It’s dead week, I’ve got two papers due at midnight and three finals to complete in the next five days, and I’m 1,900 miles away from campus competing in the NCAA National Championship. Welcome to the life of a Western student-athlete.
As a goalkeeper on the women’s soccer team, I know what it’s like to travel during the school year and plan around a demanding schedule. Games can be played as far south as Monmouth, Oregon, as far east as Billings, Montana, and as far north as Fairbanks, Alaska. Once in the playoffs, a team can travel anywhere in the country and are usually only given a few days notice as to their next destination.
Student-athletes can end up spending a large chunk of the quarter on the road.
“Depending on our schedule, on average I would say, we are probably on the road 10 to 15 days out of the quarter,” assistant soccer coach Claire Morgan said.
The amount of time athletes spend on the road depends on their travel schedule.
“On average, I’d say we travel about nine days during the quarter,” volleyball coach Dianne Flick-Williams said.
Student-athletes have to work at managing their hectic schedules, Garrett Strawn, junior defender for the men’s soccer team, said.
“Balancing school and athletics is a difficult task,” Strawn said. “You really learn how to manage your free time in the most efficient way. Balancing both your schoolwork and your sport is doable. You really cannot procrastinate and put work off or else it will come back around later and cause even more work.”
Strawn was named to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference All-Academic team with a 3.83 GPA as a biochemistry major.
While on the road, student-athletes are still responsible for all tests and assignments. With the limited free time athletes get while on travel trips, they have learned to get creative in their studying habits.
The Sea-Tac Airport has had gates turned into study halls and chairs turn into desks. It is not uncommon to see a Western women’s soccer player with a burrito in one hand and her stats homework in the other at 9 a.m.
Hotel lobbies have also become a staple in the study habits of Western student-athletes. They’ve learned that the Wi-Fi is faster and that studying with teammates of all different academic backgrounds can come in handy when tackling a new class.
Doing schoolwork on the road will never be an easy task, and the time commitment doesn’t stop there.
“What people really don’t understand is all the extra hours that go along with games and practices,” Daulton Hommes, sophomore forward for the men’s basketball team. said. “There are so many other hours doing other things like getting treatment, lifting weights, meetings with the team or individual meetings with coaches, watching film to prepare for the next opponent and finding time to get in the gym to get extra shots up.”
Student athletes have a different set of responsibilities than regular students, Jeremiah Lee, sophomore defender for the men’s soccer team, said.
“The main thing I wish students at Western knew is that student-athletes at Western are just like everyone else, except for the fact that we play a college sport which requires a lot of time and discipline,” Lee said. “I realize there are students who work and have other commitments that take up a lot of time, but I think student-athletes’ commitments to their sport require lots of hours every week.”
The college experience for a student-athlete is unusual, Maia Barnett, a senior guard on the women’s basketball team, said.
“I feel my college experience is unique in that I am not only a part of the student body but the athletics department,” Barnett, a business marketing major, said. “My experience as a student-athlete has required a much different schedule than most students, but has given me the power to excel in not only college but my sport.”
The biggest difference mentioned in almost every interview with players and coaches were the high expectations of student-athletes. All students are held to certain standards, but student-athletes are responsible for much more than just their academics, Flick-Williams said.
“There is an expectation for student-athletes to excel in everything they do, there is a lot more accountability for it,” Flick-William’s said. “Accountability from coaches, administration and professors. We are telling them they have to perform at a certain level in everything they do because they are being watched, and that’s an added pressure. That pressure provides more stress and distractions a normal student doesn’t have to worry about because they aren’t under the microscope.”
This pressure and discipline surrounding student-athletes has not discouraged them from competing, junior Cody Roth of the men’s golf team said.
“I’m almost always busy working on becoming a better golfer and student,” Roth said. “And I wouldn’t want it any other way.”