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A Dedicated Athlete: what it's like when everything revolves around your sport

by Haya Issa |

When we think about athletes' lives, we think training, training, more training and competitions. We tend to attach their 'sport' to their identity and overlook the daily ups-and-downs associated with their training to become at the level that they are. 
We peaked inside the life of Noor Judeh, our very own Lifestyle Editor, and a previous Division 1 tennis player, to see what it was like growing up when all you have is sports. 
Growing up in the US, Judeh's full time dedication was put towards playing tennis; "I used to have an abbreviated schedule in school - which means I only took core curriculum classes and left school early to go to my tennis academy (TCCP - Tennis Center at College Park)". The elite high performance tennis academy and boarding school on the East Coast diligently trained athletes to play Division 1 tennis in college or go on to play ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) tour instead of college.  
So, what does it mean to play Division 1 tennis? 
NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) schools are organised into three divisions, D1, D2, and D3. Division 1 schools are the biggest universities, have massive and fully-funded athletic priority, and compete in a minimum of 14 sports for both males and females, where the athletes are televised and are often draft picks for professional teams. Division 3 schools are the smallest of the NCAA institutions. D3 schools are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships. D2 is an intermediate level and a bridge in between the two. 
Playing a division 1 varsity sport means full commitment by contract to your sport, including rules surrounded around lifestyle. What foods are permitted, activities one can partake in (i.e. skiing is not allowed), as well as curfews and schedules.
"I earned a full scholarship to play for Rutgers University for four years and my contract with the school obliged me to wake up at 5 a.m. (six days a week) for something we called “lift”. Lift is workouts in the gym with our designated gym trainer. After lift we would head to rehab to ice our bodies and recover so we maintain at our maximum physical potential. We had a 2 hour window before we had to return to the athletic facility and do conditioning for an hour, before heading straight to the courts for a 4 hour practice. This was the athletic schedule every day 6 days a week. Above that, the athletic department kept a close eye on our academic behavior, taking attendance of athletes in classes and giving us a required minimum time of 10 hours per week in the study hall for athletes (which averaged out to 2 hours each weekday). We also had dedicated mandatory academic tutoring sessions. It sounds very tiring because it was. On the weekends, we would travel to a new location each time and compete against another Division 1 University", Judeh shares. 
How would you sum up your experience? 
"Constant injuries, constant traveling, and a lifetime of competition!"
Judeh explains the importance of time management when you are that committed to a sport. For Division 1 athletes who have been recruited, if something goes wrong in your ability to play or perform, you could lose your entire scholarship or better yet enrollment in the University. So there is a lot riding on that. You have to be on time for every obligation associated with the team, and no matter what else is going on in your life you have to find a way to be in the right mindset during team commitments. Otherwise, there is a lot to lose. 
"I would sum it up as pressuresome in all ways. Pressure to win and pressure to keep performing at my best potential."
Judeh was number 1 in the USTA (United States Tennis Association) Mid-Atlantic Region for age groups 12, 14, 16, and 18, and top 10 in the United States in all age groups. She ultimately got recruited to play Division 1 tennis and helped her school tennis team reach the top in the conference for 4 years. Another “accomplishment” was being the head tennis coach for President Obama’s children (Malia and Sasha Obama) for 3 years.

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