The balancing act: how travelling athletes remain good students on the road

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Bethel College’s track and field team have recently traveled quite a distance for a multi-day meet. The team traveled to Daytona, Fla., which is roughly a 17-hour drive. Many student athletes were required to miss classes, homework, tests and/or quizzes.

This trip was exciting for the athletes but stressful for them as students. How do student athletes manage their time between being a student and being an athlete?

The demands of being a college student athlete have gone up in recent years. It almost seems as if the “student” aspect of being a student athlete has been put on the back burner by many. Bethel’s coaches and athletes to give us some insight into what it means to manage both. Student athletes depend on one person the most during their time at college: their coaches. Coaches are pivotal in the success of their athletes. Not only are coaches training these students to excel as athletes, but to excel as scholars. This is clear in the way that Jamie Lindvall runs the girls’ soccer program here at Bethel. Lindvall demands nothing but the best from her athletes physically and academically. When asked how she ensures that her athletes succeed as students, she explained how her team goes over and beyond. Our girls are not allowed to skip classes in season and are required to sit in the front two rows,” said Lindvall. “Students who actually go to class and sit in the front will almost always perform better academically.” While Lindvall focuses on being physically present in the classroom, women’s volleyball coach Katie Weiss focuses on study habits. Weiss gives her struggling athletes mandatory library hours. She explained that these students are required to be in the library an allotted number of hours and then check in with her twice a week. Coach Ryne Lightfoot, head men’s basketball coach, has an open conversation about how academics are going with his boys. Lightfoot explained how he chooses to focus on GPA and how to improve students’ average. These coaches have the best outlook for each of their athletes. While they are able to somewhat control how students due, it is ultimately up to their student athletes to choose how they work academically. “You can't really check grades, other than a midterm,” said Weiss when asked if coaches check the grades of their athletes. “Profs don't post grades until then. You could contact each and every student's professor, but that is kind of unrealistic unless you think there is a problem.” Bethel has had many scholar athletes, but this title did not come easily. A few student athletes explained the struggles they face between traveling, practice and school. Nate Miller, a senior accounting major who also runs track and cross country, explains how he goes about dealing with this balancing act. “Preparing ahead of time is something very crucial to the success of a student athlete as well.” Miller said. “If I schedule out my week before the week begins, I know what I have to get done and when I have to get it done with a sporting event taking up time on the weekend,” he continued. Miller is not the only student-athlete who finds organization key to exceling academically. Rebecca Kanpol, a junior sociology major who also plays soccer for the Lady Pilots, sees organization as the key to success. “In approaching my fourth year as a student-athlete, I would say I have gotten a good handle on how to manage my time with sports,” she said. “I have learned the importance of planning ahead and staying organized. Knowing what assignments, tests, papers [or] etc. are not only due for that week, but the weeks following helps me manage my time.” While both athletes agree that organization is key, both said only a little studying is really done on the way to and from sporting events. “Travel time in athletics also means missed classes and study time, so I occasionally spend time studying on road trips to and from meets,” said Miller. While Miller occasionally studies on trips, Kanpol admits to feeling car sick if she does. Bethel’s student athletes excel academically thanks to the work of the staff of coaches, as well as the athletes’ drive to succeed on and off the court. It is evident how hard traveling hundreds of miles for trips can be, but Bethel’s athletes see beyond the bigger picture. They are able to manage time between the demands of being an athlete and the demands of being a student with grace. (Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash)
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