ONLINE EXCLUSIVE ARTICLE BY BAILEE COFER
Over the past month, Drake’s campus has been much emptier than the following week since the semester has gotten underway. Before the majority of Drake students returned from winter break, only a small portion of the student population was on campus during the first three weeks of January. Most of them were taking a J-Term course, although not all of them were focused on academics.
Many of the Drake’s athletic teams – including tennis, track and field, basketball and football – were required to return to campus early during the J-Term for mandatory practices and competitions.
One of those students was Vinny Gillespie, a freshman on the men’s tennis team. Gillespie came back to campus on Jan. 5 to start preseason training for the upcoming spring season, which would begin on Jan. 23. They had two-hour practices twice a day, working on their fitness in the mornings and tennis skills in the afternoons.
Most teams, including tennis, are allowed to take a J-Term class while they are back for practices, although many do not, leaving them with a lot of free time.
“It’s a bit different practicing over J-Term than during the school year,” Gillespie said. “There aren’t many people here, so when we’re not playing tennis, there is not much to do.”
Most teams are also housed and fed when they return, but not all teams are so lucky. The football team was required to come back the weekend before school started to start lifting in preparation for spring ball, but they are not given housing or food.
Instead, underclassmen are expected to stay with upperclassmen that live off-campus, and all players must find ways to feed themselves. Isaiah Kent-Schneider, a freshman on the football team, experienced his first early return this J-Term.
“It’s different when you’re practicing but not taking classes,” Kent-Schneider said. “I think I got into a routine of taking too many naps.”
Kent-Schneider said some of the cons of coming back early for practices were leaving a job if you had one over break, leaving your family early and having to workout early in the mornings on campus.
“We all live about six or seven people to a house,” Kent-Schneider said. “We basically just lift and then hangout all day. I’m not sure we benefit much athletically from coming back early, but it’s a fun bonding experience.”
Pierce Vincent, a sprinter on the track team, reported back to campus on Jan. 3 for mandatory track practice. The team is currently in season and had two track meets over the J-Term, while also benefitting athletically by returning to practices early.
“When I am at home, it’s easy to get kind of lazy, so coming back makes it easier to workout when you have your teammates alongside you,” Vincent said.
Team members are allowed to meet with coaches while they are back and have opportunities to put more of their attention on their respective sports. However, the athletes don’t seem to mind the lessened pressure resulting from not having to balance schoolwork and athletics.
“There is less to do during J-Term when you aren’t taking classes,” Vincent said. “It allows me to focus on track more and be less stressed. It is a good time to chill and focus on what you want to do.”