We all love and appreciate our student athletes for the excitement and rowdiness they bring to college sports. Without the football players, the gymnasts and the swimmers, who would we talk about every weekend and obsess over with our friends?
Recently, I had the opportunity to get beneath the surface and discover what life is like from the perspective of swimmer James Garrett Powell from the University of Georgia.
Believe it or not, student athletes are real people with friends, family, homework and tests.
As fans, many of us look to athletes as heroes and role models, but we tend to forget how hard they work to be as great as they are.
James has a lot going on and he was nice enough to sit down with me to dig a little deeper and see what it really means to be a top swimmer not only at UGA, but nationwide.
Here’s what he had to say:
Q: Why did you decide to swim at UGA?
A: I took a recruiting trip my senior year of high school not really knowing much about the school or the swimming program. I ended up loving the campus and college atmosphere. I pretty much decided right after my recruiting trip that I wanted to be a Georgia Bulldog.
Q: What do you love most about being an athlete at UGA?
A: Competition has always been my favorite part of being an athlete. Being at UGA makes competing even more fun because I get to represent my school every time I dive into the pool. The free gear is also pretty nice.
Q: What do you like the least about being an athlete at UGA?
A: My least favorite thing about being an athlete at UGA would have to be missing out on social events. For example this year I spent my entire spring break training, while my non-athlete friends went to the beach and had the time of their lives. As athletes we miss out on a lot of things that really make the college experience memorable.
Q: What is your daily routine?
A: On weekdays I wake up at 4:50 a.m. and drive to the pool for 5:15 a.m. morning practice with the exception of Tuesdays where I get to sleep. Morning practice ends at 7:00 a.m. and we eat breakfast. After breakfast we have weights at 7:45 a.m. until we are finished with what we have to do. We only lift Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and we have dry land Tuesday and Thursday at 2:15 p.m. before afternoon practice. After weights we have class until afternoon practice, which starts at 2:45 p.m. Practice runs about two hours after it starts in the afternoon. After practice we eat dinner and do homework. Most athletes have tutoring at Rankin, which is the student-athlete academic center.
Q: Is it hard to juggle school, social life, and sports?
A: Our coaches always say how it’s impossible to juggle school, social life, and swimming, so we better choose two and they better be school and swimming. Social life definitely takes the back seat during the season but when all our meets are over we don’t neglect our social lives as much.
Q: If you could change one thing about being a student athlete, what would it be and why?
A: Every class I go to I have to sign a sheet that proves I went to class. This mandatory attendance for every class is very frustrating because athletes have to go to every class even if the professor says it’s optional. I would want to get rid of that or at least narrow it down to only checking certain classes.
Q: How has being a student athlete changed your college experience for the better? For the worse?
A: I instantly had a close group of friends as soon as I started attending school, which I wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for swimming. This close group of friends changed my college experience for the better in more ways than one. My social life outside of swimming has been negatively affected by being an athlete.
Q: What is your biggest accomplishment as a swimmer at UGA?
A: My biggest accomplishment in college swimming so far was making the NCAA Championships for the third time. I broke my ribs and was out for eight weeks of my season so it was a huge accomplishment for me to come back and make the meet.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish as an athlete by the time you graduate?
A: I hope to claim the title All American Swimmer, which means you have to be top 16 in the nation in an event. I hope to reach this goal next year at NCAAs.
Q: Do you wish to continue swimming after graduation? What would you like to do?
A: After I graduate I plan to continue to swim until after the 2016 Olympic Trials. After trials I plan to hang up the goggles for good.
We’d like to thank James for taking time out is his insanely busy schedule to give us the inside scoop. Thanks for being a role model and giving us all someone to cheer for. Good luck and we hope you reach all your goals.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports