Sports

Inside the life of a student athlete and worker

Kate O’Toole sits in the blue chairs at the front of her on-campus job, Einstein Bros. Bagels. It is her half-hour break, which she is spending on her laptop, catching up on homework assignments that she was up all night trying to finish. She didn’t have time to work on them over the weekend because she spends her time coaching softball from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., and then playing in her own games starting at 7 p.m.

Kaitlyn O’Toole, a student at West Chester University, is a walking example of an overworked and overwhelmed college student. As both a student athlete and a student worker, Kate does not have time to spare. When asked about how much free time she has, she immediately laughed and said, “Let me see…” Kate continued, “A whole…three hours of the day. Literally, I get up, I go to work, I go to class. I play sports, I come back [to her apartment], I do homework. So I would say 3-5 hours to myself.”

A typical Tuesday for a student athlete and worker could look like this (see table).

No matter how busy a student’s schedule is, coaches, professors and bosses cannot please everybody’s schedule. Anyone in college—and in life—will have to learn time management, which O’Toole calls the “big key factor” to balancing school, work and sports. When asked how she balances the three, Kate explained, “That’s a great question. Um…. I don’t balance it. I just do it. I wake up, and I simply just tell myself, ‘you have a long day ahead of you, and you’re gonna get through it, and you’re gonna do great things.’” She continued her answer, “I guess my balance would be the sports being kind of like, my down time between class and work. So you would have the two busy parts at the end and the fun in the middle.”

O’Toole went on to explain some of the difficulties of balancing work, school, and sports. Since a majority of her sports are near her hometown of Southampton, Pennsylvania, her commute for sports, school and work is about an hour each way almost daily. Kate comments on this by stating, “Sports… driving back and forth is really rough, it’s a long commute for me to do everyday. But I do it, because I like sports. I like to run.” The experience and her love of the game seem to be what keep Kate going.

No matter how busy a student’s schedule is, coaches, professors and bosses cannot please everyone.

Kate’s boss, Michael Jackson (supervisor of Einstein Bros. Bagels at West Chester University), offers a different perspective on whether or not he has seen student athletes who work during their sport season become affected by balancing the trio (work, school, sports). Jackson replied, “Actual job performance no, but I have seen it effect the way they interact with co-workers or the job in general. They’re tired so they tend to get irritated more quickly.”

O’Toole and Jackson both agree that sometimes, it is necessary for a student athlete to have to work during their sports season. Kate believes that they should only do it if they absolutely have to—and they can handle it. Jackson pointed out the fact that “student athletes’ bills do not stop because their sport is in season. So yes, I think they should work… but as little as possible.”

When asked if Kate overworks herself, Michael Jackson responded, “More than any other student athlete I’ve ever seen. She’s a beast at whatever she does from coaching, sports, working and being a dedicated friend. But she needs to slow down. I recently sat her down and explained this to her. Everything can’t be a priority. And find a boss like me who understands and will work with your hectic schedule.”

For student athletes who have to work during the semester, Kate recommends joining a club or intramural team, rather than university sanctioned.

Spreading oneself too thin is a common issue among college students. It is also common for students to not even realize that they are overworking themselves. Sometimes, it takes someone else—a friend, boss, parent—to help someone realize when they need to take a step back.

When Kate began her college career at WCU, she joined the university-sanctioned softball team. The game and practice schedule is the key difference in playing on a university team versus a club or intramural team, according to Kate. She explained that she played half a semester of softball for West Chester University, and when she received the schedule, she realized it was much more demanding than she had time for at WCU. For student athletes who have to work during the semester, Kate recommends joining a club or intramural team rather than a university-sanctioned one. This will allow you to still do what you love while giving yourself time to breathe and get yourself through the semester. Even then, it is possible to still overwork yourself. Check on your friends—they don’t always realize when they need to slow down.

Julia Vignali is a fourth-year student majoring in English. JV876032@wcupa.edu

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