The belief that student athletes have it all is not unheard of. With possible perks, such as increased academic priority and higher quality workout facilities, plus a wider social circle and notable popularity in the student body, many argue that the student athlete lifestyle is one to envy.
While there are absolutely benefits to playing a sport at the collegiate level, student athletes should not be placed in a box or be confined by the sport they play. The Geneseo ONE VOICE campaign honors this idea in a positive way.
A student athlete is a much more than a jock who wears workout clothes everywhere, as some may perceive. A student athlete is a human being first.
They are required to balance a well rounded life outside of their cherished sport, but many non-athletes fail to consider that complexity. Each student athlete has a story about personal adversity, and each story deserves to be heard.
In the beginning of April, the Geneseo ONE VOICE made its debut with five features written by Geneseo student athletes.
According to the Geneseo Knights Athletics website, “The goal of ONE VOICE will be to illustrate the wide-ranging backgrounds and experiences of our Geneseo student-athletes, while demonstrating how those differences make our common experience as one department, one family—ONE KNIGHT—so powerful.”
These features give a voice to the student athlete experience. Parts of this compelling series include a diverse range of perspectives, obstacles and triumphs. In her feature, “The Kindness of Strangers,” women’s basketball senior manager Davina Ward recounts her tumultuous experiences as a child in the foster care system. “Goodbye, Mom. I Love You,” written by men’s ice hockey sophomore forward Conlan Keenan, discusses his past and present pain as a result of his beloved mother’s sudden passing.
Women’s soccer junior midfielder Ashley Byrne wrote her feature, “¡Sí, Se Puede!,” about playing in several nerve-wracking rounds of the NCAA Division III Tournament while keeping her parents’, including her immigrant mother, dedicated mindsets. In “Will I Be Myself Again?” men’s lacrosse senior midfielder Andrew Cummings narrates what it is like having post-concussion syndrome after a violent car accident.
Furthermore, sophomore Baily Gorman, a member of the women’s cross-country and track and field teams, shared her story in “Out of the Woods.” In March of her senior year, Gorman was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stage II-Bulky, a type of cancer. Although Gorman is successfully in remission and enjoys an active life, her senior year was largely filled with adversity through turbulent rounds of chemotherapy.
The five first-person features shared in the ONE VOICE series positivley highlight the unique lives of student athletes. Geneseo should be commended for taking this initiative. Often, the lives student athletes lead outside the field, track or arena are overlooked.
Among college student athletes, the prevalence rate for a clinically relevant level of depressive symptoms was 23.7 percent, according to a 2016 study conducted by The British Journal of Sports Medicine. This jarring statistic means that nearly a quarter of student athletes at the collegiate level identify with symptoms of depression.
It is clear that many student athletes endure issues with their mental health. The fact that they are often minimized by the sport they play does nothing to help this frightening truth.
By shining a light on the struggles and achievements experienced by student athletes, initiatives such as the ONE VOICE campaign work to tackle distorted stereotypes. It is time the rest of colleges, regardless of NCAA division, start looking past the uniform and at the individual.