If you have ever watched any trending Netflix shows about American college life it may not be new to you how big sports can be in a person’s college life. In these shows, there is always a football player who never shows up to class and never studies for his exams. Then there’s that kid on the basketball team who dates all the blond girls from the same sorority. And there’s a whole slew of other stereotypical depictions of student athletes. In short, there is always this stereotype of student athletes that they are popular, do not study and are only friends with others on their team.
Student athletes at Brandeis also have a high presence on campus. If you walk into Gosman on a Friday afternoon, you can always spot members of the baseball team going in and out of the varsity weight room. During weekday dinner time, you will see at least one sports team gathering around a long table at Sherman, enjoying their team bonding time after practice. Given the small student population at Brandeis, the matching hoodies and backpacks student athletes have with their sports and names on sometimes do make them stand out from the rest of the student body.
However, the athletic atmosphere at Brandeis is different from what the trending TV shows are depicting overall. Brandeis is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III and all 19 sports at the university compete through the University Athletic Association (UAA).
Even though Division III sports often do not get as much attention in comparison to Division I or II, Brandeis athletics has done a good job cultivating the team atmosphere and making each sports team as welcoming as possible to potential athletes. Rebecca Grafstein ’26 on the women’s tennis team explained why she chose Brandeis: “I really enjoyed my coach and the team while I was on my official visit. I spent quite a few days with them and I really felt the team culture and the team dynamic to be a healthy fit for me.” Grafstein very much appreciated the support system of the tennis team as she mentioned that the best thing about being a student athlete is “having people that are just always rooting for you.” As a first-year student, she is enjoying what the team has offered her so far.
Zachary Reynolds ’23, a thrower on the men’s Track and Field team, gave out a similar reason on why he chose to come to Brandeis. “I was convinced when I did a recruiting trip my senior year of high school. I came here, did an overnight stay and I really liked the people on the team, like it was a good community,” he added, “the interesting thing about track is that how well you do is pretty individual as opposed to a team sport. Our track team’s pretty good, but that’s not like why I came here. I came here because I wanted the community on the team… I felt like it was a good community that I could train hard in motivating myself to train hard.”
A common thing that student athletes are all stressed about is having a packed schedule on a daily basis while having to balance sports and school. Starting this year, many sports teams are required to come to weekly morning speed schools and lifts, which has been a stressful and exhausting thing for many athletes. Morning practice can start as early as 6 a.m. so athletes would have to wake up at 5 a.m. to get ready for practice. This often follows more lifts and individual practices throughout the day and in the evening. This means a lot of athletes are often either sleep-deprived or would have to go to bed very early. With a packed day already planned ahead, athletes often feel the difficulty of staying on top of the schedule.
Anna Kolb ’25 from the softball team told The Hoot: “You feel like sometimes it’s a job and not really a passion… it’s not that easy to manage as you think.”
As a Division III school, Brandeis is known for not having a massive amount of school spirit and does not put that much of emphasis on sports. The good side of the drawback is that student athletes would focus more on academics and have a better balance of sports, school and personal life.
At Brandeis, academics is always the priority for student athletes. Grafstein explained to The Hoot: “Our coach makes sure you have your priorities in the correct order, meaning academics are first, athletics and tennis are second, and then your social life is third. So if he sees you kind of switching it up… he will talk to you about that.”
Kolb felt the same way: “Division III is like academics first. That is the most important thing. That is what our coaches prioritize. They’re like, if you have to leave practice to go to class, you go to class. You get what you sign up for.” Reynolds also mentioned that he often had to bring his computer to practice as well.
All three athletes are pretty satisfied with the team spirit at Brandeis, especially knowing they were signing up to play at a Division III school. Reynolds said: “Even if the general student body doesn’t have a lot of spirit for track, you’ve got your whole team at the meet cheering for everyone. There’s a lot of spirit at the meets. Even if it’s not like general students showing up, you are [still] supporting each other.”
“If you’re going to a big Division I [school], like Alabama or Tennessee, of course you’re gonna have fans. Of course everyone’s gonna be into any athletic department. ” said Kolb, “But [at] Division III, there’s no funding for athletes. There’s no big grand stadium. I mean, the best thing we got is they did our laundry for us and I thought that was awesome.”
Grafstein agreed: “I haven’t really experienced any type of popularity… If I’m not training or if I’m not in class or if I’m not with a friend, I tend to just keep to myself. If someone says hi to me, then I’ll be like, hey, that’s basically it.”
However, the three athletes all expressed their concern about their teams being underfunded on facilities. Grafstein wished the tennis team could have some new balls. Reynolds hoped to get their own outdoor throwing circle, because right now the throwers had to travel to Regis College on a BranVan to borrow their throwing equipment.
Besides mentioning a potential renovation to the softball field, Kolb brought up a critical point that women’s sports is not equal to men’s sports as a global phenomenon. It is sad that the softball team does not receive the same amount of resources and attention as the baseball team, according to her, as they do not have proper dugouts and lights. She is glad that Brandeis is aware of this gender inequality in sports as the athletic department is making a multipurpose field. “Brandeis is very knowledgeable about that and they are doing better.”
At the end of the day, student athletes are essentially no different than any other Brandeis student except they have to commit certain times of their day to their sports. They hang out with both people on and off their teams, and have to worry about school and other involvements, just like any of us.
“Being a student athlete is great, but don’t forget that we’re humans as well and we make sacrifices you wouldn’t quite see at the start,” Kolb asserted, “growing up through middle school and elementary school, I had no time to hang out with my friends every weekend, every holiday, going to tournaments in different states knowing nobody. And you have to understand that you can’t be jealous of us because on the inside we might be jealous of you.”
Editor’s Note: Editor-In-Chief Victoria Morrongiello ’23 is a captain for the Track and Field team and did not contribute to this article.