Looking the Part: Student-Athletes Weigh in on Body Image

By Charles Lippolis, Staff Writer

In the eyes of young competitors and sports fans abroad, professional and collegiate athletes have become associated with the concept of a perfect body.

The idea of body image has attached itself to highest levels of sports, and has been supported through a stronger grasp of sports medicine. Now more than ever, professional and collegiate athletes are given the tools to shape their bodies for both physical performance and aesthetic appreciation.

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Photo Courtesy of GoJaspers.com

Blerim Pocesta is in his fifth year of NCAA eligibility, and his fourth year as a thrower with the Manhattan College track and field team, but still finds himself looking for opportunities to maximize his potential in competition.

“As an athlete, I always want to strive to be better,” Pocesta says.

Pocesta had the honor of being featured on the men’s track and field office wall, and it only strengthened his motivation to get better. This drive to constantly improve is rooted in his own understanding of how far he has come in his years of collegiate training.

Claire Roediger, senior attack for the Manhattan College lacrosse team also understands the effect collegiate athletics has on her body. In her fourth year with the Jaspers, Roediger has become comfortable with her body through the training she has gone through.

At this point in her career, Roediger has learned to embrace the training that prepares her for her sport, rather than that of a non-athlete. Knowing her goal every day, Roediger can confidently shape her body on her own agenda, rather than feeling conflicted by the other, less intensive workouts she could be doing

“I’m here for a reason,” Roediger says.

There was no doubt in her voice, as Roediger even alluded to other workouts that she would probably be doing if she wasn’t training a specific way. However, she has also been able to develop confidence with age, and is comfortable being who she is, the way she is.

Nuwan Jayawickreme, Ph.D., in psychology and professor at Manhattan College, described the idea of body image as a relative comparison that never reaches total alignment.

This sentiment is intensified by the fact that Pocesta and Roediger are training athletes. Athletes measure their worth by their performance, which often holds a direct relationship to the shape their body is in for their sport.

“We internalize norms as to how our body should look,” Jayawickreme says.

This is a pattern found in certain eating disorders such as anorexia, where the human brain cannot determine whether or not the body is overweight or too thin. For training athletes, it is often hard for them to objectively judge their bodies, as their minds are skewed by the preset of what their output should look like.

However, Pocesta and Roediger have learned to centralize the goals instead of their physique, and so far, their production as teammates is more valuable to them than any praise or critique of their own body.