The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The Tumultuous Summers of UChicago Student-Athletes

Does the 9​-to-5 ​lifestyle adequately allow athletes to prepare for their upcoming athletic seasons?
Bella+Alfaro+and+other+members+of+the+womens+basketball+team+in+Japan.
Bella Alfaro
Bella Alfaro and other members of the women’s basketball team in Japan.

The daily routine of a student-athlete is a difficult act to balance, so one might expect that the summer takes a load off their plate. In reality, that could not be further from the truth. During the school year, UChicago students usually attend classes for a few hours a day. Varsity athletes then face a 2.5-hour practice afterward, often beginning around 3:30 p.m. Working around these obligations, athletes fit in their social lives, extracurricular activities, and academic assignments. 

At UChicago, most student athletes ostensibly enjoy a full summer off, leaving them time to find an internship or travel. Teams who begin the season in fall, such as soccer, football, and cross country, return to campus in August for their pre-season. Still, that leaves at least two months for fall athletes to enjoy their summers. 

This is one perk of DIII athletics; it allows athletes to explore career interests and passions during the summer. At many DI schools, players get about a month off to go home before spending the rest of the summer on campus, running camps, or at team workouts. 

However, the “off-season” for many athletes does not include a complete break from their sport. Summer is often used as a time to reflect on the past season and prepare for the next one. Athletes grind over the summer to come back a newer, better version of themselves for the next season.  

Balancing a 9-to-5 job and these off-season goals is arguably harder than balancing school and athletics. On the one hand, with a 9-to-5 job, you do not have any homework; however, it also requires one to spend eight consecutive hours in the office. After a long workday, it can be hard to carve out a 2.5hour block to drill and train.  

Think about the average employee that you worked with at your internship this summer. How often did they go to the gym? According to the New York Post, six out of ten office workers “barely even attempt to exercise” and only one out of ten work out frequently. 

A 9-to-5 job crunches the time you have to go to the gym into two compact windows: either before 9 a.m., which means you will have to wake up by 5:30 a.m., or after work, during the busiest time of any gym. 

Most gyms fill up from 5-8 p.m. with those who prefer to work out after work, and it is impossible for college athletes to have the space and equipment that they need as designated by their college workout packets, like squat racks.  

With the structure of school, athletes have practice during times that do not conflict with their classes. Some athletes are subject to the brutal grind of morning practices, and many athletes practice sometime in the early evening once their classes have ended.  

Wanting to continue your ‘off-season grind during a 9-to-5 while also training for at least two hours a day, as an athlete would during the school year, comes with a price. Athletes sacrifice much of their sleep or their social lives to fulfill this schedule.  

Third-year Jane Chen, a member of the women’s lacrosse team, worked in investment banking this summer at Seale and Associates. Her daily routine illustrates the type of strain that a 9-to-5  job puts on a college athlete. 

Normally, Chen would wake up around 5:20 a.m. and go to the gym to work out. She would aim to be back by 7 a.m. and leave for the office at 8 a.m, where she would work until 7 p.m. She would get home around 8 p.m., eat dinner, hang out with her dog, and get to sleep as early as she could. 

“It was hard to balance work because there was no free time. Also, waking up so early in the morning to work out was really hard. I found time to prepare for sports by sacrificing sleep,” Chen said.

Third-year Bella Alfaro plays for the women’s basketball team and spent this past summer as a consulting intern at Boston Consulting Group’s Atlanta office.  

Alfaro’s day looked similar to Chen’s. She would wake up at around 6:30 a.m. and go to the gym to lift weights or run. She would then work from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., heading straight from work to the gym or a court to play pick-up basketball or get more shots up on her own. She would then get home around 10 p.m., get ready for bed, and oftentimes do some more work before going to sleep. 

“Finding time to train was definitely more difficult for me during the summer than it was during the school year,” Alfaro said. She added that once she was able to develop a consistent routine, things got a lot easier. Then, there were only a few days where she had so much office work that she did not have time to work out properly.   

Jack Goldstein, a third-year on the baseball team, agreed that keeping up athletic training while working a 9-to-5 job is tough. He said that working for eight hours rather than having class for three hours crunched his schedule. 

Over the summer, Goldstein worked for a sports memorabilia company doing consumer behavior analysis. He enjoyed the work but agreed that dealing with the 9-to-5 lifestyle wasn’t easy. His dedication to baseball and training comes with a lot of different and time consuming demands like physical therapy, the weight room, and baseball-specific training sessions.  

Michael Nelson, a second-year javelin thrower on the track and field team, spent the summer working at a microbiology lab at Washington University in St. Louis. He worked under a postdoctoral fellow, doing a mixture of wet lab (such as growing bacteria and running tests) and dry lab (such as coding and data analysis) activities.  

His opinion on how training fit in with work was slightly different from that of previous athletes. He said he felt he had more time during the summer to work out in comparison to the school year. “Once I finished work, I had no extra assignments or homework to do,” Nelson said.  

However, his training in the off season wasn’t without challenges. “Motivation was the harder part,” he said. “I was able to follow our lifting plan closely, which is the primary focus of our off season training, but I rarely found the effort to throw in addition to the workout.” 

In addition to his team-mandated workout plan, Nelson trained for and ran a half-marathon.  

Nelson feels confident about the work he put in over this off-season. He said what he is most looking forward to this season is “making some big improvements with some of the extra strength I’ve gained this summer.” Even though the workload of a 9-to-5 alongside the commitment of college sports is grueling, it can be possible to balance it all and still have time left over for travel.  

 Alfaro was able to find some time to travel over the summer. Prior to her internship, she went to Chile with her mom and sister. She and two teammates also traveled to Japan to stay with another member of the basketball team.  

In both Chile and Japan, Alfaro had the opportunity to play organized basketball. In Chile, she played with a university team. In Japan, Alfaro and her teammates played with a semi-pro team.  

“[This season], I am looking forward to making more great memories with my teammates and winning games,” Alfaro said. “My schedule gets pretty frantic to balance with practice and lift[ing], but it’s nice to have a schedule with other people again, and I’m super hyped for the season.”

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Blair Penn, Senior Sports Reporter
Blair Penn is a third-year in the college from Washington DC. Blair enjoys writing about women’s sports teams and the lifestyle of student athletes at UChicago. Outside of the Maroon, Blair is a member of the varsity track and field team, where she throws discus and hammer. Second to sports, food is Blair’s favorite thing and she enjoys writing about experimental recipes and the latest food fads in UChicago’s Bite magazine. She is also the president of Kehillah, an Israeli cultural RSO that she founded during her first year.
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