USA Triathlon News Blogs Championships Blog Student and Athlete

Student and Athlete

By Brad Shine | April 21, 2015, 12 a.m. (ET)

It is difficult being an athlete. But it is really challenging being an athlete and a student.

I want to try and express what it is like being a collegiate club athlete, because it looks a lot different than what ESPN and today’s society makes it seem.

I don’t have the build whatsoever of a football player, except maybe that of the ball. I’m pretty standard height, so there is no hope of me slam dunking and becoming a basketball star. When I was a child, I never played on a little league team (I actually have never played a game of baseball till this day).  I’m not an extremely fast runner, so there is no way I will be able to run track or cross country.

I graduate in 2016, and with that being said, I will never be an NCAA athlete.

texas techSometimes I do get mixed up with being on the cross country team, and I think that’s cool, because hey, apparently I look fast. Well, I either look fast, or I look like a runner with my headband, running shorts and free shirts received from races. Thanks for thinking of me as an NCAA athlete!

But here is thing. I’m not.

I am a collegiate triathlete.

My name doesn’t appear on a roster featured on the university’s athletics page. No one will wear my name on a jersey. No scholarships. No university funding. I have to figure out my own schedule. I don’t get tutors to help me individually. My classes have large workloads and somewhere during the day, I attempt to study. I have a job and I’m in other school activities. I go to practice every day and try to remember to sleep and eat. We have races throughout the year on the weekends. And, somewhere in between, I am supposed to have a social life. YIKES.

Don’t get me wrong. Being an NCAA athlete would be awesome. There is a lot of work involved and I think it would be an incredible experience. Work, dedication, community, and even the possibility of glory.

Recently though, I am content taking pride in being “just” triathletes.

Especially these past couple of weeks as we have been training hard. But before talking about what training looks like in preparation for Clemson, I wanted to express the difficulties of not just being an athlete, but being a student as well.

Derek Jeter once said, “There may be people that have more talent, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you.”

For Nationals, I have three tests to reschedule, one essay to finish before I leave, countless homework assignments, and other school “stuff.” Truth be told, I’m not bringing any homework or study materials with me, and I’m going to try and not think of any of it for the duration of the trip.

I work hard on the course during the race. I focus hard in the classroom for school. But I cannot see how they possibly intertwine at the exact same time. Each has its own separate time and place, taking priority at different times. I’m not going to do, prepare or think about triathlon in class, and I’m not going to do, prepare or think about class in a triathlon.

I’m not extremely talented in either, but I can work the hardest I can in both.

So where am I going with this?

If it’s not about glory, or jerseys, or scholarships, then what is it? What are we getting out of life by being student athletes?

If you read my last blog post, I talked a lot about community, and I would say that is an important aspect.

But think of how many other lessons, skills, opportunities and mistakes that we are learning right now as student athletes, that other students won’t get to learn years from now, if ever.

Dedication. Commitment. Perseverance. Time management. Community. Service. Encouragement. Helpfulness.

My athletic skills, although impressive, are nothing compared to these skills that I will get to take into the real world. 

To me, that sounds like it just might be worth working harder than the rest.

Learn more about Brad’s Road to Clemson in his first post for the USA Triathlon Championships Blog.