Part of the stereotypical perspectives of student-athletes are that we either don’t go to class or don’t do our homework. People perceive us as focusing more on the athlete part of our lives than the student part.
During last weekend’s road trip to Johnson City and Chattanooga to play East Tennessee State and Chattanooga, respectively, a city local asked me, “What is it like being a student-athlete, especially on the road?” This made me come to realize the perceptions that the general public have about us. He thought that we abandoned our academic responsibilities while we are on the road, assumed that we had no support system for away games and that all we did was spend our time focused on basketball. That is not the case at all. Of course, we are here on a business trip—to come home with two wins—but there’s more to our lives than just playing the game.
Since we are a mid-major school, we do not have private jets like Power Five schools do, who can get to their away games in an hour or two. For us, we travel by charter bus to our games. Spending longer than three hours on a bus can be uncomfortable for anyone, but we use this time away from home to be productive. To make up for missed class, coaches enforce mandatory study hall for at least an hour while on the bus. After that, we spend time to ourselves while the coaches may watch films with some of the players.
For this trip, we traveled to Johnson City, Tennessee, which is about three hours away from Greensboro. When we arrived at the hotel, we immediately dropped our bags off so that we could go to dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s. This is not only time for us to eat, but also time for us to bond as a team and get to know each other, since we all have busy lives at home. The night before games, we have curfews so that we can get proper rest.
On Thursday, we played at 7 p.m. So, what do we do all day? Well, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so after we ate, we watched some film of our opponent, then got ready for the shootaround at ETSU. We were only allowed one hour for shootaround, when we go through the plays that ETSU runs, review our own plays and get some shots up for the game. After lunch, we had some lay around time to mentally and physically prepare for the game (for most players, that means nap time). Then, just like at home, we arrived at the court one hour before tip-off. After the game, we had dinner delivered to us on the bus and relaxed for the rest of the day.
I am fortunate enough to have parents who come to almost every game, home and away. A couple of other parents travel to away games, too. With such little support, the team is practically all we have for away games. We strive to create our own energy during away games, since we do not have the pep band, cheerleaders, dancers, Spartan Club, G-Force and other local fans to support us.
Believe it or not, Friday was the busiest day of our road trip. We spent an hour at the hotel doing study hall to make up for missing Friday classes. We also had to fix our problems from the night before and learn the personnel and plays of our next opponent in a span of 24 hours. We then travelled another three hours to get to Chattanooga, and drove straight to their gym for practice. That practice is predominantly spent learning about our opponents and getting shots up, since we did not have shootaround for earlier games. After practice and dinner, we finally got settled into the hotel since our day was over.
On Saturday, the final game day of the trip, we spent the entire morning focusing on basketball. After breakfast, we watched some film of the other team, reviewed our scouting assignments, watch highlights of us from the previous game and stretched with foam rollers and resistance bands to get loose for the game. Just like every other game, we got on the floor one hour before tipoff and did our job. Like ETSU, there were a small number of fans and a lot of haters against us. After the game, we had a long bus ride home, which was spent, as usual, sleeping after such a busy trip.