Just over 16% students — 204 total — of the 1,245 Zeitgeist respondents were varsity athletes. According to statistics on the Athletics Department’s website, nearly 27% of Middlebury students participate in varsity sports.
One dominant stereotype of athletes is that they “work hard, play hard.” When rigorous academics meet a big time commitment like a varsity sport, it “can definitely lead to finding a form of release elsewhere,” according to Munya Ra Munyati ’20.5, a member of the men's track team. We wondered if varsity athletes really do “go harder” than non-athletes.
On average, athletes get drunker than non-athletes, according to Zeitgeist data. About 48% of non-athletes said they tend to “get drunk” when they consume alcohol, compared to 58% within the varsity-athlete population. For some athletes, drinking is a coping mechanism. Varsity sports take up roughly three hours a day — and some athletes recounted the toll that a demanding academic schedule coupled with athletic commitments takes on their mental health. “The more stress that builds up, the more people drink,” said Ra Munyati.
There also seem to be systemic practices that lead to an increased consumption of alcohol. Like most clubs on campus, varsity teams encourage their members to pay dues, the money from which is often used to provide people with hard alcohol. “Freshmen on teams are also given access to alcohol in a much larger capacity than most freshmen,” said women's track member Kiera Dowell '20.
Additionally, varsity athletes are more than twice as likely to “black out,” with 11% reporting it is a regular occurrence. “We like to push the limits of how much fun we can have,” said Pete Huggins ’21. Huggins, a member of the football team, also said that sometimes going out and drinking would turn into a competition of sorts between teammates, something he said was meant all in good fun. Dowell recalled a party after NESCACS her sophomore year that was “was absolutely insane,” but remains adamant when she says that ultimately celebrations like these are “not the leading cause” for the patterns of drinking followed by varsity athletes.
We also asked where respondents were most likely to spend a Saturday night on campus, and allowed people to pick up to three options. The data elucidated that, generally (and unsurprisingly) much drinking is happening at Atwater. Nearly 83% of athletes reported that on an average Saturday night, they would most likely be found in an Atwater suite, almost three times — 270% — more likely than non-athletes. Put differently, while varsity athletes only made up about 16% of respondents, they represented more than a third — 34% — of Middlebury students who spend time in Atwater suites on the weekends.
Varsity athletes are also more likely to spend time at off-campus locations on Saturday nights. This is not entirely surprising, since senior members of varsity teams often apply for suites and houses and opt to hold team parties there.
Men's hockey player Mitch Allen '20 felt that Atwater’s popularity among most varsity teams was due to a lack of other options, though he said that it was a less than ideal space. He mentioned that his “team has had an off-campus house for the past two years and that is very much preferred to anywhere else.”
Huggins also said the Atwater trend could be due to tradition. “A team will get a suite and everyone knows to go there,” he said. “There is a small bonding or celebratory aspect to it.”
Varsity athletes also differ from non-athletes in their sexual/relationship encounters. The survey results suggest that athletes were 12% more likely than non-athletes to have experienced a one-night stand. Furthermore, athletes were more likely to have engaged in consensual sexual activity with more partners. 38% of athletes said that they had engaged in consensual sexual activity with 2–4 partners in the last 12 months, compared to 30% of non-athletes. Additionally, 14% of athletes reported that they had abstained from consensual sexual activity in the last year, compared to 23% of non-athletes.
Nearly 41% of non-athletes at Middlebury have reported being in a committed relationship. That number slinks back to just over 32% among the varsity athlete population. In other words, athletes were also 20% less likely to have been in a full-fledged committed/monogamous relationship while at Middlebury.
Some student athletes find this data surprising. “At least for track, there is sometimes inter team hookups but often that turns into dating.” said Marisa Edmondson '20 of the track team. “ A lot of my teammates date each other. I’d say as far as I know more people end up dating each other then casually hooking up,” Edmondson continued.