Involuntarily Voluntary Practices

28 Aug

During the offseason that followed Kansas State’s run to the Pinstripe Bowl, one of the favorite conversation topics for Wildcat football fans has been running back Bryce Brown. A native of Wichita and transfer from Tennessee, Brown has been thought to have tremendous upside, even such that he will be able to help fill the void left by All-American rusher Daniel Thomas. Then came the summer, and then came some questions.

Apparently, Brown put himself in the doghouse to a degree by not participating in the voluntary summer workouts. Of course, if you look at the strict definition of the word voluntary – “done, made, brought about, undertaken, etc., of one’s own accord or by free choice” – you would think that Brown did not do anything so wrong.

Yet the fact Brown did not take the opportunities to bond with his teammates and improve alongside them did not impress Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder. It is clear that though the word voluntary is attached to practice, missing out on those sessions is not advisable. That being the case, it could be said that the phrase “voluntary practices” is a misnomer and could be confusing for players … if a player happens to live under a rock.

Practically speaking, there is no confusion. If you want to ensure yourself a roster spot, you go and bust your behind at any and every opportunity, whether it is in the weight room or on the field. Goodness, seven years ago as an 8th-grader, I knew that if I wanted to be a starter, those “voluntary” practices were anything but optional. Basically, practices are voluntary if you’re volunteering to sit on the bench.

While I’m sure the demands on the time of student-athletes are significant even with the required activities, and while I know it must be wearisome for those demands to extend to the summer months and through various breaks from classes, playing on a team as a whole is a voluntary activity. However, I would say it is also a privilege. I’m sure Bryce Brown has come to that conclusion already, and it will be intriguing to see what he comes to the field with on Saturday.

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