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Sunday's Word: Summer Vacation

Like me, you could be on "summer vacation" right now. 

You could be spending your time visiting Burma, attending a wedding, or traveling with your family to see the Grand Canyon.  Or you could simply be watching the Dave Matthews band in concert, or finally trying to beat that high score in Frogger.

But tomorrow, "summer vacation" ends for nearly a hundred student-athletes attending a certain Patriot League university situated at a bend of the Monocacy Creek, and a new football season will begin.

"Summer vacation" to many collegiate athletes, too, belongs in quotes.

When I was attending Lehigh, my summers were not spent backpacking through Chile for self-enrichment.   They were mostly spent at a corporate summer job, with the salary spent towards paying off that expensive $20,000 a year education I was enjoying the other nine months out of the year.

It was very important to me personally that I contribute to my education.  My parents and grandparents provided the majority of the money, got the loans, and took on most of the financial burden, but I wanted to make sure that nobody could tell me that I didn't earn this education in some way.

It made for an interesting summer at times.  Friends would sometimes go for weeks in resort towns, while I frankly needed to stay home, attempt to train for a job after graduation, and make money for the upcoming school year.

That's not to say that I didn't have any fun.  While working on second shift of Fridays was kind of a bummer, I did visit my friends in the Adirondacks, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Boston, drank too much sometimes, met some girls, had some laughs.

I heavily suspect it's the same for a lot of the student-athletes returning to campus this weekend.

Of course, many players didn't leave campus over the summer, getting summer jobs in the Lehigh area in order to get by.  If you count the strength and conditioning drills that are "not mandatory" but necessary to be in top condition for the upcoming season, it's really two, or perhaps three, jobs.

People sometimes think that the life of an athlete is easy.  They're big men on campus, so the myth goes, so teachers cruise them through on academics and they simply show up in August and do their job for the school, which is play a sport.

But the reality is that for nearly all of the student-athletes - many of whom, as the NCAA tells us often, go pro in something other than sports - big sacrifices are made.  Who wouldn't rather be taking a two-week trip down the coast of California rather than sitting in the thousand-degree heat of Lehigh, doing those extra reps in the weight room?

That's not to say the athletes have any fun.  The Jersey Shore isn't too far away.   Former teammates get married.  And in the valley there's the chance to have some semblance of a "summer vacation" as well.

But it's good to remember that their "summer vacations" are a lot different that the one that you or I get to enjoy.  In fact, while I get to enjoy a week off and a couple weeks before the football season begins, for the football team, there is no more "summer vacation".  A month before many people even dream of football, for the hundred student-athletes at Lehigh, "summer vacation" is over, and the semester begins.

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