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Athletes work hard and deserve respect

Another season has come and gone for the Bradley Braves.
And for those of you thinking I’m a little late expressing my basketball nostalgia – allow me to clarify. I’m referring to the women’s tennis team, of which I’m a proud member.
Mention of this team usually elicits one of a few standard responses. These include: Bradley has a women’s tennis team? Who cares about women’s tennis? And most commonly – that’s probably just another collection of spoiled brats who don’t pay to go to school and drink way too much on the weekends.
However, beneath the poor reputation the student-athlete population has attained the past few years lays a mound of sacrifices that wouldn’t cross the minds of most who don’t play a sport.
Having to take tests early, emptying countless bottles of Advil for our constantly disarrayed bodies, setting the alarm for early morning drug-testing – and even earlier morning conditioning and 10-hour rides in a 12-passenger van are just a few that top the list.
But no one wants to hear about how being a student-athlete sucks. And frankly – it doesn’t. There’s a lot of good that comes with the role.
However, when the end of the year rolls around and I’ve zipped up my tennis bag for the last time, it’s hard to hide the excitement that comes with feeling like an average student – one who can live without scheduling days by the hours and who can go to class wearing something other than a sweat-soaked T-shirt.
But the main reason it’s refreshing to feel somewhat released from the title of being a student-athlete, is that we’re not a very well-liked group.
The negative publicity student-athletes receive is for doing the same things everyone else does, the others just aren’t put in the papers.
While I’m well aware being a student-athlete does involve an extra sense of responsibility, I can’t help but laugh when it’s the same people telling me this who, five minutes before, didn’t even believe a women’s tennis team existed.
Student-athletes appreciate the scholarships and opportunities we’ve been given, but these don’t come without a lot of hard work, not to mention the years of preparation leading up to college. It’s unfair to say we’re not deserving of what we’ve worked for.
And as much as it’s the job of a student-athlete to realize a sense of responsibility, it’s the job of the student body to respect that athletes are also students and do occasionally make college mistakes like everyone else.
Having had a job at the Scout for two years, I’ve had weeks upon weeks I could write this column and use the paper as an avenue to complain to the student body that I don’t want to be the target for the ridicule I’ve become.
But I’m writing it now, because the athletic department’s had a clean slate for a while. And I think it’s fair if, next year, we’re given a fresh start in the minds of the community and more importantly the students, who are supposed to be our No. 1 fans.
Because the frustration of putting three hours a day and every weekend into something with the goal of representing Bradley well, and then being made fun of for it, is really not very motivating.
So for these last days of the year, I’m going to enjoy the things many students take for granted – such as sleeping in on the weekend and celebrating my birthday in Peoria, rather than a hotel room in a city I’ve never heard of in Kansas.
The great thing about athletics, is that every season is a fresh start. So next year when I’m due for new string and shoes, I’m hoping to feel a little more support from the Bradley community.
Emily Regenold is a junior journalism major from Cincinnati. She is the Scout managing editor.
Direct questions, comments and other responses to eregenold@mail.bradley.edu.
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