By Glen Marques, Contributing Writer
Fernando Silva’s days are already completely planned out for him. If the sophomore is not in class or lab for his mechanical engineering major then he’s at football practice.
What little time he has leftover is spent eating or attending the team’s study hall.
Even the weekend is scheduled since Saturdays are game days, an event that can take up the entire day. Amidst all of this Silva has to find time to get his work done and get good grades while playing the sport he loves.
Silva, like other UMass Dartmouth student athletes, must keep up with his busy schedule to succeed both in the classroom and on the field.
“If you need help with anything then you can ask one of the guys for help or one of the coaches for help so that’s really good,” said Silva. “If you’re working on stuff for a subject you’re not very good at then that’s ok because the guys and the coaches come from a variety of majors so there’s a big variety of resources there.”
Those same coaches can assist in academic advancement in other ways. “One of the coaches right now is helping me look for an internship actually, so it’s nice to have connections like that because you’re on the team,” says Silva.
Practice, lifting, going to meetings, and playing games could be major stressors and time hogs during an already busy day, but Silva views them as the opposite of that.
“Playing football is something I love to do so going to practice and all of that stuff, it’s kind of a break for me, that’s my time to relax and hang out with my friends.”
Student athletes agree. Josh O’Neil, a senior marketing major and baseball player, and Jack O’Brien, a senior small business management major who plays lacrosse, share this perspective.
“When I’m playing that’s my time to sort of just forget about everything,” says O’Neil.
“If anything, playing is like its own form of stress relief,” O’Brien said. “It’s escapism.”
Silva also claims that being on a team has the added benefit of giving people a sense of belonging, something that most people seek in a new environment.
“When people come to college they don’t know anyone and it might be hard for them to find friends which can make things harder. By being on a team you already have a group of people to hang out with so it feels a lot less lonely and you can focus more on your work,” says Silva.
All three players said they do their best during practices so that they can prove themselves worthy of their positions, but none of them view this effort as a waste of energy.
“Having those expectations set for you is a good way to keep you motivated to want to perform well and that can go for school too since the team expects you to have a certain GPA or else you’ll be a liability to the team if you’re not allowed to play because of a bad grade,” according to O’Neil.
The reason why these athletes’ teams place so much importance on academics goes beyond the motive of having a passing grade just so the students can play on the team.
“The reality is that most guys who play sports in college won’t go on to play in the major leagues. It’s possible, but very unlikely,” says Silva.
Because of this, student-athletes are encouraged to succeed in their studies so that they can be prepared to pursue a career after they graduate.
Thanks to the teams that hold them to a high set of standards and provide assistance, playing sports is a net positive for these athletes.
“That’s one of the best parts about being on a team I think is having that sense of community, that you’re not alone and that you if you need help then they’ll help,” says Silva.
O’Neil states, “It’s good to know that someone has your back.”