The student-athlete experience at Loras College

A little over half the students at Loras are student-athletes, taking part in one or more of the nineteen varsity sports that are offered here. Obviously this is a common identity on our campus, but what does it really mean to be a student-athlete?

“People love to throw around ideals and maxims about mental toughness, the ideal teammate, being a leader, personal introspection, dedication, sacrifice, and others when they talk about teams and competition at any level, in any setting,” said Austin Kuchenbecker, senior volleyball player. “Until a person has lived through experiences that test those ideals, though, I do not think it’s possible to appreciate why so many can talk about them, and so few can cite moments that correlate.”

It’s no surprise that student-athletes here have a unique college experience. Juggling practice, games, classes, job(s), and other extra-curricular activities is no small feat. Time management is often cited as one of the most important lessons learned by the student-athlete.

“My time management skills have been the most impacted,” senior pitcher Patrick Costello said. “I have learned that I can actually get stuff done in a half hour time period and still be efficient in my duties. In talking to athletes who have graduated in the past, they have attributed their easy transition to grad school or the work force in part to the successes of time management from their respective sports.”

Proper time management for student-athletes is crucial, because there’s so much that goes into a sport even outside normal practice time. There’s physical therapy, lifting, open gym, traveling to games, team service projects, recruiting next year’s class, mandatory and non-mandatory team bonding … the list goes on and on. In order to fit all of these things into your already-packed schedule, time management is key.

But being in a sport isn’t just about fitting it into your schedule – if that were the case, why would anyone want to be a student-athlete? The real reason we have so many student athletes is because they love their sports. The team atmosphere is one of the best experiences that they encounter in college.

“I have been a four-year member of the women’s golf team,” senior golfer Jeanie Kasper said, “which has allowed me so many opportunities to improve my golf skills, meet new people, and have some fun along the way. While there were broken bones and conference tournaments played in torrential rain, there were also many van rides filled with karaoke, movie nights, hikes, and campus-wide games of hide-and- seek. Every experience, whether good or bad, has provided a memory I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

Kasper’s words are echoed in senior Taylor Brooks’ reflections on the student-athlete experience during her time at Loras. Both Kasper and Brooks are seniors who have been student-athletes for a few years now.

“As a senior collegiate athlete who is fast approaching retirement, I’m just now understanding how big of an impact being a student athlete is,” said Brooks, a member of the basketball team. “If I hadn’t played basketball here at Loras, I wouldn’t have met my best friends, become part of a second family, nor developed my leadership skills and work ethic – two things I’m excited to use beyond college. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a student athlete during my time in college!”

The opportunity to compete in college is obviously a privilege, and our athletes certainly don’t take it for granted. Dedicated athletes need to make many sacrifices, and the successful ones are those who follow through with those sacrifices. Adequate sleep, proper nutrition, good decisions on weekends, going the extra mile in practice, and devotion to the sport are generally associated with the upper echelon of athletes at Loras. Their hard work certainly pays dividends in their seasons, and brings about a unique sense of fulfillment that can’t be found anywhere else.

“I feel that being a college athlete, especially at the Division III level, has initiated more personal growth than any other activity, organization, or experience I have ever been a part of,” said Kuchenbecker. “Being a student athlete tests your mental, physical, and emotional capacities in ways you never dreamed. But that isn’t to say that’s a bad thing.”

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Audrey Miller is a writer for The Lorian.

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