On tours, I often get the question of how I manage to balance the strenuous academics of Swarthmore College as well as a sport.
“Are you doing ok?” or “Are you getting enough sleep?” or “What about your grades during the sports season, right?”
Frankly, I’m humbled that people think just balancing one sport and a variety of other extracurricular activities is a lot. Meanwhile, I know of Swarthmore students who are balancing two and three sports. I want to clarify that everyone here is balancing a lot. I am far from “busy” as opposed to a lot of my stunning, brilliant, classmates. I cannot repeat this enough. Some of my friends are doing unbelievable things. Just to name a few: A classmate Liam matched his own school record in the 200-yard backstroke at the 2015 NCAA Division III Championships at the CISD Natatorium. It was the last of three events he competed in this weekend. He tied for 18th place nationally. Karl Barkley ’15, a senior basketball player, this past year was nominated for the 2015 Allstate NABC and WBCA Good Works Teams, as announced by the national organizations in December. He was one of only three NCAA Division III student-athletes in the country to receive the honor. This means went to the NCAA Final Four and casually had dinner with Dick Vitale. Osazenoriuwa Ebose ’15 earned All-America honors by placing seventh in shot put at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships on Saturday, May 23. Again, just naming a few.
However, just speaking to my experience, generally, it is something that I do not struggle with. A great deal of credit goes to my coaches and teammates because they know what it is like to be a student athlete. Obviously, Swarthmore is an extremely academic place. All the coaches know that and understand that if a practice needs to be skipped to study for a midterm, that is acceptable. I have even almost showed up late to an official match because a lab ran past four (my coach was much less happy about this one). I should clarify. I play on the Men’s Varsity Tennis Team here at Swarthmore College. I am extremely proud and elated to be able to write that sentence (and not be lying through my teeth).
Part of the reason that I don’t feel like it is a constant struggle to balance academics, tennis, and extracurriculars is because it never feels like a burden. And there’s no concealing the fact that people here work extremely hard. People stay up late to finish papers and problem sets. We stress about tests and midterms as is the norm. But to me personally, and not to extrapolate but how I think most of my classmates and peers feel, these are things that we do because we are passionate about the material. When I applied, I knew that Swarthmore was rigorous. And I had people tell me that you work really hard here and straight A’s were a thing of the distant past once you got in. I was fine with it. I like to be challenged and work hard. I am passionate about the things I’m doing here. Moreover, I can generally sense this passion from my classmates, who are some of the smartest, down to earth, interesting, and generally nice people I’ve met, as well.
So talking specifically about my experience with athletics here at the Division III level. Talking about the tennis team here at Swarthmore. My family away from my immediate blood line. As a freshmen, my teammates took me in. Made sure that I was doing alright, in regards to both academics and social life. We travelled to California and played on tennis courts with a view of the ocean my first year. We then stepped up the travel plans and went to Ohio instead of California (home state!!). I’ve spent many late nights finishing tight matches or cocking my neck in odd angles as I fall asleep in the van. Maybe in the moment, I could not appreciate it, but I look back and I love these memories. Especially this year, as a sophomore with a young team around me – we only graduated one senior – and a bright future, my phone rapidly filled with photos and text messages from my on campus family. I guess in general, I could list out a lot of the positives. And again, I’m sure that this is not true at all schools and for all people, but this is written from my perspective and my experiences at Swarthmore College playing for the tennis team.
For me, being a DIII athlete means that your coaches understand that academics are a priority while you are at college. It means that you are going to have a different collegiate career. It also means that you are not going to get any athletic scholarship, which can be a factor. It means you might become part of something bigger than yourself, stretching out beyond the team to alumni. Legitimately, I have a group iMessage with three people who were seniors on the team when I was a freshman, and then two other people who I never even went to school with. I have never even met one of the alumni, but we still iMessage and joke around. But most importantly? You are going to be bonded to a group of your peers and fellow students in a sense that is different from anything else you will experience. And with this comes unforgettable memories and relationships. This is all at a school where the community is naturally close and pushed together.
So for me, that’s the biggest thing. Having this second family.