Juggling time: how student athletes balance academics and sports

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By Jedidah Antwi
November 3, 2022

Na'im Roberts, soccer player, studying at Dixon.
Na'im Roberts, exercise science and health promotion major and a defender for Cabrini men's soccer team, studying at the Dixon Center. Photo by Ryan Byars.

Balancing rigorous school work and intense physical activity in sports is tough even without any financial compensation, no doubt about it. Cabrini currently has 350 student athletes according to Laura Patton, associate athletic director. On average, college athletes spend two hours a day at practice, with one additional hour for prehab and rehab. College students study for 10 to 13 hours a week on average; to survive in a high-pressure college environment, student athletes must balance the two.

The challenges of being a student athlete  

Jaden Dickerson sophomore, health science major, third baseman for Cabrini’s men’s baseball team and shooting guard for Cabrini men’s basketball team, mentioned having excellent time management is one of the challenges student athletes face. Dickerson believes athletes must prioritize academic work above participation on a sports team.

“Even though you come here to play sports, you are still a student first,” Dickerson said.

Brendan VanBelle, Cabrini’s assistant coach for the men’s baseball team, said time management was a big challenge for him when he was in school as a student athlete. It can be daunting to find time for both school and sports. 

Cindy Ikeler coaches the swim team.
Cindy Ikeler, Cabrini’s head coach of the men’s and women’s swim teams (left), and Sarah Gudas, Cabrini’s assistant coach (right), directing the women’s swim team during practice. Photo by Jedidah Antwi.

Another challenge student athletes face is the GPA requirement to be eligible to play a sport. Cindy Ikeler, Cabrini’s head coach of the men’s and women’s swim teams, said the number of credits a student has taken will determine the minimum GPA an athlete must maintain.

“The requirement for freshmen is not quite as high as you would see for a junior or a senior, and it kind of gives freshmen that little bit of acclimation time,” Ikeler said.

According to Bylaw in the Division III Manual for 2019–2022, a student athlete must maintain good academic standing as judged by the academic authorities.

Ikeler said, along with maintaining a minimum GPA, most coaches likely have their own unique standards.

An additional obstacle student athletes face is having the stamina necessary for class. Rachel Hetrick, senior rowing team member, said, “It’s hard to focus because sports are draining.”

Ikeler said, on the swim team, there is a report card system. In this system, professors check off students’ attendance, participation, and risk of receiving a poor letter grade (D or F). There are study halls for swimmers, which are mandatory for all freshmen and swimmers with a GPA of 2.5 and under. 

Men’s baseball has a similar system. “If guys are falling behind, missing class, or not turning in assignments, they have dedicated time during practice where they won’t participate. They will just do the homework that they missed,” VanBelle said.

“In addition to whatever the coaching staff has set up for their various teams, we do have an academic coordinator who works strictly with our athletes,” Ikeler said.

Patton works with all Cabrini athletes, especially if they are on academic probation. Any athlete is welcome to contact her if they need a little extra structure or accountability. Ikeler receives updates from Patton regarding any warning notices, midterm results, and other such information. 

Hetrick said, athletes also get support from Brittany Runyen, Cabrini’s athletic administrator.

Advice to student athletes

Dickerson advises student athletes to be open and honest with their coaches, and possess the maturity to discuss their grades. He said, “If you need help, go get it, don’t be ashamed.”

The Cabrini women's basketball team practices in the Dixon gym.
The Cabrini women’s basketball team practices in the Dixon Center gym. Photo by Ryan Byars.

Hetrick said, “If you’re struggling, talk to your coaches, your friends, people around your teammates because we have a lot of support here.”

Ikeler believes it is possible to achieve athletic and academic goals, and have a terrific sporting experience, and social life. Athletes must remember while they are capable of doing all of these things, they occasionally must decline requests. To keep on track, they must pay attention to the advice from their coaches and teammates.

“Being flexible and acclimating to things is important, and it can be done,” Ikeler said. 

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Jedidah Antwi

My name is Jedidah Antwi. I am a sophomore, double-majoring in political science and digital communication. In addition to my academic studies, I have been selected to serve on the Executive Board of the Cabrini University Chapter of the National Society of Leadership and
Success. I am also a member of the Poetry Club and Cabrini on Immigration, a student organization that advocates for social justice and immigrants’ rights. I love history, politics, and fashion. My favorite things to do outside of class and the Loquitur are watching foreign films, going to church, and hanging out with friends. I want people to become engaged and aware of what is going on in their community. As a reporter for loquitur, I want to inform Cabrini students about the things that are happening on campus and around the world. I hope through the content I produce on the Loquitur that Cabrini students will become informed citizens.

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