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Student-Athletes Discuss Sport-School Balance At UWindsor

by: Erin Tanner

Sports and News

The life of a university student is demanding. We all have what seems like a million things to do – attend lectures, write midterms, finish assignments – the list goes on. Especially now, at the end of the semester, there are copious amounts of work that need to be completed. For many students, there are going to be sleepless nights ahead for us, cramming before exams and editing final papers. And that’s not everything we have to do. Many of us have jobs and we all have to maintain our social lives, there are countless little things we do in addition to our academic responsibilities. Our lives are all hectic and our schedules are demanding.

Now, picture the life of a student athlete. They have to juggle all of these responsibilities on top of their team’s schedules. Imagine having to attend training, practices, meetings, and games on top of your current schedule. Student athletes have to maintain their academic performance, all while continually improving on their athletic skills. It’s not just enough for them to show up to a game and phone it in it because they’re tired or had a busy week. There are no excuses; they have to be ready to go in and give it their all every time. It takes time and effort, but somehow, they do it.

While we may picture Lancer athletes as being skilled in their sport and hardworking on the field or court, we often don’t consider that like us, they are students, too. When considering student athletes, the focus is sometimes stressed on the athlete rather than the student. It is all too easy to shirk off athletes as being “dumb jocks” – slackers in the classroom who are glorified on the field or court. However, our Lancer student athletes refute this stereotype. They assert that they maintain their academic commitments in addition of their athletic responsibilities. They are achievers in both school and sports.

It is difficult to balance all of their obligations and responsibilities, but our Lancer athletes have weighed in on how they do it.

First and foremost, time management was a reoccurring theme among the interviewed athletes. Staying on top of coursework can be difficult, especially when you factor in the time you need to fulfil other obligations, like work. For student athletes, this is further complicated by having to attend their respective team’s schedule. Many teams have practices nearly every weekday during their season, which can make managing time more challenging for the members of those teams. Additionally, during each team’s season, the student athletes compete just about every weekend. Whether it’s games or tournaments, the Lancer athletes devote significant amounts of time to these events.

Clayton Shreve, image from www.golancers.ca

Clayton Shreve, kinesiology student has dealt with scheduling difficulties throughout his four years as a member of the football team. During the fall term Shreve takes four classes to lessen his workload throughout the football season. In his first and second years in university he tried taking five courses, the typical number of courses prescribed for his program, but found it extremely difficult to manage his time effectively and stay up to date on his work. Since he has lessened his course load, Shreve has found it much easier to succeed in the classroom, as well as the field. This has helped him be able to manage his time more effectively.

“You have to stay on top of things – you can’t get complacent,” Shreve asserted. “Set a certain block of time each day to review your stuff for both football and school.”

And Shreve is not alone, another kinesiology student, Kristen Swiatoschik, also uses this strategy. As a member of the Lancer women’s hockey team, Swiatoschik found reducing her course load in the fall to be an effective way to help her manage her time.

Kristen Swiatoschik, image from www.golancers.ca

“It’s not easy, that’s for sure,” Swiatoschik noted. “It takes a lot of commit and time management to be able to plan out what needs to get done and when… But you have to know that you’ve committed to both, and there’s no slacking off in one or the other.”

These undergraduates, knowing that sport is a commitment has influenced how they approach school, but they both adamantly maintained that sport hasn’t negatively affected their academics. In fact, they believe that being involved in varsity sport has actually helped them reach their academic goals.

“[Football] gives me a reason to want to keep my grades up and stay focused,” Shreve explained. While being a varsity athlete may be time consuming, it gives him a sense of purpose. This ultimately helps him stay engaged in his education.

“Being committed to sports my whole life has shown me how to commit to school just as much,” proclaimed Swiatoschik. This reaffirmed that while being a student athlete you might face some additional obstacles, being an athlete also gives the individual opportunities.

Some of the athletes interviewed were so committed to school, they are in the process of becoming educators themselves. Katie Flemington and Jeremy Orton are both currently in placements for their Bachelor of Education degrees at the University of Windsor and are hoping to teach at the primary junior and intermediate senior levels, respectively. This is Flemmington’s second year as a Lancer, she is a long jumper for the track and field team, and it’s Orton’s fifth year as a member of the baseball team.

Katie Flemington, image from www.go lancers.ca

Orton spends some of his limited free time as a volunteer coach at Essex District High School, passing on his knowledge to the next batch of potential university student athletes. Taking time out of his schedule to do this exemplifies the drive and determination these Lancer athletes have. Despite having a hectic schedule, Orton still finds time to go above and beyond and give back to the community.

Flemington also possessed this drive. She continually pushes to improve herself and achieve in both academics and sport.

“I want to be the best teacher… and be the best I can in my sport,” Flemington declared. “I don’t really do things halfway.”

This determination was not limited to just future teachers, some athletes have set other ambitious goals for themselves. For example, Robert Moy, a second year Biochemistry major and member of the Men’s Soccer team, wants to go to medical school once he completes his undergraduate degree.

“Hopefully I get in,” Moy stated. With the ultimate goal of becoming some sort of specialist, like an allergist or surgeon, Moy has his work cut out for him. Even though he is an athlete, he still needs to maintain a very strong academic performance. As a student athlete, Moy believes that using the resources available to him will be essential for his success.

One such resource is the team itself. Many of the athletes interviewed cited the benefits of asking teammates or coaches for advice. Everyone on a team is going through similar challenges and using each other as a support system has been valuable for these student athletes.

KayCyn Hernandez, a first-year concurrent English student, was a walk-on to the women’s hockey team this year. Like countless others, she found the jump from high school to university to be challenging and she initially had a difficult time in one of her English courses.

KayCyn Hernandez, image from www.golancers.ca

“So far in university, I have one class where it was really rough at the start because right away we were doing quizzes or tests, and I had never done a university level quiz or test before,” Hernandez confessed. She was used to getting high marks in high school English, and it took some time for her to adjust to the expectations of a university English class.

As a walk-on, she didn’t have an initial connection or relationship with her teammates. However, those relationships have developed over the course of her first semester. Hernandez stressed that she had gotten valuable advice she has gotten from her teammates. This sentiment was echoed by one of her teammates, Swiatoschik, who was thankful of the senior teammates on the team for giving her advice and helping her with her schoolwork.

A student athlete can rely on their team as a support system, and this includes supporting their academic pursuits. Shreve has found that the football team has helped support his journey through university.

“The biggest help for me is that we have study hall, it’s three times a week… that’s 6 hours a week that I’m forced to sit there and get work done,” Shreve explained. All the football players are invited to these study halls, although it is required for players below an 80% average. Through attending study halls, Shreve can get the support he needs from his team that allows him to reach all of his academic goals.

Aside from support, these Lancer student athletes are also able to develop communication skills through being a part of their respective teams. Whether it’s professional communication with coaches or being able to work together as a group, being a member of a varsity teams affords these student athletes a chance to continually improve their ability to communicate with others.

“I know track and field is an individual sport, but you’re still working together, still training together,” Flemington stressed. “So, it helps you work with other people.”

Being a university student is demanding and being a student athlete presents its own unique set of challenges. As these Lancer student athletes have alluded to, there is a lot of time and thought that they put into the scheduling of their daily lives. They go to classes, they practice, they work, and they have social lives. It can certainly be overwhelming at times. Despite the challenges, these student athletes rise to the occasion. As committed members of our university, they have developed strategies so they can excel in the classroom, as well as on the court or field. And we can all appreciate their efforts.

Our student athletes get through each of their hectic semesters through utilizing time managements skills. They all emphasized the importance of plotting out a schedule and sticking to it, as well as making the most of the time they have available.

“If you have a spare hour, rather than going on your phone, open up a book and read a chapter,” advised Moy. While it might be difficult to follow through with that schedule, being able to complete each task will ultimately be beneficial for each student, even if it’s as simple as keeping up with your required readings.

“Ask questions, always ask questions,” Orton recommended. Ask your classmates or peers for help – everyone here is in the same boat. However, it’s also important that you reach out for more help from time to time. Coaches and professors are here to help, and they can give some very experienced advice. Even if it’s difficult, keep looking for answers, that is how we all learn the most.

Most importantly, these student athletes are trying their hardest, but they aren’t being hard on themselves. Everyone is going to have a rough test, class, or semester. It happens to the best of us. It’s nearly time for all of us to write our final exams and turn in our last papers for the term, and like these student athletes, we should all put time and thought into our work. It’s time for us all to take a deep breath and do the best that we can.

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