By Kristen Griffith, The Whetstone
Sophomore Blake Roberts starts his school week in the weight room at 6 a.m.
Forty-five minutes later, the outside guard watches the previous Saturday game’s football film with his teammates.
An hour later, he’s sitting in his first class of the day.
“On Mondays we have practice at 8 until 10 p.m., then Tuesday through Friday we have practice at 3:30 until about 6:30 p.m.,” he said.
Nursing major student athletes struggle balancing their major with their sport. Early morning classes and late night games leave them booked with a busy schedule almost every day. Some student athletes biggest worry is maintaining a minimum 2.0 grade point average to stay on the team, while nursing major student athletes hope to get a good night sleep.
On Thursdays, Roberts’ mornings begin with a 45 minute drive to Christiana Hospital at 4:30 a.m. for clinical, which doesn’t end until 12:45 p.m.
“Sleep is a very precious thing,” he said. “When I do get a chance to sleep, I take it because it is very important when it comes to being a student athlete.”
With all the stress and pressure from combining nursing and sports, some are even obligated to quit.
“I think I really realized that I could no longer both play lacrosse and be a full-time nursing student when I was sitting in resident assistant training this summer, mid-August,” junior nursing major Kaitlin Brennan said.
After listening to senior Tatum Jones say how overwhelmed she was with the workload she had, Brennan noticed she felt the same way.
“I am an RA, treasurer in Delaware Student Nurses Association, in two clubs on campus, and just picked up an externship in Philadelphia,” she said. “I realized I would never have time to sleep, let alone play a sport. I had just reached my limit.”
Brennan said she struggled with accepting her decision because this was the second time she quit lacrosse.
She initially thought high school would be the last time she played because she chose to focus on nursing at the first college she attended. When she transferred to Wesley, she was excited to have the opportunity to play again.
“That was the hardest part about quitting this fall,” she said. “That was last chance to competitively play the sport I love.”
Brennan said her teammates were understanding about it because they witnessed her struggle last season.
“Although I was captain, being an RA and full-time nursing student really affected my leadership ability,” she said. “I do not think I was being a good role model because I was always stressed out.”
Brennan said her coaches were not as understanding because they didn’t see it coming.
She said her coach does not like that Brennan’s old teammates still go to her to vent their frustrations or ask for advice because she is no longer on the team.
“She has some unnecessary, but understandable, resentment toward me,” she said.
Brennan said she does not have time to deal with the constant drama of the lacrosse team.
“A huge part of the drama, which is still occurring today is simply that our Division III coaches preach and pride themselves in the fact that they believe ‘school and family comes first,’” she said. “However, when it comes down to it, I was subliminally punished and made to feel guilty when I could not attend things, due to meetings, clinical, skills practices, etc.”
Brennan said this led her to quit. She was tired of feeling guilty, stressed and distracted from her career goals.
“This is not a topic up for discussion in the newspaper,” said Coach Aimee LeClair.
Even though she left the team, Brennan said her workload is still heavy.
“Though I have about the same workload as last year, I definitely have more time to do my work throughout the day, so I can go to bed by midnight instead of 2 a.m.,” she said.
Brennan said her health and her grades have improved since her decision.
Senior Tatum Jones said her grades have remained the same since she quit the volleyball team, but her stress has decreased significantly.
“I’m able to get all of my work done without sacrificing my other needs,” she said.
Jones noticed she could no longer do volleyball when she received her class schedule.
“I realized I would have to miss multiple tournaments and games because of mandatory clinical and classes,” she said. “I feared missing something that I couldn’t make up.”
Like Brennan, Jones was also the captain of her team, which made her decision harder.
“Although the girls were upset, they understood why I was doing it and were very supportive; they all saw me struggle with doing both [nursing and volleyball] for the last three years,” Jones said.
Although she misses her teammates and the sport they played together, she does not regret leaving the team.
“Even if I was able to go to practice and the games I wouldn’t be giving 100 percent to my team because I would be extremely stressed about the work I still had to do,” Jones said.
After a few mental breakdowns and attempts to quit the team, soccer captain Kerri Pagels made it through her last season of soccer.
“Managing soccer, classes, a job and social life is a difficult task,” she said. “Sometimes you have to sacrifice your social life, a practice or a game in order to succeed in academics.”
Pagels said her teammates and coaches understood the pressure she was under, and did not mind her absence.
“Coach Ed Muntz and Coach Erica Keil dealt with my mental breakdowns weekly, and allowed me to take a day or two off from practice if needed,” she said.
Pagels said her breakdowns began her sophomore year.
“Every time I reached the point of mental and physical exhaustion, the thought of quitting crossed my mind,” she said.
She knew she would regret leaving the team, even though she would have much more time to study.
“I made it four years full of mental breakdowns and no sleep – quitting would just be the easy way out,” she said. “When I graduate from nursing school I want to be able to say I worked a job and played soccer while maintaining a good GPA.”
Soccer and nursing affected Pagel’s health, but had no effect on her grades.
“Surprisingly, I have straight A’s in all my classes,” she said. “It’s obvious I would have more time to study if I didn’t play, but I would probably use that time to sit around and do nothing. Soccer and nursing keep me on my toes and productive all the time.”
She said soccer gives her a break from the anxiety that comes from nursing.
“Soccer has always been my escape, where I can just go out on the field, and have fun for a few hours,” Pagels said.
Sophomore nursing major Arnelle Akakpo also sees her sport as an escape from nursing.
“Volleyball is the one place at Wesley College that I can just let my mind rest for a little bit,” she said.
She said it helps her release tension when she’s feeling overwhelmed from nursing classes.
Akakpo said it is possible she will quit the volleyball team in the future like her old teammate Tatum Jones.
“It’s just because I know the workload I’m getting into,” she said.