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5 Things Not To Say To A Penn State Athlete

A Penn State athlete isn’t hard to pick out. Whether we’re playing at one of our respective stadiums or wearing our blue Dri-Fit Nike backpacks (probably dressed in Nittany Lion gear as well), we usually stick out from the crowd. But when we’re not on the field we are just regular students who are looking to socialize and meet new people.

While striking up a conversation with a Penn State athlete might seem like neat opportunity to chat about State sports and learn how athletes function when they’re not on the field, there are some conversation starters you should avoid at all costs:

1. “So are you on the real or fake team?”

Considering there is no “fake team” at Penn State, I promise you, I’m on the real team. What most people get confused about is the difference between Club and Varsity, but when it comes out, it’s usually “Oh, are you on the real team.” Most athletes won’t lie when they say which sports team they play on, so in order to see if they are on the varsity sports team, change the question to, “Are you on club or varsity?”

2. “Why don’t you wear anything other than practice gear?”

Most of the teams practice early in the morning or in the afternoon, but there is also the fact that practice times range and we need to be ready for everything. When class is over, we automatically have to transition into sport mode, so having the gear on and getting straight to practice is pretty routine and necessary. On the other hand, the rush to get to class from early morning practice is more of a concern than changing into another outfit…plus we probably don’t have one available in the locker room. Would we like to wear something besides our practice gear? Yes, but sometimes we don’t have that luxury.

3. “In the next game, I think if you do this…”

This one is much more common than most people think. But the notion of a fan or peer giving you advice on how you can do better on the field is definitely not a way to start up a conversation. Between the critiques from coaches, trainers, and parents, hearing that we played poorly or needed to do “this,” needed to make this play, or should’ve scored there, is something that no one would really want to hear — especially a Penn State athlete.

4. “Why are you complaining, you go to school for free.”

The way scholarships work at Penn State isn’t the way most people think. Not everyone gets a scholarship, so not everyone goes to school for free. Depending on different teams (and our coach’s discretion), scholarships vary and usually less than a quarter of the team is on a full one. So saying Penn State pays for our education is ignorant and not true in some ways. Also, the time and effort that we put into our respective sports to make sure that our teams win and that we put on a good show for our spectators is not easy. We have a duty to uphold to because athletics are a responsibility and consume almost as much time (if not more) as school does.

5. “So you barely have any free time, huh?”

Thank you, Captain Obvious. Like I said before, collegiate athletics really are a job. When we are not in the classroom or studying, chances are we are probably doing something pertaining to our sport. Whether that is lifting, conditioning, dieting, or regenerating our bodies, we are constantly bound by what we need to do for our team. There are no “off days,” because even on our off days we are probably doing something in order to prepare ourselves for the next week of sports-related activities.

Next time you sit next to a Penn State athlete in class, make sure you’re conscious of what you’re asking them. But don’t hesitate either — we don’t bite!

About the Author

Drew Klingenberg

As well as being a staff writer for Onward State, Drew is a self-proclaimed Pittsburgh expert and traveling enthusiast. When he is not hiking some strange yet secluded area of the United States, you can see him either standing entirely too long in the State College Chipotle line, or at the gym acting like he's doing something productive. If you appreciate sub-par humor or overly-saturated photography, follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@dmklingenberg). For inquiries please email Drew at [email protected]

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