College athletics demanding, say grads

While ARHS has many star athletes that help the school win games, matches and titles, what happens when some of the high school’s best and brightest go off to college?

I spoke with three graduates of ARHS about their experiences with being college athletes, juggling classes and sports, and their social lives.

JJ Sylla, an ARHS grad and football and track star now attends Central Connecticut State University and plays Division I football for their team the Blue Devils.

As the season began, Sylla found it hard to go out and “experience the fun parts of being in college” because of the strict schedule he follows everyday. “I barely have that much free time besides Monday’s which I have off and weekends, after games on Sunday,” said Sylla.

During the season Sylla wakes up at 6 a.m. then heads off to class from 8-9:25 a.m. Between classes, Sylla goes to the gym, eats lunch, heads to class at 1:40, finally ending his busy day with practice from 3:30-5:30 p.m.

“I’ve always wanted to play college football growing up so I had expected my life to be like this,” said Sylla, which to him was “a dream come true.”

Even though Sylla goes through this daily schedule, he still finds time to do his homework. “Balancing homework is not as bad as you would think because I have from 6 p.m. on to finish my work,” said Sylla.

As for his social life at school, football really helps Sylla stay connected to his teammates both in and out of practice. “The team is like a big family since we are always around each other. Most athletes around campus are friends with each other and of course there’s still time to have fun on weekends after the boat load of school work is done,” he said.

Next up is Allison McCann who was part of the class of 2016 and is now a freshman at Dartmouth College, playing Division I tennis for the Big Greens.

Being a freshman, McCann, has gotten used to the college life and how to juggle school and sports. During the season she has a three hour practice in the afternoon after classes.

“We usually do two to two and a half hours of playing tennis and then either an hour of lifting or an hour of conditioning depending on the day. Two days a week we do lifting at 6:30 in the morning before classes,” said McCann. With Mondays off, it helps her catch her breath and get ready for the tiring week.

As for homework, McCann finds it hard but fights through. “It’s definitely really busy but I spend every evening during the week doing homework after practice. There are definitely a lot of late nights doing work,” said McCann.

Social life is a big part of college and for McCann she has decide whether or not to go out or rest up. “It’s hard because there are a lot of times where I know I should just rest to catch up on sleep but I hate missing out on social things,” said McCann.

But she knows that going out isn’t always the best idea. “It’s important to occasionally take certain days to just rest. My goal for next term is to do that more because it’s very easy to get behind on sleep and this then can affect playing performance,” said McCann.

With little to no free time during the season and all year long because of pre-season tournaments, McCann had no idea what her days would be like before entering college. Still she doesn’t regret it. “I was really nervous beforehand because I had no idea what to expect, but I loved it from the very beginning. It’s been super fun,” said McCann.

Brandon Rivera, another ARHS grad is now a sophomore at Westfield State University and plays Division III football for the Owls.

Rivera’s schedule changes a lot throughout the week during the football season. “Every day is different. It’s never the same. On a Monday I could have a 6 a.m. lift session, 8 a.m. classes and classes until noon, then have a meeting at 4 p.m., practice from 6-8, then another meeting at 8,” said Rivera.

With this very tough schedule Rivera likes to spend some of his free time by resting up and sleeping before practice. With about 13 hours spent on

To Rivera, school and sports are the only tough parts of school that he has to worry about. “I think it’s more hard to balance sports and school because those are the two things you give your most time to. The people you hang out with will be your teammates so you are with them at practice meetings and even after football,” he said.

Each athlete had some advice for incoming freshmen who are playing college level sports. “Take school seriously. There’s a lot I wish I did differently. Cherish every moment while playing a sport because there is nothing better than high school sports. And be prepared to work,” said Rivera.

Sylla had advice, too. “Don’t come into school arrogant or cocky because it’s a whole different level of sports. You may have been the best athlete at your high school but everyone in college was the best athlete at their high school too,” said Sylla.

“Have fun doing what you love! Getting to play a sport in college is a privilege and it is important to just enjoy it,” said McCann.