Falcons juggle school, sports

You see them in the library, catching up on their latest reading assignment for their Shakespeare class. You see them in the cafeteria as they make the lap around Gwinn, deciding what to get for lunch. You see them in the bookstore spending hundreds of dollars on the same books you had to buy last quarter.

But that is not the only place you see them. You see them in the gym lifting weights day after day after two exhausting hours of practice. You see them at Interbay sprinting up and down the field, not letting anyone near their goal. You see them in Royal Brougham playing for the NCAA Regional finals. You see them after practice with their arms, legs, shoulders, knees, and ankles taped, wrapped and iced.

They are not just students; they are SPU’s student athletes.

According to the NCAA, there are about 355, 688 male and female NCAA student athletes. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the U.S. population in May 2005 is about 296,113,443 people. So, about .12% of our nation’s population are student athletes.

At SPU the ration is a little smaller. Currently there are 217 student athletes at SPU representing 14 teams, which include: men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics, men’s and women’s crew, men’s and women’s indoor track and field, and men’s and women’s outdoor track and field.

So what really makes a student athlete so different from their non-collegiate athlete peers? Time. Student athletes regularly fight to balance sports and schoolwork throughout their college careers.

Most SPU athletes are either training or competing in their sport six days a week. SPU freshman gymnast Ashley Domres said, "[athletics] consumes most of my time."

Men’s basketball team member Ralph Steele agrees that sports takes up a lot of time. Steele said that he spends about four hours per day training for his sport.

As volleyball player sophomore Tiffany Butac put it, sports are "a first priority after school."

After a long day of practice, heptathlete Danielle Ayers-Stamper acknowledges that school work is not the easiest thing to do: "Who wants to go back and stare at a book after 4 hrs of using your brain and body intensely?"

This stretch on time comes not only from practice but from traveling as well. Every SPU sports team travels to road games, with some teams traveling as close as the University of Washington or Seattle University and other teams traveling as far as Barry University in Florida or Cal State Monterey Bay in California.

Most SPU sports teams have an average of 50-60 percent of their games on the road. This number does not include sports such as cross country, crew and track, which require constant travel.

According to SPU basketball player junior Tony Binetti, an average road trip can take up a few days. "During the season we have about 15 road games, but each road game takes a travel day, then the game, then travel days back; so, for one road game our team could be gone for about three to four days," Binetti said.

Not only do these trips take time but they take energy. "They [road trips] are always pretty hard because they drain you," Steele said.

With traveling comes missing classes. According to pole vaulter Allison Hedges, who is a University Scholar and a physics major, missing class is "not the best case scenario," but she tries to let her professors know ahead of time if she will be missing "so we can plan ahead if there’s a conflict."

Well … at least they get a break, right? Not really.

Most sports teams will miss at least one break for training and competition.

Fall sports, such as men’s and women’s soccer, come back to SPU in early August and have double days while their peers are still at home enjoying their summer. "We get back in the beginning of August, and two weeks later we are playing preseason games," said sophomore Carolyn Nason, a defender for the SPU women’s soccer team.

Winter sports such as basketball tend to miss both Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks for training. "We miss Christmas break and Thanksgiving, which is really hard because it is nice to spend those breaks with your family. My freshman year we had two days off for Christmas and I have eaten Thanksgiving dinner with my team in a Hotel room for three straight years," Binetti said.

And even after their season is over, the athletes’ time commitment doesn’t lessen by much. "The most that I have gotten off at one time has been a week," said Domres.

When asked about volleyball’s spring training schedule, Butac listed off the different training sessions that the player must attend, which include: practice three times a week, individual conditioning sessions twice a week and a few tournaments.

But being a student athlete is not all blood, sweat, and tears. It is more than practice and good time management.

Being an NCAA college athlete is a dream for many but a reality for few. According to the NCAA, about 2.9 percent of senior boys who participate in interscholastic basketball will go on to play in the NCAA. The number is slightly higher for senior girls playing basketball, who have a 3.1 percent chance to make it into the NCAA.

The student athletes at SPU recognize and appreciate the opportunity that they have to do what they love doing and to represent their university while doing it.

When asked what he appreciated about being a collegiate athlete, Steele said that he loved being able to see different places and to play against the best. "There’s nothing like going out there and showing the world what you are capable of doing," he said.

Butac also showed her appreciation for the opportunity to play NCAA volleyball. "I love putting on my jersey and going out on the court to represent SPU. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime," she said.

Hedges echoed Butac saying, "In high school I never would have thought it would be possible for me to compete in collegiate athletics, and now that I am, it’s amazing — a dream come true."

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Title: Falcons juggle school, sports | Author: Noelle Diaz | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2005-05-25 | Internal ID: 4559