It’s All About Balance for Student-Athletes

IMG_6449 By: Karlee Holzbach

As a college student, it’s hard enough choosing a major and sticking to its many requirements. However, it’s even harder as a DIII student-athlete because you have to make a major choice without knowing the time conflicts that will ensue. With this hectic schedule, the university’s accommodations and overall commitment to the sports team will separate the successful from the unsuccessful. Certain majors are easier to distinguish if they are more time consuming or not. Science majors, in particular, require more class time with their addition of frequent and lengthy labs. At CNU, students who seek their Bachelor of Science degree are required to have a minimum of 35 credit hours. However, the catch is these core classes require 1-4 hour labs that only offer one credit aside from the usual three credits from lectures. With an addition of these labs, class times can seem never ending. According to Rachael Shiflett, a junior on CNU’s softball team, “For bio majors, and I think really for any majors, a lot of stress and require a lot of time commitment. It just doesn’t seem like there’s enough time in the day.” Since her freshman year, Rachael has stuck with her original choice as a cellular, molecular, and physiological biology major despite her on-going schedule conflicts.

Rachael_Shiflett_2015Studying and homework aside, Rachael already has a 12-hour workday between class and softball. This schedule offers limited room for any kind of procrastination or distractions. With classes surrounding her daily practice has forced her into a chaotic lifestyle.

“My day usually begins around 9 a.m. stretching throughout the day. I have an OChem lab that generally lasts from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday nights. For any major, but especially biology, it’s important to stay ahead and not fall behind. Biology comes in waves. I have a test almost every week. If not, I call it a pretty easy week. My friends make fun of me because I am always in the library. I have to study all of the time because if not I would literally fail out. I put in 20 hours a week at the library easily. If I weren’t so tired from practice maybe I could get more studying done. It’s not easy, but I have acquired good study habits and learned to form groups for days that I may miss.”

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While attending to her busy school schedule, softball requires a 4-hour gap for all to participate in team practices. In a perfect world, a student-athlete’s class schedule would be separated from class and practice times. Naturally, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes student-athletes practice time may start at the time of their class. For instance, a required class could begin at 2:00 p.m. meanwhile practice may start at 2:15 p.m. that day. There are classes offered outside of practice times, but they’re usually centered on the favorable times that other non-athletes tend to add as well. Student-athletes at CNU are given the opportunity to register for classes earlier due to this, however, it is only allowed before their on-season. If a student-athlete is registering during their off-season, it’s every man for him or herself. In this case, they will report to practice immediately after their class time has finished. Rachael explains the mutual understandings she and her teammates share about the conflicts of managing both practice times and class times. “Some of my teammates do have some intervening classes that they must attend to during practice times. It’s acceptable as long as they make it up by practicing on their own before or after practice.” During their long weeks, it’s inevitable that student-athletes will find their schedules harder than others, and throwing traveling on the pile adds the cherry on the top.

Traveling with a sports team for away games can greatly affect the amount of time the student-athlete has to prepare for their upcoming exams. Game days prior to an exam results in a decrease in the amount of study time and forces them to rely on the strength of the bus and hotel’s Wi-Fi. However, other times a game day can overlap an exam leading to the test date at the professor’s discretion, which can either be before or after the trip. CNU posts all sports team’s home and away game schedules showing just how much these student-athletes move around. Rachael explains, “What makes being a student-athlete so difficult is when you have the professors who don’t get my schedule and refuse to work with me with my grades.” She states that she finds professors viewing this as special treatment allowing student-athletes to have extra time to take their missed assignments, but in reality, it’s just giving athletes equal time to study in comparison with their classmates. Rachael stresses how crucial CNU’s professor’s make-up date is to her success as a student-athlete by stating, “Those days before an exam are crucial in college. So when I’m missing important lectures and key points that are announced in class, I am ultimately missing questions on my exams. In college, you have to take advantage of every little point you can get. You never know how it will affect your final grade.”Although there are many hardships student-athletes face, many positives have emerged.

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Late nights in the library lead to study parties with teammates there to help you, long and tiring practices have created lifelong friendships, and even longer road trips have allowed families to come together and support their players. All in all, Rachael has found the stressing to be more of a blessing.

“There are more positives than negatives being a student-athlete. Softball causes a lot of my anxiety due to its great time commitment. However, you learn a lot on any sports team. You learn how to be a teammate and a leader who can handle whatever conflict is thrown at you. My teammates are now my roommates and next year they will be my roommates again. They are my study partners, my best friends, my everything. I just gain so much pride when I say my teammates and I represent our school. It’s a blessing to play softball, not a privilege. I am extremely fortunate to have such an amazing and supporting team, family, and school.”

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Freshman year I planned to be a biology major as a student-athlete. After long hours of studying and practice, constant all-nighters in the library, and my overall lack of commitment to my classes I realized I couldn’t manage the rigors of studying and softball. Ultimately this forced me to change majors in order for me to maintain a passing GPA and keep my title as a student-athlete. Based on my past experiences, I have a tremendous amount of respect for student-athletes like Rachael who have found the formula for maintaining their science majors and their commitment to their sports teams.

 

 

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