STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
Stepping onto a college campus for the first time, every student is granted four years of athletic eligibility to play for their school’s athletic teams, regardless of their age. Most students don’t take advantage of this, but many athletic programs are able to make the most of this rule through a process known as “redshirting.”
A coach may redshirt any player, but they will almost always select exclusively freshmen. A redshirted player will not participate in any games during their first season, but will still be part of the team and practice with them.
This allows the player to develop more as an athlete and to improve their skills and athleticism, while still preserving a year of eligibility, now able to compete as a more experienced fifth-year.
Drake’s starting quarterback for the 2015 football season will be Andy Rice, who will be a fifth-year senior next year, a player who has experienced first-hand the benefits of being redshirted his freshman year.
Rice, as an athlete in a highly physical sport like football, found that it wasn’t so much learning the game that would benefit him on the field, but instead preparing to be competitive on the gridiron with bigger competitors at the collegiate level.
“The best part, honestly, is being able to lift on Fridays. I came in at 185 pounds and I ended my freshman year at 215 pounds,” Rice said. “I was a twig coming out of high school.”
Casey Schlatter was redshirted this past season for the Men’s Basketball team and will play for the first time next year as a sophomore, and he has realized the same benefits that Rice experienced.
“It helped a lot because I was lifting three days a week, working on getting stronger,” Schlatter said. “On top of that, going against the starters every day, so I was always able to challenge myself with the guys I was playing.”
This decision should also help Schlatter, a 6’10” forward, in the development of his more technical skills on the court, not just in pure strength.
“I think it’ll help a lot just because big guys take a little longer for us to develop,” Schlatter said. “Just having a year of learning before playing and learning what it takes (is going to help).”
Sophomore Darrin MacLeod, the starting goalkeeper for Men’s Soccer, attests to that sentiment as well. He believes that just being a part of the team for a season before playing made him better the following year.
“I think just being in a college setting an extra year and having that time to develop in training sessions and learning (helped a lot),” MacLeod said.
In addition to that year of development, the experience that comes with being older and oftentimes more mature than most of his opponents has proven to be invaluable to MacLeod.
“There is always pieces of my game I want to work on,” MacLeod said. “As you get older you get that sense of composure.”
Besides on-the-field benefits, having that extra year in school and on campus has proven to be beneficial to these men as student-athletes.
“It makes a huge difference. Next semester I’m taking one class,” Rice said. “The redshirt year is a lot of fun, mostly because you get to hang out with a whole bunch of guys you just met and get to establish those relationships right off the bat.”
Those relationships have also helped Rice become a leader both on and off the field, as he has been part of Drake’s system and the Bulldog team for so long. This surely is something that MacLeod is learning now and Schlatter will realize when it is his time to be an upperclassman. It will be Schlatter’s opportunity to lead the young freshmen redshirts off the court so that they will one day be able to better lead on it, like this year’s seniors did for him.