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Learning to juggle school, sports and friendships

5:15 a.m.BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! It takes a few moments to rouse from my dream and realize that the incessant noise is my alarm clock. I glance up to see what it reads. Huh?

Another few seconds pass, and suddenly I remember that I’m getting up to be ready for lacrosse practice at 6 o’clock! Hitting the snooze button just once won’t hurt.

5:24 a.m.Oh great, why did I do that? Now I might not have time to eat something or get my ankle taped before practice. I drag myself out from under my toasty covers and step into my sweats and a pair of sneakers.

6 a.m.Practice is tough because we have a game tomorrow against a difficult opponent. There are a lot of defensive drills and I am already sore before the sprints we did at the end of practice.

8 a.m. I head straight to class with sweat still dripping from my forehead. I am clearly offending my classmates with my body odor but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.

8:50 a.m.I hurry home to shower, dress and eat a little something before I pass out.

10 a.m. It feels like I’ve been up for hours. Oh wait, I have! Most of my friends aren’t even out of bed yet.

As a student, an athlete and an employee, I have a whirlwind of thoughts going through my head at all times. I am the person that To Do Lists were created for.

A quick glance reminds me that I need to E-mail my professor about making up an exam I’m going to miss next week because of a game. Hmmm, my schedule looks packed between practices, work and papers but if I don’t eat or sleep until next Wednesday, I should be able to fit it in. 1 p.m.At lunch, a classmate asks me if I finished a paper that we have due tomorrow.

“Yes, I’m done with it. Would you mind handing it in for me? I have a game tomorrow and won’t be in class,” I reply. He doesn’t even try to disguise the look of disdain.

“You always get to miss class! I should play a sport so I wouldn’t have to go either.”

3 p.m.I arrive at my baby-sitting client’s house where I entertain two kids for the next few hours.

“Kimmy, chase me! My truck is faster than yours!” yells Jacob from across the driveway.

My aching legs are uneasy beneath me as I run to keep up with him. I try to focus on having a good time with the kids and not think about the night of work I have ahead of me.

8 p.m.The kids are asleep and the silence is music to my ears. I put in a load of laundry because I need my uniform for tomorrow and practice gear for the next day.

Ahhh, finally I can start reading that book I have due next week. If I can get this done, I’ll be all caught up.

10:30 p.m.Ignoring the jokes from my roommate about what time it is, I head off to bed. As I drift to sleep, I think about the comment that my classmate made today.

“You always get to miss class! I should play a sport so I wouldn’t have to go either.”

The balancing act:Unfortunately, viewpoints like that are not easily remedied. Many people have a skewed idea of what it’s like to be a collegiate athlete. One overwhelming factor to an athlete’s success is cooperation and help from professors.

It has been my experience that the professors at Eastern are very supportive of extracurricular activities and almost always willing to be flexible with due dates, exams and absences.

The secret to the policy about students missing class for sporting events is that there is no policy.

“We don’t have a formal policy; most schools don’t have an automatic excusal policy for student athletes,” said Mark Wagner, director of athletic development and men’s soccer coach.

“Even though we do not have a policy that way, in seven years, I’ve never had a problem with a professor not excusing a player from a class as long as they’ve been regularly attending that class,” Wagner added. Eastern athletics has developed a good rapport with the academic faculty and there is a mutual understanding that, as student-athletes, the word “student” comes first.

“My experience of student-athletes at Eastern University has only been positive,” said Dr. Seth Paradis, biokinetics professor. “They do not expect special treatment because they play a sport.””I have great respect for student-athletes that are able to balance academic and athletic challenges at our institution,” said Paradis.

Sophomore Tennis player Nate Seifert has also had positive experiences with professors. Seifert notes that tennis matches are usually around 2 p.m. and he anticipates some conflicts with classes this spring. Seifert said that when he is unable to make it to class because of a sporting event, instead of forcing him to hand in assignments early, professors usually allow him to make them up.

“I believe that professors do want students to be well-rounded individuals and, therefore, do encourage students to participate in sports,” Seifert said.

As athletes, it’s important to understand that it is an enormous privilege to be able to step onto the field, court or diamond. No special treatment is given, just an understanding that academics come first.

“We call them student-athletes for a reason,” Paradis explained. “They are responsible for completing the assigned material within the same time period as the non-student-athletes.”

Communication can be the key to success in any situation, this one included. When coaches, students and professors remain in contact about schedules and work, problems rarely occur.

“The relationship between coaches and professors seems to be courteous, mutually acknowledging that they both have a job to do and a goal in mind,” Seifert said, adding that the well-being and benefit of the student is at the forefront of professors’ and coaches’ minds.

“Sharing a common objective, they work together rather effectively,” he said.

Being an athlete is mentally and physically exhausting. It takes long hours, a lot of determination and consistent self-discipline. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.

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