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The Scarlet & Black

Athletes anticipate the challenges that come with early returns from break

Will Dubow ’21 will return from winter break a week early this year for basketball practice before the spring semester starts. Photo by Andrew Tucker
Will Dubow ’21 will return from winter break a week early this year for basketball practice before the spring semester starts. Photo by Andrew Tucker

By Jon Gomez

At the end of this fall semester, most Grinnellians are expected to vacate campus and return shortly before the start of the spring semester. For student athletes in winter season sports, this is not the case. Student athletes in sports such as Basketball, Indoor Track and Field, and Swimming are required to come back to campus as early as a week before the spring semester starts. In the case of other teams, there can be an even bigger time commitment. Players are scheduled to continue the sports program only one week after finishing the fall semester, forcing teammates to spend a full month in Grinnell outside of the academic calendar. Being on campus with no dining hall operation hours, very few Grinnell events, and horrendous winter weather conditions all contribute to the Student Athlete’s experience during semester breaks.

According to track runner Julia Sloniewsky ’21, the indoor track season has moved up the start of their season from February to November, possibly in order to combat the consistent trend of early sluggish practices during winter break. “We always come back a week early but usually the first week back is always miserable. There are two a day workouts, everyone is slow. After day one, everyone is usually sleepy and pretty sore,” said Sloniewsky.

While tedious practices may seem like one of the many responsibilities that student athletes go into a sport anticipating, the lack of food availability is a reality that many students have to come to terms with during their first winter at Grinnell. Sloniewsky explained how, in addition to breakfast not being provided, the only subsidy for a student’s lunch is five dollars per day which is distributed daily by the coaching staff. As for dinner, “every night a different class year is responsible for making a meal. So, the food for that meal is paid for by the program but we have to cook it and we always run out of food early. It gets hard to feed yourself and especially when there is a blizzard or some bizarre snow weather. You really can’t do much with five dollars. You get the money and are like ‘great, some pocket change’ but there is no way you can really afford anything,” stated Sloniewsky. Despite the inconveniences she made sure to point out that it isn’t the worst experience for student athletes and that some teams have to be on campus for a much longer duration, like basketball, for example.

Basketball player Will Dubow ’21 also shared his experiences over winter breaks in the past as well as the other breaks that permit shortened time-off. “We have to come back early for winter break, fall break, and thanksgiving break. For Thanksgiving most years, we have a mandatory practice but it’s more of a fun practice where we play games and have fun. Then we have dinner as team. We usually have that dinner in an upstairs classroom in the Bear. Some people’s families come and eat with us. I actually enjoy the event a lot. The food is really good.” 

Dubow continued, “Typically during winter break we get a week off. It usually depends on the finals schedule. During finals week, we won’t have a mandatory practice, but we do have skills trainings which is for players who have the time and want to work on certain skills with the coaches. Then we have to be back on campus by the 27th or 28th of December and are here for a whole month before students get back.”

According to Dubow the men’s basketball team receives a certain budget for food which is spread evenly among the players. “Because we generally have a shared living space, whether it be an apartment or house, most of the food is kept there. So then it’s up to the responsibility of the players to come and get food from that apartment or house,” said Dubow. This can be a struggle for some players. “I think sometimes there is a struggle to get enough food but a big reason for that is because I eat a lot. When you have to worry about rationing the snacks in the house,” said Dubow.

Although Dubow would appreciate more time to spend with family around the holidays and a more exciting destination to spend his winter rather than the “Midwestern barren wasteland,” he defends the situation by admitting his enjoyment of good company and well-fostered teammate chemistry. “In some ways it can get pretty boring but when you surround yourself with good company and teammates that you like, it goes by pretty smoothly.”

The basketball players, at least, have competition to keep them busy.

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  • K

    Kevin Khater '92Dec 12, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    Are they supposed to be martyrs? Am I supposed to have sympathy for their “plight?” I don’t think so. There isn’t one penny of scholarship money involved, thank you DIII, so they are totally volunteering to do this. So they deal. It sounds more annoying for them than actually burdensome.