For Student-Athletes, It is More Than a Sport

April 20, 2010  

by Petya Kertikova
pkertikova@smu.edu

Jennifer Hannah Raad is waiting nervously outside of her doctor’s office for the results of her latest X-Rays. The rain outside bothers her, but she keeps her hopes high. An hour later, the doctor comes out with the results. Her life is in his hands. The next thing she hears is awful. One of the best soccer players at SMU is never going to play again.

“I quit what I loved, and yet the physical pain is not done,” said Raad, whose knee injuries started in 2008.

Coming out of the locker room, preparing for practice, thinking and getting mentally and physically ready for the next competition, student-athletes are the ones who typically represent a university. The best ones are “those who everybody wants them to be.” But they must also face lifetime injuries, crushed dreams, empty hopes, periods of struggling with themselves and having to rebuild their lives without the sport they love.

According to Glenn Silverman, Assistant Business Manager for the Athletic Department at SMU, they are currently 11 student-athletes on medical scholarships for this year. According to a study by the University of Arizona 2, 754 medical charts of student-athletes appeared as “injured.”  In addition, 475 athletes annually are on medical scholarships because they cannot participate in sports again.

After 11 years of practicing and participating in meets and competitions, Samantha Means, a cross-country and track and field athlete, is now permanently injured. Means is a junior at SMU studying psychology, and she is now trying to build her life without the most important thing to her: running.

“It hurts when I see someone running,” said Means, who was injured last year.

Watching and listening about running makes her sad. After she discovered her injury her life goals changed, as well her personality. Now she wants to be a teacher, rather than a professional athlete.

John Nwisienyi played his favorite sport, football, for 18 years. Now he is a SMU senior psychology major and already finished with his life-long career. He injured his meniscus two years ago during a home game against Texas Christian University. Even though Nwisienyi is done with football right now, he still misses it.

“I still want to be on the field, with the players,” he said. According to Nwisienyi, athletes are like products. When someone needs them, they are rewarded, but when they get injured, coaches don’t pay as much attention to them.

Nwisienyi is now working on opening a fitness academy of his own called “Rock Star Fitness.” He thinks that all athletes should be treated the same no matter their ability to participate in sports.

Nicole Briceno, one of SMU’s best tennis athletes, is now injured after 18 years of hard work on the court. She injured her playing hand in January. After a sequence of surgeries, she is now tired of trying to be the best every day while ignoring the pain.

“You have love for a game and you know you can’t play never again,” said Briceno, a senior psychology major. She wanted to be a professional, but as she said “injuries opened a new door” for her.

Brinceno decided to continue her education and one day become an assistant coach at a university. She thinks that the relationship between athletes and coaches has to be constructed more on a friendly manner, not on winning and losing. Briceno still loves tennis and hopes to find another way to make the best of her life.

David Hayden, a baseball coach at the Little League in North Arlington, works mostly with kids age11 and 12. Coaching for 14 years up to this point, Hayden is one of the best coaches who keep their athletes healthy.

“I focus more on the conditioning aspect of one workout,” said Hayden. “You have to know how to handle your athletes-mentally and physically. A good coach knows his players,”

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