Student athletes a special breed

Story by Andy Hildebrand, Staff Writer

Sophomore Alex Anderson, like many of his classmates, has a lot on his plate. Balancing school work, the occasional roommate scuffle and a healthy social life is enough to keep any college student’s calendar chock-full.

Anderson though, is part of a group of Blugolds that voluntarily and regularly pile hours upon hours of additional work onto their already busy schedules, without any sort of monetary compensation. That may sound crazy, but for Anderson and those like him, that isn’t the case.

They are student athletes and they call it something                               else: dedication.

When winter sports kick into gear, Anderson will begin his second season as a member of the men’s basketball team. No longer a wide-eyed freshman, he has finally gotten a handle on juggling his life as a college student and his life as a collegiate athlete.

“I think the biggest thing is learning to manage your time,” Anderson said. “You have to make sure you spend enough time studying.”

That can become challenging for athletes, especially when some homework isn’t always geared toward earning class credit.

Many athletes spend hours watching game film or studying playbooks. For Anderson, when basketball season is revving up, that workload increases even more.

“I’ve got practice in the afternoon that lasts around two hours,” Anderson said. “Afterwards I spend another two working on
individual things I need to do to improve, so I spend about four hours a day on basketball during
the season.”

Those balancing skills  aren’t unique to basketball. Senior Anne Satterlee is completing her final year of eligibility as a member of the women’s volleyball team and is very familiar with the balancing act that comes with being a student athlete.

“You’re not a normal student, you’ve got a full
credit load of 12 to 18 credits, but then you’ve got practices and games on top of it all,” Satterlee said. “Time management is big. You’ve got to know when you have time to sit down and watch a movie or when you really need
to study.”

Student athletes aren’t without help when it comes to their grades. Coaches pay close attention to the academic performance of their players, both out of genuine care and eligibility concerns. Each takes a different approach. In Satterlee’s case that means virtually constant contact.

“We sit down with our coach once every other week and once a week for the freshman,” Satterlee said. “We talk about how we’re doing in our classes. If we have a big test coming up or something, we might get to take a half hour or so off of practice if we need it.”

Balancing school and sport starts well before practices begin. The key to successfully navigating a season academically begins with a sound plan.

“You have to go into the season very well prepared,” Anderson said. “Know what you’re in for, and then when the season ends, really dedicate yourself to your studies.”

The faculty can play an important role as well. Away games often translate into missed class time, which can make learning the material a challenge. Working with professors to stay on schedule is pivotal.

“Professors are very understanding,” Anderson said. “Our schedules are more hectic than the average student and they realize that. As long as you show them that you’re serious about your studies, they’ll work
with you.”

Mass Communications professor Terry Chmielewski has taught many student athletes over the years and generally doesn’t have to worry about them keeping up with the rest of the class.

“Often, I don’t know whether a student is an intercollegiate athlete,” Chmielewski said. “When I do find out, I’m always pleasantly surprised. They are some of my best students.”

Despite an increased workload, student athletes excel both in the classroom and on their competitive platforms. It’s not crazy,
it’s dedication.