The Emotional Cost of Being a Student Athlete

 Illustration By: Diana Parra-Garcia

Illustration By: Diana Parra-Garcia

Cyrille Njomo walks slowly from the Corsair Field to Starbucks, after practice, exhausted and weighed down by a huge backpack. Njomo is a member of the men’s soccer team at Santa Monica College, and like many other student-athletes, he sacrifices a lot in order to be part of the team. “I decided to be part of the team for the experience, my love for soccer and to be able to get a scholarship at the university," he said.

Student-athletes face multiple requirements, primarily that athletes must be enrolled full time, with a minimum of twelve units each semester. Athletes also cannot drop below a 2.0 grade-point average.

In order to keep up with both soccer and classes, Njomo can only work part-time on weekends, saying, “I would probably spend more time at work and earn more money if I could manage my schedule the way I want to.“

In order to deal with fatigue, athletes need to manage their time and energy meticulously. “I need a nap after each training, so I have a gap between my training and my next class. I would be sleeping during my class just after my training,” Njomo explained.

Terence Sejor, a Corsair football player, confirms that most student-athletes are required to make multiple sacrifices. They must not only be good athletes but also be good students, otherwise, their efforts will not result in their desired outcome: a four-year scholarship.

During the season, student-athletes have intensive training. Members of the soccer team typically face two hours of training every day during fall, winter, and summer in addition to the time dedicated to traveling around California for away games. “During the season I have to wake up every day at 5:30 a.m... because I live in Long Beach, [and] I have to be at school at eight in the morning every day," Sejor said. 

In order to juggle their busy schedules, Njomo explains that discipline is paramount to success. “I can’t go out late. I need to be in perfect condition for training - even out of season when we only train four hours a week. I keep the same schedule. Consistency is a key,” he said.

Alongside all the time they must dedicate to both sports and academics, their behavior outside of the field must also respect the ethics of their team, as it can impact their place on the team. Athletes have written rules and code of conduct they must agree to, such as no fighting, and only playing with their respective school teams. They also keep a disciplined personal lifestyle that permits them to play their sport with focus, determination, and minimal distractions.

Njomo and Sejor have different ideas for what they plan to do if they receive an athletic scholarship. After graduating, Terence Sejor wants to be a professional athlete. In contrast, Njomo plans on being an engineer. 

"Being a student-athlete gives [a] better chance to transfer to a prestigious college," Njomo said with a smile. "Good grades matter, but not only."