Each week, Michigan track team member Stann Waithe deals with classes, daily practice and six hours of team-appointed study hall. Outside of athletics and studying, he does not have much time left for socializing.
“So far the only people I’ve hung out with are teammates. You hope to meet people in classes but so far the only people I know are from track,” said Waithe, an LSA freshman.
The pressures of Division I athletics combined with academics often leave athletes, especially freshmen, distanced from their peers.
Hockey team member Mike Brown and his teammate Jason Dest both say they feel the differences between student-athletes and non-varsity-athletes are natural.
“It’s our life, we came here to play hockey and go to class,” Brown said.
“I’d rather be playing hockey and have a busy schedule then just sit around all day,” Dest added.
Both Dest and Brown highlighted the help their coaches have given to the players.
“Our coaches care about us, they gave us a (written) guide to help us with academics and stuff,” Brown said.
Engineering senior and West Quad resident advisor Neal Moyer sees loaded schedules as the main rift between student-athletes and other students.
“The athletes on my hall are busy. Their schedule is tough. When they are around they are great, cracking jokes and having fun with all the guys. But they are almost never here,” Moyer said.
Women’s gymnastics Coach Beverly Plocki said she feels that student-athletes have an advantage in terms of integration into the University community because when they join a team, they have an instant circle of friends.
“As soon as my girls walk on campus, they have a family, a community. We have to help them adjust to everything. We have facilities and people willing to help them. We can deal with everything from test anxiety to homesickness,” Plocki said.
Plocki said another goal in helping athletes is making them self-reliant.
“The demands we put on them are high. From practice to study hall, we are designed to make them good time managers,” she added.
Furthering the separation between athletes and other students are mandatory study-hall hours that differ from team to team.
Plocki said her athletes spend six hours a week study hall. Like the gymnastics team, Waithe said he and his fellow track team members also spend six hours a week in study hall while Dest said the hockey team requires eight hours a week.
“Even with these demands, our girls are outgoing enough to make friends in classes and whatnot,” Plocki said.
Plocki said she has not dealt with severe cases of athletes feeling isolated. “I can read my girls. I’ve had some girls who’ve had trouble adjusting but they know my door is always open,” Plocki added.
Waithe said he experienced bouts of isolation but said he feels optimistic.
“I get lonely sometimes, you know? I’m always at practice or in my dorm and I don’t know that many people. I can get lonely – but you know it’s early, I know it’ll get better,” Waithe said.
LSA freshman and track athlete Jason Stewart said being an athlete has its share of difficulties.
“I don’t get that isolated but you do have to take advantage of the things around you or else you’ll probably get left alone. We’re constantly doing things so it’s hard to meet people and you just end up seeing the same people everyday,” Stewart said.
“But, at the end of the day it’s a rewarding life,” he added.