Interview with Justin Baker, a JMU redshirt football player
Written by Ashley O’Neill
Edited by Naadira Moyston and Sean McCarthy
Everyone knows the college transition is tough on all incoming freshmen, with the loads of work doubling compared to high school, and feeling like you have no time to do anything other than homework, studying, and of course catching up on sleep. However, the thing that most people don’t think about is how much harder it must be for the incoming college athletes who have the same amount of work to get done, on top of the multiple practices, lifting and games they have each week. Ive always wondered what it was like for athletes in college. I played sports in high school and had an easy time juggling my schoolwork with practices and games, but I couldn’t imagine having to wake up at 5am every morning to lift weights, and then having practice later in the day right after class! Between my studying, schoolwork, group meetings and classes I feel like I hardly ever have time to myself to do something other than sleep. Living in a dorm with all of the freshmen football players made me start thinking about how they manage all the things that have to do day to day. I decided to interview Justin Baker, a friend I knew from high school who committed to James Madison University for football as a freshman. I wanted to hear his first hand point of view about how different and time consuming playing a sport in college was compared to high school. Justin is a redshirt freshman, so he doesn’t have it as hectic as the other players, however it still is a large load to carry as a freshman just coming out of high school. Watch the interview to learn more about what the day in the life of a college student-athlete is really like.
I started the interview off by asking Justin more about what being a redshirt was. To my surprise, a redshirt actually doesn’t have as much to do as the regular players on the team for their first year, because they don’t have as many practices during the week. However, even though they don’t have as many practices, they still have a lot to do in a single day along with their schoolwork considering they take the same classes that all other freshmen take. According to an article on theaviso.org, which is a student news publication at Malone University in Ohio, redshirt athletes live just as the regular college athletes do. A quote in the article says, “Instead of having free time to relax and hang out with friends, student-athletes are usually spending any given time catching up on missed school work and finding time to fit everything into their tight, compacted schedule.” I think Justin would agree 100% with that statement seeing as how he said that he uses any free time to work on his schoolwork. A college cross country runner from Malone University, Ryan Roush, states in the article something similar to what Justin had to say, that he has had to learn how to manage his time in a different style than in high school.
When Justin told me about his normal daily schedule, it really shocked me because I couldn’t imagine waking up at 5 in the morning to go lift, finishing my classes before 11 or 12, and still having to go to practice and study hours. I wondered if all of this strenuous extra work that he had to do was actually worth it if he couldn’t even play in games. In an article by James Williams, a student sports writer from Cerritos College, on talonmarks.com, it says that most college athletes are not big fans of redshirting their first year unless they know it will be beneficial. Justin is confident that everything will be worth it in the end when he gets his time to shine on the field in his future years, which is good because he will get 4 solid seasons of playing time, and according to the article, if an athlete decides not to redshirt their freshmen year, they are not guaranteed a whole lot of playing time.
It occurred to me that these college student-athletes have worked hard their whole lives to get to this point, and getting through college schoolwork and practices is all just a small part of what they will look back on when they think of the experience they’ve had while playing a college sport. As Justin said, the struggles of being a student-athlete all end up being worth it in the end. So while all of us non student-athletes are complaining about having so much studying and work to get done, and meetings to attend with just not enough time to do all of it, remember that there are hardworking athletes here at JMU who have all that to do, plus a lot more.
Oprean, Tina, Pioneer Student-Athletes Juggle Hectic Lives, The Aviso AVW, 2012
Williams, James, Redshirting First Year May Be Worth Wait For Some , Talon Marks, 2011
TribeAthletics, Tribe Football 2012- Quick Highlights vs. JMU, YouTube, 2012
image credit: sites.jmu.edu