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Free Time for Athletes? Not Much Here

By Jason Mclaughlin

Anyone who has ever played a sport in high school can tell you about the time commitment involved. But that was high school. Imagine the amount of time a varsity athlete at a Division I school devotes to his or her sport. One might surmise that there is very little time left to complete class work, let alone participate in other extra-curriculars and social events around campus.

"I wouldn't call it a sacrifice," women's swimming co-captain Sarah Durkin says. "I'm doing something that I love, but I do have to prioritize."

"There's not very much time, especially during the season," Mike Gilmore, a senior on the men's basketball team says.

"Honestly, the only other thing I've really done here was when I tutored some last year," Kirk Nielsen, a senior on the men's hockey team, says.

Any team travels, and road trips eliminate entire weekends of the athletes' time.

"Every other weekend, we're gone from Thursday until Sunday morning," Nielsen says.

With such time devoted to their teams, the athletes generally express that they haven't gotten overly involved in other organized activities. Their "free" time, however, is all accounted for.

"Most of my time does go to sports," women's swimming co-captain Laura Koerckel says. "It sounds lame, but I go home whenever I can; my dad's in the area. I visit friends a lot, too."

"I did some CityStep stuff for a while, and that was fun," Koerckel says. "But it got to be too much."

"Outside of swimming and class work, I have a job for 12 hours a week," Durkin says. "If I can't go out on a given Friday night because of an early Saturday practice, I don't feel its a sacrifice, because there's plenty of time to catch up on partying later."

Durkin's sentiment shows the loyalty all of the athlete's express towards their sport and their team.

"I suppose if I really wanted to, I could get involved in something else," Nielsen says. "It just seems like burning the candle at both ends. I love playing hockey, and that's enough."

"I regret not taking better advantage of the city and what the areas around here have to offer," Gilmore says. "It's tough to get a whole day at a time."

The season, however, only represents the time when the athletes have the greatest commitment to their teams. The off-season is just as time consuming if the athlete is also devoted to their sport.

"Lots of sports require year-round work," Gilmore says Sports like basketball, swimming, tennis and many others require a lot of time in the off-season."

Off-season workouts, both before the season and during the summer, consist either of team regimented or self-created workouts. All athletes interviewed listed activities such as weight lifting and running as off-season activities. Other favorites included rollerblading, skulling, aerobics, and swimming--both swimmers and non-swimmers mentioned this last activity.

Even an athlete's summer is not entirely his or her own.

"Before we leave for the summer, the team gives us a battery of tests," Gilmore says. "They test us in the weight room, and running. Then they do the same when we come back, so they can tell if we've been slacking."

"It's hard to gain the valuable work experience, like internships, that are supposed to be important for future employment," Gilmore says. "Working on basketball is still so prevalent, even in the summer."

Other athletes aren't as worried about full-time summer employment, or lack thereof, affecting future opportunities.

"I think an employer will look at a person's character," Durkin says. "If they see that you've devoted a lot of time to something, that is going to speak positively about you."

One needn't be an employer to appreciate the hard work and dedication of Harvard's student athletes.

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