A Snapshot of the Routines of UChicago Student-Athletes

The daily life of a student-athlete is a hectic and fascinating one.

By Blair Penn, Senior Sports Reporter

While UChicago may not be known for its athletic prowess, the school is home to a lively community of serious, dedicated, and hard-working athletes. Being a college athlete, even at the DIII level, is no easy feat, and requires a routine unlike those of regular students.

The routine of any student studying at this university is a high-pressure one—filled with intense classes, office hours, job interviews, clubs, social events, and lots of studying. Athletes have to balance all of this with the requirements that come with being on a team: traveling, missing classes, attending practices, team events, and more.

Tory Piuze, a second-year catcher on the softball team who also serves on the executive board of the Women’s Athletic Association, said her routine differs from that of a regular student in that she has “scheduled practices, team lifts, team bonding, [and] fundraising,” which make “time to study more structured, and free time a lot more scarce.”

Arrish Singh Bhandal, a second-year economics major, said that “routines as student athletes differ a lot from those of regular students because of the sheer time commitment we have towards our sports. At least for basketball, I have to get to the gym an hour early to warm up, stretch, get taped… then go through a two-hour practice, then stay for another hour after for ice, treatment, [and ] shower.” Bhandal added that all of this usually takes four hours in total, excluding weight training workouts and mandatory team activities.

A typical day in-season for Sophia North, a third-year computer science major and data science minor on the women’s basketball team, starts at 7 a.m. with a 30-minute jump rope workout in her room; she then eats overnight oats for breakfast and does some homework before her 8:30 a.m. class. After her afternoon classes, she normally goes to Ratner to lift for an hour, then eats lunch and does more homework. Normally, she practices with the team from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.; she arrives at Ratner around 4 p.m. to prepare for practice. It is not unusual for athletes to arrive before the official start time of their practice to change into their uniforms, hang out with teammates in the locker room, go to the training room, or have more time warming up. After practice, she eats dinner with her teammates and does her last bit of schoolwork, making sure she is in bed around 10:30.

Jack Leuker, a second-year on the men’s soccer team who started 21 out of 23 games during his first year, is also an early riser. Leuker’s day starts at 8 a.m.; he tries to eat breakfast by 8:45 a.m. In between his classes, he goes to the Regenstein Library to get some homework done. After his classes end, he has a bit of time to relax before his evening practice, which is from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The rest of his night consists of finishing up schoolwork, seeing friends, or picking up the night shift working the Ratner front desk from 9:30 p.m. to 11:15 p.m.

In season, weekends can be an especially hectic time for athletes. The women’s basketball team, for example, plays games almost every Friday and Sunday. When this is the case, the team leaves for away matches on Thursday mornings and spends Saturdays traveling to their second location. Students on the basketball team will then miss their classes on Thursdays and Fridays.

The University Athletic Association conference is extremely spread out geographically; members include New York University, Washington University in St. Louis, Emory, and Carnegie Mellon. The team normally gets back from its away games at midnight on Sunday. On weekends when the team does not travel, it plays two games at home, usually on Friday and Sunday. Saturdays are spent preparing for the Sunday game. During the week leading up to its games, the team practices for two hours every day except Mondays.

Although the lifestyle of early mornings, late nights, mandatory practices, and hard workouts isn’t easy, student-athletes said they find it rewarding. Leuker says he enjoys being a student athlete “100 percent.” “Soccer has been a huge passion of mine for as long as I can remember, so the chance to play collegiate soccer at a school like UChicago was something that I couldn’t turn down,” he said. Bella Alfaro, a second-year point guard on the women’s basketball team, shared a similar sentiment: “I feel really lucky that I am able to still be playing in college…I always tell myself that there’s a lot of people that would love to be in my position, and that helps me a lot when I’m struggling.”

While regular students may be overwhelmed at the thought of a routine of this stature just to continue playing a DIII sport, many members of the athletic community at UChicago appreciate the regimented structure college athletics provides. “I love the structure of being a student athlete,” Piuze said. “Without the routine of lifts and practice in my day, I think I would be much more likely to procrastinate studying and schoolwork.”

At the DI sporting level, one often signs a contract in order to receive a free housing, dining, textbooks, and education in exchange for playing on the team. The DIII level does not work this way—it is against the rules to sign any type of contract, and no scholarships are given solely on athletic merit. This means that at UChicago, a DIII-level school, quitting a sport will in no way affect your financial situation. Any athlete who competes here can leave their sport at any time while still enjoying all that UChicago has to offer.

There are many perks to being a student athlete. Alfaro said she is a big fan of the varsity locker room in Ratner that is open only to athletes. It is complete with showers and individual lockers that athletes can personalize and use to store their belongings. Alfaro prefers the varsity locker room showers because “the water pressure in the dorms is just not it.” Jeremy Lee, a second-year pole vaulter on the track and field team, appreciates the “free stuff” athletes receive; this can include gray sweatsuits, sneakers, and lots of other UChicago-branded Adidas swag. Another perk Piuze mentioned are the resources athletes have for connections and post-grad opportunities. For example, the Women’s Athletic Association at UChicago hosts an event called Career Networking Night, organized to help current female student-athletes build connections with successful alumni who were also student-athletes.

There are other perks to being a student athlete besides free gear, nice locker rooms, and alumni networks. Danny Mendoza, a second-year forward on the men’s soccer team, said “the most important perks come in the form of the values you learn as you navigate the life of a student athlete. From time management to respect towards your teammates and classmates to building determination and resilience in your endeavors, being a student-athlete here has given me the opportunity to grow tremendously.”