Balancing Act: The Art of Having a Life and Playing a Division I Sport

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Scott Cullin, student-athlete for St. Joe's University, courtesy of sjuhawks.com
Scott Cullin, student-athlete for St. Joe's University, courtesy of sjuhawks.com
Scott Cullinan, student-athlete for St. Joe's University, courtesy of sjuhawks.com

For Scott Cullinan, a Division I lacrosse player at St. Josephs University in Philadelphia, balancing the grueling schedule of a DI athlete and maintaining solid grades can be very time consuming.  The art of balancing athletics and academia can be a mutually accepted practice in many Division I players.

The questions that need to be asked can put into perspective the rigidity of a student-athlete’s lifestyle. Governed by the money-generating NCAA, it remains a respective institution across the nation in which it holds power. More recently its rules and regulations have been questioned, broken, and bent. But is it because of these rules that allow our college sporting scene to thrive and produce a phenomenal final product? Worthy of balancing a 5 billion dollar budget per year, creating jobs and a rich opportunity for student athletes to become outstanding citizens, does it need change?

The amount of time spent honing ones skill set on and off the field can be substantial, but Cullinan, a 2-year starter for the Hawks said, “Overall I feel as though we have enough free time on the weekends to wind down and relax, but during the week not so much.” When money comes into the question, and holding a job becomes literally unmanageable, Cullinan said “I would have no time for a job. We practice about 15-17 hours per week, not including time spent in the weight room.  Academically speaking, I only study for about 8- 10 hours per week.”With these figures both increasing during the spring season in which the season is played, the hours tend to add up and become a number worthy of being labeled a full-time job. 15-17 hours for practice, 6-8 hours for studying(on a lite week), and 15 hours per week for classes, a rough estimate on a student-athletes average week would be about 38 hours per week focused mainly on Lacrosse and some school work. With these numbers tending to increase in bigger programs like DI football and basketball, should the NCAA allow for more studying and free time, and allow for less practice and rigor?

John Lawless, a member of Bloomsburg Men’s Lacrosse Club team, enjoys the easy-go nature of the National Collegiate Lacrosse League and its restrictions on its players.  “I can take off a night or two a week from practice to concentrate on my studies. My performance may go down, but my grades go up. The coaching staff doesn’t get mad when I’m not there. They know grades come first, and lacrosse comes second,” Lawless said.

More and more students are choosing club sports as an alternative to the harsh lifestyle that comes with playing under the NCAA rules and regulations. A certain GPA is needed while mandatory practices are an everyday occurrence. These circumstances add to the severity of the NCAA structure.

Lawless, who is also an employee on Bloomsburg’s campus as a part time call center clerk said, “It gives me a small window to hold this part-time job and work a few hours a week. The job is perfect for my situation; a couple extra bucks won’t hurt being in my pocket”

Lawless and Cullinan both have fun playing in their respective organization of the NCAA and the NCLL. At the same time, problematic scheduling and other bumps in the road that come along with the student/athlete title don’t seem to defer both students from participating in the sport they love. Time consuming personnel meetings, daily practices, hardwork off the field and sweat are parts of the game, but these rigorous weeks and scheduling conflicts seem to produce some fine and honest citizen-athletes.

The NCAA may need a reformation of rules and regulations in the future, but in order to maintain the top-shelf final product, this unfair and harsh lifestyle may need to continue to keep all the fans in the nation happy while watching from home.

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