By Erin Townsend
Part of being a college student is getting sick, but athletes have an increased responsibility to not risk their health when an illness is spreading around campus. Illness can deeply impact performance, not only of the athlete, but the team as a whole.
“Whenever we get sick, we do everything we can to bounce back as fast as possible so we’re good to go come race time,” said sophomore runner Kayla Sullivan.
No matter the sport, missing players at practice has an impact on the rest of the team. For the swim team, they need the whole team to show up or they can’t pair up appropriately for practice races.
“It can definitely affect the whole team. Say for instance, the best swimmers in each event are sick and not at practice, part of practice is swimming fast next to people of equal speed, or even faster than you, in order to get some competitive racing in. But if they are sick, the competitive aspect is not as intense,” senior swimmer Jeremy Parker said.
When a UT rower misses practice, his or her whole boat can’t go out that day. Usually, the remaining members of the boat are left to do an erg (rowing machine) workout instead of being on the water.
“Rowing is not like another team sport where you can swap out another player or just practice plays without that player. If one person is missing from a boat, the whole crew cannot row. So if that athlete doesn’t show up, they have not only affected their own workout, they have affected their entire crew,” senior Rhianna Seferian said.
It is obvious to coaches and the team when an athlete is sick and when they are trying to bluff an illness to miss practice or a game, like many regular college students might do to miss class.
“Usually whenever the athlete comes in and looks like death, the coaches will just say leave and get better. They could fake an illness, but the coaches will find out and that will result in some consequences,” Parker said.
Not to say that athletes don’t miss an occasional practice for non-illness related reasons, but they know the negative effect that can have on their progress, as well as the team’s.
“There’s definitely days when somebody will miss practice and use being sick as an excuse, but nobody abuses this because, in running, you hurt yourself and the team when you don’t put your all in,” Sullivan said.
Like any other student, when an athlete is sick, the number one concern is that they get better and don’t have any serious health concerns. The wellness center has tests that can help determine the difference between a common cold and illnesses like the flu or strep throat if anyone has been sick for multiple days, and that becomes a concern.
“Coach Slaven’s policy is that if you wake up sick to call him or text him and let him know you’re sick and won’t be there. He’ll believe that you are sick, but after a few days he’ll want us to go to the health office to find out what’s wrong,” Sullivan said.
College campuses are known for spreading colds and flus like rapid fire because of everyone’s close proximity to one another. Athletes spend an immense amount of time together in and out of practice, so this is even more the case for them.
“Because the team spends so much time together on and off the track, it’s super easy for us all to spread a virus around. If one or two people show up with a cold, within a week at least four more of us are sick. We all joke and shun the sick people, but in college it’s almost inevitable when a virus goes around that you’ll end up getting it,” Sullivan said.
UT athletes aim to get better as fast as possible if they do catch an illness. Their drive to compete for themselves, and the team, helps encourage them to stay as healthy as possible.
“I believe that the accountability you have [to the team] is one of the strongest things you can have,” Seferian said.
Spartan athletes have their added commitment in mind when they are trying to get over any illness as quickly as possible, so they can continue to compete at their best for UT.