We're talkin' about practice? The plight of Dartmouth athletes

by Alex Hodes | 11/15/07 2:00am

A.I. would not approve of the practice regimens of Big Green athletes.
by Associated Press / The Dartmouth

Allen Iverson: "Hey I hear you, it's funny to me too, hey it's strange to me too but we're talking about practice man, we're not even talking about the game, when it actually matters, we're talking about practice."

Yes, Allen, practice. Like The Answer, many people believe practice is unnecessary. To others, it's a necessary evil. But to the vast majority of Dartmouth students, practice is simply one giant shackle. If you don't play a sport, it's probably pretty tough to fully understand the difficulties practice imposes on life at Dartmouth.

Wait, I know what you're thinking -- how do I know? Good question. I haven't played a real sport since 10th grade, and even then I was suspended for a game because I skipped out on practice once. Sure, I had a legitimate reason and I'm not at all still bitter towards my coach, but what authority do I really have to talk about practice?

This past spring, I roomed with a baseball player. We lived on completely different schedules. He would go to bed right around the time I would start my work. He would wake up for morning conditioning around the time I was starting my third REM cycle. And he would be heading back to bed around the same time I was waking up to go to class. Does that seem right?

After a marathon Call of Duty session last week, I was about to head to sleep when I heard another ballplayer's alarm waking him up. Now, I don't mean to pick on the baseball team -- I'm just friends with a bunch of ball players -- but aren't they put at an academic disadvantage when they lose control over their day-to-day schedules?

At the same time, practice can be a good thing. It adds a regular routine to an otherwise unstructured environment. This can actually help you get your work done more efficiently when you know you don't have hours on end to waste. Not that I would know anything about that.

However, can a routine be considered regular when you're waking up at the crack of dawn one day and then practicing until dusk the next? It just isn't healthy when your internal clock can't adjust to a regular sleep schedule. And it certainly doesn't help your grades.

College teams face the challenge of balancing athletics and academics, and practice is truly at the center of this dilemma. On the one hand, if you're going to compete, you should strive to be the best, and the best only get to be the best through practice. On the other hand, should we place more of an emphasis on winning than on academic achievement? I think we can all agree that the choice is simple: academics should always come before athletics. Then what of practice?

Practice will always be a large part of the student-athlete's college experience, but at the same time, it doesn't have to be an overpowering force. Nobody should be subjected to sporadic early mornings. After all, we're talking about practice. Not the game. Practice. And at the very least, the next time you're feeling down on your way to an early class, remember: some of your classmates have already been up for hours.