The Struggle Is Real, but Does It Have to Be?

Ora Gutfreund ‘22, Staff Writer

Picture this: you’re walking off the field, or court, or rink with your teammates, tired and sweaty, but relishing in your victory. That’s it, right? End of story. On the contrary; the game might be over, but the work is far from done. 

Playing on an athletic team is more than just fun and games. The time and effort that an athlete needs to invest in her sport impacts every aspect of her high school experience. As Shira Albert (‘22), a softball and hockey player, explains, “The average Ma’ayanot student is exhausted after being in school from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., correct? Now, imagine having that same long day and spending an extra two hours pushing yourself to go beyond your maximum physical capacity. Then, [you have to] go home and do your homework.” By the time most students get home, they are exhausted—and that’s assuming they get home at 5:19 p.m. on the dot. Student-athletes add two hours to their days, rendering them much too emotionally and physically drained to accomplish much. Unfortunately though, often those students have no choice but to trudge through the wee hours of the night, praying that the dark circles beneath their eyes won’t reveal themselves for the umpteenth time the next morning. 

And if those hours weren’t late enough, some athletes have even later ones. Those students who commute to school and play sports have incredibly long days. They leave early in the morning and get home so late that it practically is the morning. Yet regardless of how tired they are from practices and games, these student-athletes must then leave their homes both mentally and physically prepared for their academic and athletic day. It’s rare to find a commuting student-athlete that manages to get the 9.25 hours of sleep recommended by professionals. Hence, the dark circles.  

Although all student-athletes would love to add a few hours to the day to make up for sleep, the clock is against us. But, maybe it’s time to stop wallowing in our self pity; teenagers are notorious for the amount of sleep we miss, so we might as well embrace it. We all live some sort of double life, whether we are a part of an athletic team, live outside of Bergen County, or are simply another student, juggling school work and social life. As Eliana Lowy (‘20), another student-athlete, explains, “There’s no other term to describe the lives we lead besides…challenging. Yes, we love what we do. We appreciate the opportunities we are given to involve ourselves with school activities, bond with those in other grades, and represent Ma’ayanot in the games we love. But that doesn’t eliminate the other contributing factors.” There’s no denying that struggle is real, but it doesn’t have to be. We can’t revolutionize the concept of time, but we can adjust our attitudes. Instead of overlooking our struggling peers, let’s try showing a little empathy by sharing notes or offering a place to crash. We have the potential to make a world of a difference in the lives of student-athletes around us, and contribute to our own happiness. Let’s go for it.