College was a blast. As a student-athlete, I was treated like royalty. Trainers to tend to every ache and pain, massages if sore muscles wouldn’t relax, doctor appointments for any type of concern – I was definitely well taken care of. I never saw a bill for a book, my tuition or living expenses. I received free admission to sporting events, hot meals every night at training table, Odwalla drinks after lifting weights, tutors for classes if I was having trouble, access to computers and printers during the week and counselors on top of me making sure classes were in order and I had enough credits to graduate. Besides getting a free education from one of the best universities in the nation, one of the benefits I enjoyed the most was the Nike gear. In my 4 years of university I never had to buy one article of sporting gear – unless it was something I really wanted, not needed. We were definitely spoiled, receiving numerous pairs of sports bras, spandex, under armor, socks, sweatpants, sweatshirts, track suits, jackets, long sleeve dri-fits, shorts, t-shirts, jerseys, running shoes, basketball shoes, flip flops, mouth guards, ankle braces, and sweatbands annually. If your basketball shoes were feeling run down or looking a bit scuffed, just visit the equipment manager and convince her you needed a new pair. After 4 years at UW, I have accumulated enough purple clothing to make Barney jealous! I can’t believe how fortunate I was, especially now as I realize the cost of one sports bra – yikes! Basketball paid for my education and allowed me to leave college debt free with a degree from a very reputable institution. Thank you Washington!
But it didn’t stop there. We enjoyed 10 days in Italy on our foreign tour, flew to away games while accumulating frequent flier miles, stayed at 5 star hotels, ate three generous meals a day, received entertainment money and per diem (even though meals were paid for) and always had snack packs on the bus. Every game home or away was covered by the media (TV, radio, newspaper), we took chartered flights to NCAA tournaments, had cheerleaders and the band support us at home and tournament games, played in front of great fans that made our attendance top 3 in the Pac-10, found ourselves on the covers or in the pages of magazines, programs, game cards and posters, were handed Gatorade and ice bags after practices, got taped before the game and received treatment after the game. Looking back on my collegiate years, I can’t believe what was just handed to me. At the time I didn’t realize how fortunate I was and as I reflect upon my career at UW, I am truly thankful for the amazing experience I enjoyed.
As I found this summer, the real world is quite different than that of a student athlete. On top of training for my first pro season abroad, like everyone else I had work to make rent, pay utility and cell phone bills, upkeep my car and pay for medical insurance and dental coverage. I had to set up appointments to see a physiotherapist and couldn’t just waltz in to see the doctor if my stomach was upset. I was even supposed to pay to get into a Husky football games (however, I have that covered for now☺) Life is eye opening after college.
Playing basketball as a job is not a bad living. I don’t have many expenses, but it’s a far cry from the treatment I received in college. We don’t fly anywhere – we bus. We travel game day so that means early mornings and long drives. There is no per diem or entertainment money, but we receive a meal after the game. No matter how far our away game is or how late it goes into the night, we don’t stay in a hotel – we drive back. There is no trainer, so if you tweak an ankle or injure yourself during practice – you’re on your own. If you need taped before the game, you better learn how to tape yourself or find someone who can help. If you need to ice an injury after the game, your best bet is to grab some snow from outside and shove it in a bag. Our weight room is not spotless and state of the art, I’d classify it as dangerous – no clips for bars, broken weights and people lifting in socks! A lot of the equipment looks 20 years old and as if it has never been cleaned (this should be necessary as we share with a lot of men’s teams like track, soccer, hockey, etc). We don’t get practice gear or any other type of apparel, however, did receive a pair of basketball shoes from the local sports store and HoNsU fleece zip ups. I hope I don’t sound as though I’m whining and complaining, rather stating the differences for you to picture. This is not to say there aren’t perks. We don’t pay for our apartment, internet, cable or medical insurance. All that is taken care of. We get paid monthly for practicing and playing ball and receive massages weekly if needed. We receive one hot meal a day, get in free at the men’s games and are covered in the local paper and sometimes on TV. Our 200 fans are a far cry from the 3,000-4,000 I was used to playing in front of, but nevertheless any type of support is great.
It’s definitely a different lifestyle and way of living, but I’m embracing the experience week to week. We have next weekend off so Charlee, Lizanne and I are headed to Tallinn, Estonia. I’ll be sure to blog about it in my next entry.