Conversations by Candlelight: The Professor’s Perspective

By SAM MATHAI

There is much to be said about the difference between student athletes and their solely student counterparts in the classroom. Athletes are insular and dressed the same; they adhere to tropes I have already covered, and they probably smell worse.

Every week, senior Sam Mathai sits down with a new member of the CC community, bringing a student athlete’s perspective to the table.

Today, however, I was in my class listening to conversations, when I realized that I was surrounded by a menagerie of athletes from different sports. I am in a class of 16, which works alternately in two groups of eight. Today, I discovered that in my group of eight, four sports were represented with multiple representatives from one team. Because of this, I listened to a non-stop, two-hour conversation centered fully on what could be deemed ‘the shared athlete experience.’ A wide range of similarities entered the conversation: sports, sports coaches, interactions with other sports teams, how the strength coach treated each sport, and so on.

So, as much as I like to deny the stereotype that athletes only talk to other athletes, it became significantly harder today.

After class, I stopped my professor to pick his brain on the matter. That professor is Dan Miska, the only anatomy instructor here at Coloado College. A lecturer in the Human Biology and Kinesiology Department, Miska is a fountain of knowledge, both about anatomy and life. He likes a good discussion as much as he likes a perfectly dissected brachial plexus.

I asked him what the difference was between teaching an athlete and non-athlete. Unfortunately, he only had good things to say. A diplomat to the core, he refused to make fun of athletes (on the record). His mouth was telling me that athletes were typically and devastatingly effective when it comes to time management, but his eyebrows were telling me that he was holding back.

As a group, he said, the athletes he has had in class have all been very motivated. Though we didn’t pin down the exact source of it, it is safe to speculate that this motivation might stem from the visceral fear of drowning that occurs if one falls behind in either practice or school. Still, this wasn’t super helpful, as I was looking for some dirty laundry—not a pat on the back (though I took it anyway).

Dan also commented that this phenomenon was especially pronounced at CC. At other schools, he has observed some athletic programs that produced students he could not praise, while describing CC athletes as “true student athletes.” Through his collected exterior of diplomacy, I caught some emphasis on the student part of that phrase.

However, it is hard to differentiate this from the typical student at CC. In general, I would say that students (not just athletes) are motivated, passionate, and driven at CC. This makes me wonder if there is something about this place that attracts students like that, or if CC necessitates that we adapt—these questions are above my pay grade.

Regardless, I have yet to meet someone at CC who isn’t interesting in their own way, athlete or not. Athletes are notoriously cliquey and aggregate like schools of fish in unfamiliar situations. However, after talking with Miska, I would posit that the divide between student athletes and the rest of the student body is almost nonexistent. Sure, some of us smell a little worse, but at the end of the day, we’re all working our tails off on the Block Plan.

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