Tuesday, Dec 03 2013 06:00 AM

Roadrunner Connection: Holidays are challenging for college athletes

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Now the holidays are in full swing -- not that they weren't already since retailers now elect to skip right over Thanksgiving the start blasting Christmas decorations the day after Halloween. We find ourselves preparing for yet another holiday season full of discount prices, shopping headaches and then eventually Christmas itself, which always comes with a welcome relief.

I had a chance to talk with some student-athletes recently about the holidays and the lack of family time for most of them due to the scheduling of practices and competitions. When I interviewed many of them about Thanksgiving, most couldn't remember the last time they sat and home and ate with their families. Of course, when you're playing college basketball November is a critical month and there isn't much time to fly home and see family.

Christmas is a little different for many teams with the scheduling a little more laid back since most teams have wrapped up a good chunk of their non-conference schedules and are gearing up for conference play. Many young men and women have the opportunity to fly home for a day or two at the most, then it's right back to the grind.

I do hold a certain level of respect for these young people sacrificing holidays for the pursuit of excellence. Most will tell you that yes, they miss their families but thanks to a family culture around our program in Bakersfield, they feel right at home at a dinner table surrounded by teammates.

Some may think the answer to that is going to school closer to home, but sometimes those universities just aren't the right fit.

Take our men's basketball team for example, there is one player on the roster from California -- Matt Ratto from Ripon. Other than him, these young men are coming from all over the country and the world for that matter.

Going home for a quick trip during the holidays really isn't an option.

December will also be a trying month for the team who will play eight of their nine games away from Bakersfield. Matter of fact, the only home game is this week when we host Santa Clara at Rabobank Arena.

While many college-aged adults are preparing for the holidays, we'll be buzzing all over the country playing basketball, trying to get better as our Western Athletic Conference schedule approaches in early January.

While the holidays are important and the little amount of time we have to celebrate will be appreciated, these months are critical in the development of any student-athlete competing in the winter season.

My hat is off to all of them as they sacrifice time off for a chance at doing something special.

I'll be right alongside them for this journey as well, with eight road games in December spread across four different states; looks like Christmas will come from the Sky Mall catalog once again. Just kidding, OK, maybe I did that once, but who doesn't love receiving a telescoping shoe rack or a rejuvenating hair-growing laser from Santa Claus?

COREY COSTELLOE, a Tehachapi High graduate, is Director of New Media and Broadcasting for California State University, Bakersfield.

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