Athletes are a critical component of a college student body; they’re looked up to as leaders and provide a sense of pride for their school while promoting unity.

At ENC, some might assume that our student athletes are only leaders when they are in season, and vanish from the supporting student body after the clock runs out.

However, this common accusation indicates that many students might not understand the extent to which athletes are committed to their sport, even when they are in the off-season. Many students do not understand the commitment it takes to be a collegiate athlete, or the constant obligation of being a leader that comes with participating in their sport.

Envision being a student athlete as taking on another set of classes, or even a part-time job. Practices are often long and require physical and mental strength, not to mention a considerable amount of will power. Beyond these practices, athletes have to watch game film, put in travel time, and are required to workout outside of regular practice.

These obligations do not occur while we are in season. For most sports, athletes face a year-round routine, with lengthy pre-seasons and post-seasons. For example, the men’s tennis team has already had an invitational event, although their season does not officially start until spring. Some sports even participate in a summer league.

Athletes are constantly involved in the community but their efforts are not recognized because they may not be participating in many events outside of their sports-related commitments. This doesn’t mean that ENC’s student athletes are any less involved in areas of leadership on this campus, or otherwise. It just means they are dedicated to a passion that requires work, even when the spotlight is not on them.

Perhaps this is why athletes may not always be able to attend all of the student-run events, all of the theatre productions, or all of the games of their friends on other sports teams. They have to prepare for tests and papers and work on projects just like any other student. Fulfilling all of the responsibilities of being a student athlete means that there is not a lot of time left in the day. Even so, a decent amount of ENC’s student athletes maintain a presence in our community by working various jobs.

There is nothing wrong with athletes that see their primary extracurricular responsibility to the ENC community as revolving around their athletic work. For some, that is all they can do, given the variety of scheduling challenges and demanding work-loads that student athletes encounter on a daily basis.

At the same time, there are ways to make community involvement easier for student athletes. When planning events, perhaps organizations should take into consideration when games or practices are. Additionally, many fall athletes often miss out on the fairs held to inform students of the different organizations that are on campus. Later in the semester, a second fair should be held to inform athletes of these organizations that they may now have time to join.

Instead of having unrealistic expectations for student athletes participating in the ENC community, we should consider accommodating to their unique needs seriously. Re-evaluating our expectations of student athletes on campus doesn’t have to be the same as lowering our expectations; instead, we can choose to view our student athletes as leaders on this campus, even when their sports aren’t in season.