by Daniel Marks(@DGM591)
One thing that many fans and people who are not around a college basketball program (or any college athletics program really) don't realize is that the player's commitment to the sport involves so much more than games and practices. It is easy to think that aside from those two things, athletes are allowed to live the lives of regular students, but they have so many other commitments to the program and the university as well. They have to go to class at least 12 hours a week, then there are film sessions, weight lifting, study hall hours, workouts with the coaches, community appearances, and treatments to consider, plus a lot of guys like to come in and shoot on their own. These guys work more than a full time job as a student athlete, their commitment to the sport always amazes me.
As a manager
, the time commitment is huge as well, but I would have to be delusional to say it compares to what the players have to commit. All of the stuff I just mentioned above (except class and workouts with the coaches) are not things we have to do really. Also, the physical exertion of playing basketball at the highest level of Division I is truly exhausting. These guys practice anywhere from an hour to 2.5 hours per day, depending on the time of season, and then have to go to study hall or do their homework. It really is a lot on their plate, especially at a place like Vanderbilt. The obligations never end, not even after the season is over or before it starts.
Within two weeks of getting on campus, the players have weight lifting scheduled almost every day, along with individual skill workouts a few times a week, and then pickup games. That goes until the season starts and then when the season ends, all of that picks up about a week and a half later. You have all seen those commercials and t-shirts with the slogan "Basketball Never Stops", but these guys epitomize that phrase, all year round. And that is what brings me to my next point, these guys, not only are obligated to the program during the school year, but in the summer as well.
Most Vanderbilt students finish the school year at the end of April or early May, and then return home for the summer and usually find a job or an internship, while getting a chance to get real world experience in whatever field they plan to go into. It is also a time to get away from campus, spend time with your family, and reconnect with old friends, but for the most part, our basketball players don't experience this kind of summer. They get to be home for the month of May, but when June comes around, they are essentially required to be back on campus for summer school and summer workouts (NOTE: this does not only apply to Vanderbilt, it applies to the vast majority of Division I programs in the country). This is especially true now with NCAA rules allowing teams two hours per week over the summer to practice.
So while many Vanderbilt students are just beginning jobs or internships as June gets underway, our basketball team is back on campus ready to work. By spending the summers on campus, these athletes are in Nashville 11 out of 12 months a year. That is an insane commitment. There is no off-season for them, they always have something going on. If you compare this to the NBA schedule, when most players' seasons end in April, they are not required to be back at their team facility until September (unless playing in a Summer League). That is essentially five months off, away from the game of basketball, and those guys are making millions of dollars.
So while I know most of our fans truly appreciate the players we have, next time you see these guys, thank them for putting the time in to represent your favorite team. Obviously, getting a full ride to Vanderbilt and the opportunity to play in the SEC is one few people have, but the sheer amount of time these players put into being able to represent the Commodores is astounding. The craziest part is that they have these 11 months of basketball activity and play about 32 games (40 minutes long) which is 1280 available minutes per season. And let's say an average starter plays 25 minutes per game, that is 800 minutes they play per year which is the equivalent to 13.33 hours.
So to sum it up, these players are committing themselves to this university for over 300 days a year, all for the chance to play a game that matters for just over half of the hours in one day (and most players don't play 25 minutes a game). It is remarkable when you think about it, and is something that needs to be realized by those not around the team. Being a Division I athlete is not all glory and bright lights, but actually mainly grunt work and empty gymnasiums.
Daniel Marks served as Vanderbilt basketball's student manager from 2010-2013. This article is cross-posted from his excellent blog, Managing Memorial. You can find the original article here.
Commitment to the Cause: A Look at the Dedication Needed to be a Vanderbilt Commodore