Letter to the Editor: Try to understand student-athletes before criticizing us

In response to Jonah Dylan and his column “Northwestern is running out of excuses,” I urge sportswriters to expand beyond the realm of what you think you know about NU student-athletes before writing another piece criticizing us. Just like any other student on this campus, student-athletes are committed and hardworking individuals who deserve respect.

In his article, Dylan fails to realize that despite the results he chose to critique, NU still has amazing teams and student-athletes. Did you forget how incredible men’s basketball’s NCAA run last year was? How about back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for women’s tennis or the fact that women’s soccer is a Big Ten champion? Did you forget about NCAA diving champion Olivia Rosendahl? From what I can see, NU athletics have performed far above “mediocrity.”

True, Dylan mentions some of these achievements, but he simply used them to disregard and disrespect what it means to be a NU student-athlete.

Dylan’s statement about Penn State traveling to campus this past weekend expecting to win ignores and overlooks the effort that our football team gave in that game. Does he think essentially saying they don’t stand a chance would make our football team give less than its all? If so, he’s mistaken. NU student-athletes play and give their all until the very end — and our football team deserves more than the disrespect Dylan gave them. So do volleyball and men’s soccer, as well as all other NU athletic teams.

Through criticizing NU athletics and our “failures,” Dylan reveals that he doesn’t at all understand what it takes to be a student-athlete at this university and the associated challenges. Before knocking Northwestern athletics, I recommend talking to an athlete. Ask them about the work they put into their sport every day and all the things they do to achieve on and off the field, the pool, the court or the strip.

As a student-athlete, I fully understand the struggles of being a full-time student on top of committing 20 or more hours every week to a sport I love. Just like everyone else on campus, as student-athletes, we have our good days and our bad days — but those bad days seem to consistently be the ones people use to judge and criticize us. Sometimes these days do add up, but that in itself shouldn’t reflect how student-athletes and our teams are seen as a whole.

I’ve competed in fencing for over 10 years and it’s taken me a long time to understand my worth as an athlete — both in and out of the context of this campus. I understand that for all students, there are days — at times, even weeks or months on end — when it can seem like nothing is going right and you feel that you just “can’t right now.” But here’s the thing, student-athletes have to get back up every time, and that’s not to say other students don’t too. But we have to persevere through the bad days. We keep playing, we keep cheering and we keep fighting because that’s our responsibility.

NU athletic teams and our student-athletes are not “mediocre” and we do not produce “mediocre” results. Our student-athletes work harder than you know and still push themselves despite criticism from people who have no idea what it takes to walk in our shoes.

Anna Tolley
Weinberg ‘18
Northwestern Varsity Fencing Team