Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices: Appreciating Black athletes beyond the game

We can all tell a story about how the rigors of college life have gotten the best of us and how being a full-time student is nothing less than a full-time job. But what matters most is how we decide to deal with it.

It takes passion, dedication and perseverance. Every second in a college student's life is a defining moment that will contribute to the development of character far beyond college years.

For students who juggle an athletic career on top of college life, it is an even more strenuous task. It is far too often we have the tendency to unconsciously ostracize student athletes. It is important to remember when they aren’t in uniform, they are just like any other average student. 

Having a strict schedule attached to their sport affects the ways they are able to interact with other students on campus. Therefore, we rarely are granted the opportunity to get to know athletes beyond anything pertaining to sports performance, specifically our Black athletes. 

As Black students at a predominantly white institution, we only make up approximately 5% of the total enrollment of 32,991 undergraduate students and more than 10,000 graduate students at IU. Consequently, the percentage of Black athletes is even lower, thus making the importance of telling their stories and amplifying their voices even more important.

Each of these athletes has a unique pathway that led them to IU athletics.

“I started playing soccer when I was about 4 or 5 years old. When I was 4 up until I was 9, my family and I lived in Tanzania and soccer was the only sport they played,” said Herbert Endeley, a sophomore soccer player.

Endeley's international experiences introduced him to the sport that would soon become a major part of his life.

“I went to a huge international school and since soccer is a universal sport, that was one thing me and my friends all had in common with each other,” he said. 

It is common for collegiate level athletes to have started practicing their sport at a young age

When I was younger I used to race all of the boys and girls in my neighborhood and always beat them,” said track and field sophomore athlete Janii Jenkins. 

After joining her first team in sixth grade, she hasn’t looked back since. 

These athletes work tirelessly to represent our campus. Throughout one’s athletic career, they will pick up values and lessons learned through their sport that will also be applicable to their everyday live. 

“I learned that you cannot control everything," Sophomore track and field athlete Treyton Harris said "You have to fix your mind to focus on the little tactics and the others will follow. I’ve also learned that you determine your own destiny, it isn’t anyone else’s journey." 

For Harris, enjoying every moment is a key factor to his journey to success.

Despite the inevitable challenges that come along with leading an athletic lifestyle, it is imperative to remain positive. 

“Playing a sport like baseball is really tough because of how many times you can do everything right and still fail, which ultimately ties it into real life," Jeremy Houston said. "Sometimes things don’t go your way but you have to continue to push through those hard times,” fifth-year senior and baseball player."

Learning these types of valuable lessons are just some of the fruits of an athlete's labor. Basketball player Danielle Patterson also pointed out the value in being able to lean on teammates.

“You have people relying on you to give 100% at the same time you know you can look to them to lean on if you feel like you re having a hard time,” red-shirt junior Patterson said.

While many Division I athletes dream of advancing to a professional level after college, they also have other interests besides sports. Just like any other student, they choose a degree track and occupation that correlates with their passions. 

Track and field athletes Kynton Grays and Shaynae Deas and cheerleader Amira Bledsoe take interest in careers completely unrelated to sports. 

“My core life goals are to be as successful as I can possibly while pursuing an occupation in forensic science,” Grays said. 

Also taking interest in the field of science, Bledsoe has her future planned out.

“Outside of sports, I am interested in pursuing a B.S. in biotechnology in hopes of going to pharmacy school and receiving my PharmD,” Bledsoe said.

Motivated by her desire to assist the less fortunate, Deas is majoring in speech and hearing sciences in hopes to someday make an important difference in the world.

“My core life goals that I have are to make a change and help people in the deaf community and travel,” sophomore Deas said.

On the contrary, teammates Caleb Jones and Christian Love are both pursuing careers that can relate to their love of the game of football. Although Jones' main goal in life is to make it to the NFL and be able to support his family, he is studying sports marketing and management with plans to use his degree toward a sports administrative or coaching job. 

Love is studying sports media inspired by his love for making and producing videos. Outside of football he enjoys running his Youtube channel, Walk in Love ENT.

Among nearly 500 other institutions, IU is listed as having high impact career practices to better prepare athletes for careers after graduation. 

Hoosier athletes are more than what meets the eye. These individuals are not only admirable but continuously demonstrate what it means to be dedicated and versatile.

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