“Student-athlete” is the American term for a college student that plays his or her sport for the official “varsity” sports team of the university. Every university has one ‘varsity’ team per sport, which means it is the official team for the university. Students can also play sports at a recreational level.
Every student-athlete is recruited by a college coach, to compete for the university team during games and tournaments against other universities. Many student-athletes receive (partial) athletic scholarships, which helps them pay for tuition, housing, meals and other costs of attendance.
Student-athletes often have an unwritten “special” status in college and are seen as unique students. It is therefore also quite normal in America that you are actually recognized at school as a ‘student-athlete’ by other students at the university. A kind of VIP status, in other words 😉