Dear Athlete: How our culture needs to improve

Dear Athlete,

I play a sport. Last season I didn’t play (it’s a long story, ask me about it), but this coming season I’m playing again. You compete at a collegiate level too and therefore have likely spent a good chunk of your short life playing your sport(s). With that being said, the sport you play is probably a part of your identity. You also go to Macalester. I don’t know why you chose Mac; the “why” doesn’t really matter. The fact of the matter is, you’re here.

As a student-athlete at Mac, it probably didn’t take you long to hear about the non-athlete/athlete divide. Lots of people talk about it, no one really defines it and (kinda like dark matter) though we don’t know how, it sorta explains why lots of things happen at Macalester. Whether you believe in the divide or not, the facts are these:

This is a private, Division III school. As athletes, none of us get money, many of us get injuries and we all get to be part of team. We all have to study something, and sometimes we stay in hotels, but mainly that’s because we drove 10 hours across the rural Midwest to compete in something. If we’re lucky, after four years we will have made good friends, played the sport(s) we love, and have most of our body parts intact.

Athlete culture is real. Whether you’re an athletic prodigy, or you often warm the bench like me, you are a part of a team and that shows. Lots of teams sit together in Café Mac, enjoy social events together and live together. But so do groups of friends who don’t play collegiate sports. When you spend a minimum of 18 hours per week with the same group of people, it is not unusual for them to become a significant part of your life. Athletes often date other athletes. Humans often date other humans with whom they have things in common. Athlete culture is real and it can make sense.

Collectively, as student-athletes, we can do better.

Now before you get your jersey in a bunch, let me explain that last one. Unless you are a many-sport athlete (in which case, hats off to you, don’t hurt yourself), for every season, there is an off-season. Does the off-season have its own set of commitments, lifts, spring practices? Yeah of course. Move on. The point is, with even just a little bit of time management, you can be more than just a student and an athlete at Mac. And many of us are.

But student-athlete, if you are tired of being defined only by the sport(s) you play, then strive to be more than that. Think of it as having to run sprints because someone else was late to practice. It’s not your fault, but the athlete/non-athlete divide exists and people will judge you for it. So, you just have to work a little harder to prove them wrong.

If you only came to Mac to play sports, then you could have saved a lot of time, money and energy going somewhere else. This is a pretty cool place, and not just because the LC is nice, so use your tuition money wisely and do something. Some athletes do, and if you don’t, now is a good time to start. Attend an artistic event, create art, join a club, start a club, connect with different people, figure out what the IGC does, join a movement, start a movement, volunteer, host a Nüdl, vote in MCSG elections, run in an MCSG election, get involved with Team IMPACT, get an internship, listen to a guest lecture, organize a guest speaker. Strive to be more than you currently are, on and off the field.

A Fellow Athlete