By Blanca Izquierdo—
For Europeans, the impact of collegiate sports in America is unbelievable. In a continent where soccer receives all the attention, other sports, such as volleyball or swimming, have little importance— even at a professional level.
European athletes who want to study and compete against other high-level athletes have a difficult time because college and sports are two separate things.
Though most universities do have sports teams, the level of the competition is low, athletes receive no support and athletic scholarships are just a myth. Universities are solely for academics. They don’t respect athletes’ competition schedules, and professors aren’t allowed to help players.
The situation in the U.S. is completely different.
Athletes receive a lot of support and don’t have to choose between playing sports or going to study. Some universities even cancel class so that students can attend certain games. Additionally, players receive financial aid and recognition. College competition receives a lot of attention from the media, while in Europe the only sport streaming regularly is professional soccer.
Though most European countries have free education, an increasing number of athletes consider the possibility of studying in America, leaving behind their home and family, so they can play the game they love.
Under my experience, playing volleyball while being a full-time student in Spain was very complicated. I practiced 20 hours a week and competed on the weekends. My schedule was very busy, and my professors did not offer any help. I gave up many things such as my social life. I remember missing a final because my team qualified for a championship the same time the test took place. Although I explained to my instructor all the hard work I put into this competition, countless hours in the gym, sweat and many tears, he wouldn’t give me a make-up exam, per university policy.
This was just one of the many struggles I went through as a student-athlete in Europe. Not to mention the fact that I never got any recognition from my university, the media or anyone other than my coaches, family and friends.
College athletes work hard to accomplish their dreams. They are committed, disciplined and always believe in themselves. Sports push athletes to be better and never give up. These values are fundamental to a successful career and life. Europe has something to learn here.