The following column appeared on Tuesday, February 07, 2012 in The Chronicle, the daily student newspaper. It is being republished with permission.
Approximately 10 percent of the student population at Duke is misunderstood.
They are foreign, not necessarily in origin, but in lifestyle. They are often in the spotlight, sometimes even on a national scale. But no matter how pervasive the stereotype of the simple-minded jock is, these mythical beings are Duke student-athletes.
I myself am a part of the aforementioned group. Although my field hockey teammates and I may not be as easily recognizable as some of our taller and bulkier fellow athletes, I can assure you that we possess all the same allegiances to our University.
It's easy to write off athletes on any college campus, especially in the classroom. Partially because we miss class frequently, partially because sometimes our bodies can't handle wearing anything more stunning than sweats and a pair of Nikes to class. We can, however, assure you that we are held to the same level of academic accountability as the rest of the student body. At Duke, we inherently believe and support the idea that our role as a student-athlete is just that: We have two full-time jobs. In fact, Duke Athletics prides itself on the academic success of the students who happen to have the nation's highest shooting percentage or are three-time members of the all-ACC squad.
At the risk of seeming presumptuous, I would argue that the stereotypical student-athlete at many colleges enrolls in classes with flowery names and descriptions, merely to fulfill their graduation requirements and remain eligible to compete. At Duke, however, this is far from the standard. Many teams have mandatory study hall hours in the Krzyzewski Center-that mysterious brick building next to Cameron Indoor Stadium. In between a numbing ice bath and a 2:50 p.m. class, we're often grabbing a coffee from Alpine to hopefully jumpstart our minds after another week of 6:30 a.m. wake-ups. Forget the possibility of the quintessential college "all-nighter" during our competitive season-there's nothing worse than morning conditioning on a mere 30 minutes of sleep.
Regardless of which team our Nike apparel endorses, we sometimes have to will ourselves up a flight of stairs-after a long practice, this simple task feels like another back squat. Our bodies are our weapons, and we must keep them intact. We eat more carbs, we drink less beer. After a night spent sniffling, sneezing and coughing, we can't send a short-term illness form to our coaches. If we've got a pulse, we're well enough to play.
Our travel time doesn't translate into a free pass on papers, problem sets and presentations. Our absences may be excused, but the homework and tests aren't. The research papers and memos hang over our heads, disappearing briefly at the opening whistle, but undeniably and unfortunately reappearing by the time we reload the bus to roll back to Durham.
Unfortunately, bus rides are far more conducive to spilt Gatorade, naps induced by highway hypnosis and the occasional awfully chorused, team-wide sing-a-long, than the possibility of finding limits and solving equations. For my team, at least, it's not uncommon to see 10 or 12 girls, decked out in Duke apparel, diligently working in a Hilton hotel lobby or the business office of a Marriot.
As we lug our emblazoned backpacks from the training room to the locker room to class and back to practice, the word that bounces off the walls of our caffeine-drenched minds is the same as the primary preoccupation of any Duke student: work. In order to get here, we've all spent countless hours honing our specific talent, whether it be calculus, community service or cross country. As student-athletes, our work stretches beyond the classroom and outside the walls of Perkins.
We are non-profit employees of the University. We work grueling hours. Our paycheck comes in the form of post-game meals, protein shakes and points on the scoreboard. We work for the athletics department and our coaches. We work for our families, but more than anything, we work for the students and faculty. We work for the neuroscience department, the engineering school, the housekeeping branch.
This column was brought to you from a dimly lit and strangely quiet locker room-a room that, when filled with my teammates, trainers and coaching staff, contains just as much creative thinking and strategy as any laboratory on campus. I'm at work.
We get to work before Brodie Gym opens, before the C-1 starts its daily route. Sometimes we work twice a day. The work is sometimes painful, and always strenuous, but the reward of working overtime-in the NCAA tournament-is unparalleled. We work to represent this University in the most effective, glorious and pompous fashion our skills can manage. We play for Duke, we work for Duke.
And we love our job.
Ashley Camano is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs every other Tuesday.