketball career, and Hegstetter said her sister constantly tells her she is missing out on typical college experiences like sorority life and going out on weeknights.

“My sister doesn’t love it as much as I do,” she said. “To me it’s not a sacrifice. It’s doing what I love and getting my college paid for. It’s like having a job you’re in love with.”

Reynolds also said he approaches swimming as if it were a job. He swims 20-30 hours a week while a typical college student may work that same amount.

It’s like a job you have to take home, Reynolds said. In addition to all of the time in the pool, he also has to eat right and make sure to get in bed early.

Reynolds said what other students might view as sacrifices, he just takes it as what he needs to do to be successful at what he loves.

“It’s what needs to be done for me to achieve to the highest degree,” Reynolds said. “I am getting to do what 1 percent of college students get to do by playing a Division 1 sport.”

Despite all of the time in the pool, Reynolds said he still finds time to do activities he enjoys.

“I find time for doing things I like,” Reynolds said. “If not, I would go stir crazy.”

Ashley Priess, a senior gymnast, said she lived a lifestyle that was different than the average girl her age even in high school. She was an elite gymnast throughout high school and spent 40 hours a week in the gym before even coming to college.

“College actually opened up my schedule,” Priess said. “I had certain goals I wanted to accomplish, and I had to do what it took to accomplish them, but, I loved every minute of it.”

Priess said she has no regrets and even praises the opportunities she has had because she is a college gymnast.

“I’ve been blessed with more opportunities than the ordinary college student,” she said. “What other college students can say they’ve competed in 20-something countries?”

Leading in today’s Crimson White:

Grant preps team for matchup against UGA

Thomas prepares to begin his sophomore season

Softball home opener against South Alabama cancelled for expected inclement weather