The Chronicle

The balancing act of a student-athlete

Me here to tell students that us jocks ain't dumb....

OK, so let's be a little realistic here. I think it's fair to say that there isn't any athlete at Duke who would ever talk or especially write that way. It seems, however, that some students at the University have basically regarded athletes in this way.

So what is the big deal about varsity athletes choosing classes before the regular Duke community? From the viewpoint of some bitter individuals, we athletes should only be getting "certificates" for being in our sports at Duke because of our lack of academic credentials, so are we really taking seats away from the rest of the Duke population? Seems to me that since we are only here for our athletic skill, we would not be likely to choose the classes that are "for smart people only," so there isn't anything to really worry about. However, this is not the case. The reason people do not like the idea of letting athletes register early is because we do take similar classes as the rest of the student body and wish to earn a Duke degree.

Many athletes who wish to come to Duke cannot get into the school because their academic status does not meet Duke's requirements. In fact, I am aware of many athletes here who were valedictorians in their high school and/or achieved SAT scores of 1,500 or greater. Sorry, to those who believe in the existence of the stereotypical "dumb jock." Athletes are smarter than you think. Some athletes probably have higher GPAs than some regular Duke students. Another little surprise is that some of us athletes are striving to become doctors or lawyers or in some other way wish to continue our education after Duke. Go figure, eh?

The reason for letting athletes register early is simple: While everyone is sitting in their rooms, studying for whichever special classes they are involved with, athletes are at practice, giving as many as three to five hours a day six days a week (plus an hour or two each day for therapy if they're injured). These practices consist of tiring work. After practice we come back to our rooms and begin our studies, just in order to keep up with the demands of Duke. And we have to finish our work fast enough so that we can get a decent night of sleep-only to wake up next morning and start the cycle all over again. Not only that, but while students are enjoying a few nights on the town during the week or on the weekends and sleep until the early (or late) afternoon hours, athletes are away at tournaments, games, races or Saturday morning practice.

Let me not forget to address those who complain that athletes receive "housing privileges." It is true that some teams get to have preferential housing, but this is only because some athletes have to move in a month early. Some athletes are here training everyday in the blistering North Carolina August weather, while nonathletes sit and relax in their August air conditioning. I personally am not in a sport that receives these so-called "privileges" and many of my teammates and friends on other teams do not have these privileges either. There are plenty of athletes in Edens Quadrangle and Trent Dormitory if you go looking for them.

Also, not all athletes are on scholarship and if they are, many of them are not receiving a full ride. So what does this mean? Well, it means that the athletes here are paying just as much as the rest of the Duke population to study at this school, and without early class registration, athletes are in the worst-case scenario. I'd like to see students who are not on varsity teams organize a decent schedule when they can only allot class time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., or try fitting in all of their classes before 1 p.m., as some athletes must do. If anyone can do that, then they have every right to argue about this class registration issue.

I hope this article has convinced students that athletes should receive early class registration, but some students are probably still are not satisfied, because nonvarsity students need to work around jobs while they are at school. What's the difference? Athletes cannot change their training schedules; most students can schedule classes around their work schedules. Also, some athletes have to maintain a job to pay for their schooling, on top of succeeding on a varsity team and doing well in their studies. So no matter how much a regular Duke student does for extra activities, athletes will always have an extra time constraint. People need to realize how much time is involved in a varsity sport during university life.

I'm not trying to attack the population of Duke students who are not athletes because there are some days that I, as well as other athletes, wish to be a regular Duke student. Being on a varsity team does not allow us to do some things that others can do including sleeping in, working as much on an assignment as we'd like, working for extra spending money, studying abroad, etc. It is discouraging that some students rush to judgment and fail to recognize that athletes raise Duke's profile and standing by demonstrating top-notch athletics just as much as all non-athletes (and many athletes) promote Duke through their continued academic excellence.

Don't put us down until you understand what it is like to be in our shoes.

Crystal Wakulich is a Trinity sophomore and member of the womens' rowing team.