UM student athletes discuss the game of life

Elizabeth Wilks Parry
The Oxford Eagle

The University of Mississippi is well-known for many things, and one of those is athletics. Athletics bring in tons of revenue and support for the university, but sometimes student athletes are forgotten.

Student athletes are under an intense amount of pressure to perform well, not only in their sports, but academically and socially as well. Each week, they attend class, vigorously train, study and attempt to have a social life.

IMG_2635“I sacrifice myself to be here,” sophomore soccer player Courtney Carroll said. “I surrender my body, my mind and my heart for this team. In order to be successful, we must all fully buy into this experience. It is about being part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Although most athletes have balanced school and athletics for years prior to attending college, it is difficult to adjust to a new environment where athletics and academics are more challenging than high school.

“It can be [difficult to find a balance] sometimes, but our academic advisers are very helpful,” sophomore track member Kathryn McAuley said. “If I am ever struggling, they always get me a tutor or anything that will help me be successful, not only in my sport, but in the classroom as well.”

IMG_2633Football player Elliot Markuson said said the hardest part was realizing that playing a sport in college and going to class is a full time job.

“I had to sacrifice parts of my social life that others get to enjoy in college,” he said. “Freshman year was rough. I felt like I didn’t even have time to sleep at night. But once you break into the system, you get used to it.”

The average college student struggles with time management, but an athlete’s schedule is significantly more busy.

“Balancing school is very hard both in season and out of season,” Carroll said. “In season, we travel, which causes us to miss a good amount of class. In both season and out of season, the workouts wear on our bodies, and sometimes, it is hard to find energy. How I spend my time is crucial to my success.”

Though it requires a lot of discipline to be a D1 athlete, the pure love of the sport, and the life lessons learned, make all the sacrifices completely worth it.

“It teaches you so much from leadership to teamwork, mental toughness to hard work,” Markuson said. “It helps you think about others besides yourself. For example, we have a sign in our locker room that says, ‘Bleed for your Brothers.’ We are all brothers.”

McAuley said during a tough workout, he sometimes asks himself why he does it.

“At the end of the day, I could not picture myself not being part of a team,” he said.

Ole Miss athletes are always under the watchful eye of the public because they are representatives of the university. They are held to a much higher standard than the average student and are taught to always represent Ole Miss in a positive light.

“Our coaches and advisers hold us to a higher standard because we represent something much more than ourselves,” McAuley said “And if we do something that is wrong, it looks bad on the university.”

Carroll said, “We have a team curfew, have to maintain a certain GPA, and have drinking regulations.”

Athlete’s actions often influence the thoughts of prospect students.

“I have to watch what a put out on my social media, and [I am] not allowed to play any intramural sports,” Markuson said. “But the fact that [I am] playing D1 college football is a huge accomplishment that will follow me the rest of my life. I can only play for so long, and I’ve got to make it count.”

Carroll said she wants to be a good example for younger girls who want to play in college.

There is a lot of pressure being a student athlete.

“People never know how much time and effort goes into game day in the Vaught on Saturday,” Markuson said. “We work so hard. For 60 minutes of go-time, you get addicted to the routine and the game. It will always be worth it. It’s a bonding aspect that makes us all brothers for a lifetime.”

Participating in a college sport gives Ole Miss student athletes an experience like no other, and will impact the rest of their lives.

“Playing a sport in college is a wonderful experience despite how many sacrifices we have to make,” Carroll said.

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