Long practices. Strenuous workouts. Difficult homework. Sleepless nights. Weekly games. The life of a collegiate athlete is hectic. But for many, the benefits that come from being part of a team outweigh the drawbacks.

“It’s definitely nice to play at the collegiate level, playing against elite competition and being a part of something where [my teammates and I] work together to achieve a common goal,” said Patrick Ramos, the starting point guard for the UC Santa Cruz men’s basketball team. “That brings us closer together than most people would think. I don’t even really think about them as my teammates — they’re more like my brothers.” 

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world. As a team sport, all players are required to perform well, individually and collectively, in order to achieve the greatest success possible. 

As one of the team leaders, Ramos studies his team’s plays, along with the rigorous courses he takes as a third-year biology  major.

Ramos’ days usually start at 6:30 a.m. and end around midnight, consisting of classes, meals, pre-practice workouts, scheduled practices, post-practice treatment, weightlifting and homework. 

UCSC’s men’s basketball coach Ron DuBois has experience as a collegiate basketball player. After attending Arizona State University, where he earned a basketball scholarship, DuBois moved on to a career as a coach at the collegiate and professional levels. 

He carries the wisdom gained as a player with him through to his career as a professional coach. He knows firsthand what his players are experiencing, allowing him to provide advice and knowledge only a select few can. 

“[Student athletes] are getting an experience unlike what any other student gets because of the support system that’s built in and the way they’re challenged emotionally, physically, and mentally, […] especially when you see all the news about mental health, this is a physical outlet for them,” DuBois said. 

For first-year student athletes, the task of succeeding in new academic and athletic environments can be intimidating. 

Zion Gabriel is a first-year human biology major and a guard for UCSC’s women’s basketball team. Like Ramos, Gabriel has to balance the rigors of college coursework with daily practices and workouts. 

“In college, it’s a different kind of studying, even though we [only] have three classes. Our games are on the weekend, and that’s usually the time I’m doing homework,” Gabriel said. “You’re really tired, and it’s a lot.” 

Throughout the years, as academics and athletics intensify, the dedication that these student athletes have for their sport drives them to adjust and maintain their performance in the classroom and on the court.   

At the end of the day, the most gratifying and rewarding outcome from being a student athlete is the unique experience gained from participating in collegiate sports.

“There’s nothing like giving for your teammates and all the adversity that you go through as a team, [as well as] individually, and sticking with it,” said UCSC men’s basketball coach Ron DuBois. “As you’re maturing on a different level in college, [having] that holistic experience, not only in academics [but in athletics as well], is such a huge thing for them.”