Part-time work prevalent for UW-Eau Claire athletes

For most students, juggling school and homework with an internship or part time job is a balancing act. Student-athletes have another responsibility to add to the mix. A number of UW-Eau Claire student-athletes are managing Div. III athletics and coursework on top of an outside job.

Joe Meier, a senior tennis player, worked in the McPhee Physical Education Center weight room this season. Because his on-campus job is scheduled around classes, his hours were flexible enough to make time for school, he said.

Last season, while working at Shopko, Meier said his schedule was harder to handle. He would go to class in the morning and early afternoon, then head to a two hour practice. After practice, he said, he would usually have around an hour to eat and shower before heading to his four hour shift at Shopko. Homework would come sometime after that, he said, or on van rides to and from meets on the weekend.

With so many responsibilities to handle, Meier said keeping stress at bay also becomes a priority. That’s where his workout schedule comes in, even when he is in the offseason, he said. Not only does it keep him from getting too stressed, it keeps him in shape so he doesn’t have to play catch-up when the next season starts.

“It helps you not get super stressed,” Meier said. “I know half the (athletes) don’t and then when they’re in season, they struggle.”

While it might be hard to fathom adding workouts on top of class, homework and work, Meier said keeping that routine is important. Tennis, for him, takes a priority and helps keep that balance, he said.

“I’ll always put working out and tennis over homework, unless I’m really behind,” Meier said. “I think it’s easier to balance everything when you have a schedule like that … if every day there’s practice  and workouts at the same time and a specific time when I know I’m going to do homework.”

Junior volleyball player Alexis Wong is another student-athlete at Eau Claire who has a job in addition to playing a collegiate sport. Wong works as a Think Tank employee on campus, helping students and staff with different projects for Housing and Residence Life.

Wong was voted newcomer of the year for the volleyball team in 2011 and said having a job helped her prioritize her life.

“Having a job on top of everything else I have on my plate really makes me balance my time well,” she said. “I have great time-management skills now.”

Wong said she loves playing volleyball and enjoys school and work, but it is hard for her to make time for everything, including a social life.

“The time commitment is definitely the hardest part, you need to buckle down and get your priorities straight or you won’t make it,” she said.

Athletic Director Scott Kilgallon said the time commitment required for student-athletes sometimes holds athletes to a higher standard than the general student body.

“You must remember we want our athletes to have a social life too,” Kilgallon said. “When you talk to a student-athlete in the morning, and then they are serving you dinner on your night out, it puts into perspective these people have a lot on their plate.”

Not unlike Meier’s work day, Wong’s typical day is packed full of responsibility.

“My typical day consists of waking up around seven or eight, going to class from eight to ten, working from ten to two, having lunch and going to practice from around three to seven,” she said. “And then I have to work on homework and get some sleep.”

Wong said she puts academics first, but volleyball is a close second.

She also said without the relationships and support system she has found in her teammates, being a student-athlete with an outside job would not be possible.

“When I am feeling stressed out, I can always go to my coach (Kim Wudi) for support,” she said. “Or my teammates, the girls on the team really support each other.”

Kilgallon said in comparison to his days as an athlete, the stakes are higher.

“I see the added pressure on the men and women who compete for our school,” he said. “The commitment and passion they give and the sacrifices they make are truly inspiring.”

The life of a student-athlete takes a toll on and off the playing surface. But those willing to take on the challenge are rewarded with great time-management skills, true friends and characteristics to take on with them after their time at Eau Claire.