First-years adjust to college athletics

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The sunrise is often seen by athletes going to the union after morning workouts. Photo by Catherine Dema.

Balancing their transition into college-level coursework and athletics with disruptions and uncertainty caused by COVID-19, student-athletes in the class of 2024 have a lot on their plates. The Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) decided in July that golf, tennis and swim and dive would compete in the fall – with GLVC championships postponed to the spring semester due to COVID-19 concerns. The sports of football, soccer and volleyball will have their competition season moved to the spring.

The Hilltop Monitor connected with first-year members of William Jewell College’s cross-country, football and swim teams – who are all competing in the fall season – to ask how they’re handling their transition into college athletics.

Marissa Doria, first-year nursing major, is a member of the cross-country team. Sharing a little bit about her daily routine, Doria said that, depending on which day of the week it is, she will wake up around 6 a.m. to join her team for strengthening workouts. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Doria has classes from 9 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. and then heads straight to physical therapy – which is scheduled for 3 p.m. – after her last class. After physical therapy, Doria heads to work from 4-5 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Doria spends most of the day in class and work and makes sure to get homework done in the spare moments when she finds free time.

“Since practices are in the morning and physical therapy is right after my last class, I think I have been able to balance between that and classes along with my work schedule,” Doria said.

Doria spent the first two weeks of school in a boot for an injury she was recovering from, which made the beginning stages of her transition into college athletics a little bit rockier.

“[O]nce I was able to take off the boot, it was a little easier to get a routine down and became manageable. For me the most difficult thing to adjust to is not really knowing anyone because I am from out of state and I’m still not that used to having my close friends only 10 minutes away from me,” Doria said.

Reflecting on her high school athletic career, Doria shared that she finds that her team at Jewell is generally more dedicated and that the trainers are more committed to making sure their athletes are healthy.

“I think that being a student-athlete at Jewell is a little better than in high school because the athletes on the team take the sport and workouts a lot more serious[ly]. The athletic trainers are also able to treat the athletes a lot better for their injuries,” Doria said. “My coach also checks up on me and my wellbeing a lot more than my high school coach did, which I appreciate. In addition to the athletes and staff, there are a lot more responsibilities as a student-athlete at Jewell in the way that I have to balance between classes, practices, homework/studying, and working to pay for tuition.”

Josh Polk, first-year history and secondary education major, is a defensive back on Jewell’s football team. Similar to Doria, Polk wakes up at 6 a.m. most days to work out with his team until 7:30 a.m. Afterward, he’ll head to the dining hall for breakfast before heading back to his dorm room to drink a protein shake and shower. His first class begins at 9 a.m. on Zoom. When that finishes, he often takes a quick nap before his next class at 11:15 a.m. After a quick lunch at 12:30 p.m., Polk will get a little homework in before his next class at 1:45 p.m. 

Once this class finishes, Polk heads to his 3 p.m. football meeting. Then, Polk grabs dinner before embarking on a quick evening workout. After a shower, Polk heads to his job in the Mabee Center and will use his downtime to work on homework. After finishing up his shift at 11 p.m., Polk finally heads to bed.

“I would say I’m mostly adjusted to life as a student athlete by now. It’s definitely manageable but you have to stay focused or you will get behind,” Polk said. “It is very tiring and the most difficult thing to do is to get quality rest, my days are long and active and I don’t get much time just to myself. Thankfully the football team makes me attend a study hall two days a week and that helps me keep track of everything.”

In his adjustment to collegiate athletics, Polk has noticed that he feels more pressure to be responsible.

“It’s way different [from high school] because I’m way more accountable for everything I do and no action goes without a consequence. There’s a lot more pressure on me to be perfect in everything I do so it can be stressful but you just have to embrace the grind and push through,” Polk said. 

Haley Angelo, first-year psychological sciences major, is a backstroke and freestyle specialist for Jewell’s swim team. The earliest riser of the bunch, Angelo wakes up at 5 a.m. for practice at the Mabee Center. Afterward, she heads to the dining hall for breakfast before classes begin. Throughout the day, Angelo will find a couple of hours to get homework done before heading to afternoon practice. On weekdays, she notes that she is always either at swim practice, eating at the cafeteria, or getting homework done in the Pryor Learning Commons.

Haley Angelo swimming. Photo courtesy of Haley Angelo.

“It has definitely taken a couple of weeks to get into the swing of things, but it has been awesome. It is all about time management for me, setting aside time for priorities,” Angelo said.

Angelo enthused about her athletic experience at Jewell, emphasizing that the closeness and openness of her team have made the transition much easier.

“Being a student-athlete at Jewell is completely different from being a student-athlete in high school. The atmosphere here at Jewell is very welcoming. My team is so close and has been very welcoming to the freshman, and helping us adjust to this new environment,” Angelo said. “The swim team has been a great group to be [a part] of, and I am excited [to] see where the year goes.”

Christina Kirk

Christina Kirk is the Editor-in-Chief of The Hilltop Monitor. She is a senior majoring in Oxbridge: Institutions & Policy and international relations.

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