Everyone hears about the trials and tribulations of the NCAA student-athlete.
From long, exhaustive practices, missing classes for extensive travel for competition, rigorous year-round strength and conditioning programs, to representing one’s university on a national level, all while not being paid, university athletes are the real deal. Compared to the rest of the student body, they are the cream of the crop in their respective sports. They are worthy of the scholarships they have and the praise they receive. Chico State boasts one of the top Division II athletic programs in the country, and the student-athletes donning the cardinal red and white are succeeding in competition and the classroom more than ever.
But in the university’s auxiliary gymnasium, multi-purpose grass fields and a portion of the WREC swimming pool, hundreds of Chico State club sport student-athletes put in the same level of commitment that rivals their fellow varsity Wildcat athletes. Club sport student-athletes put in, on average, nearly as much practice time as the university’s NCAA teams. These seemingly second-tier athletes also miss classes for competition while still representing Chico State across the country. And unlike their NCAA counterparts, club sport student-athletes have to pay to play.
That’s right. They play for nothing more, and nothing less, than pure love for their sports.
As president and fourth-year member of the men’s club volleyball team, I’m one of Chico State’s club sport student-athletes. I’ve held the positions of safety officer, vice president and trip leader prior to assuming presidential duties. I was a recipient of the club sport student-athlete scholarship last fall. I’ve represented our school at the national level in Reno, Nevada and Kansas City, Missouri. And I will do so for the final time this April in Louisville, Kentucky.
While I may not have the skill, athleticism or volleyball knowledge to compete at the NCAA level, I do know what it takes to stick with a team for the entire duration of my time at Chico State. From situational player, back-up substitute to full fledged starter, I’ve dedicated a great deal to an endeavor much greater than myself, just like our university’s NCAA student-athletes. The goal has always been about us; competing in the sport we love while representing Chico State to the best of our abilities at the highest level possible.
When I graduate this May and walk across the stage on the University Stadium lawn, I will be wearing a special sash with the words “Student Athlete” adorned across it. Sure, some NCAA athletes may shake their heads in seeing a club sport student-athlete draped in the same regalia as themselves. Despite the skeptical looks I know I’ll receive, I am, along with every other Chico State club sport athlete, worthy of being characterized as a “Student Athlete.”
Hardly anyone even knows that guys actually play volleyball, let alone competitively, and fewer still come watch our team play.
But that’s not the point and never will be.
I participate in club sports for the same reasons my NCAA peers play their sports. It doesn’t matter what you do when everyone’s eyes are on you; it’s what you do when nobody’s watching. And even though nobody knows it, I, and all the dedicated Wildcat club sport student-athletes, am doing what truly matters, even though the spotlight isn’t on us.
Nick Reddy can be reached at the [email protected] or @NickIsReddy on Twitter.