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The lives of student athletes: juggling homework, workouts, sleep and friends

For Mills athletes, homework is the least of their worries.

Kirstyne Lange, a junior public policy/economics major and volleyball player, similarly begins her days before 6 AM. Living off campus, Lange usually arrives at Mills at 5:45 a.m. to get to her 6 a.m. practices on Mondays and Wednesdays. Her days – organized in her planner, computer and phone – are spent not only working with the volleyball team and on her school work, but also as Editor-in-Chief of the College yearbook, The Crest, co-president of the Black Women’s Collective and three jobs.

“For some people it seems strange, but for me it’s being normal. If it means sacrificing time with my friends to be ahead academically then I’ll make that sacrifice,” Lange said.

The roughly 120 student athletes at Mills navigate their weeks filled with schoolwork and practices, games and exams and occasionally part-time jobs. Amidst their busy schedules, they try to enjoy ever-elusive free time with friends. But just because they’re working out multiple hours a week doesn’t mean they can slack off with their schoolwork.

According to Compliance and Sports Information Director, Elese Lebsack, athletes must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA and be enrolled in 3.5 credits per semester to be eligible to play. Student athletes must have one day off per week.

Colleen Kimsey, a sophomore public health major and crew team member, divides her life into half hour segments on an Excel spreadsheet she keeps on her laptop. Monday thru Friday, her days start off with 5:30 – 8:30 AM practices at the Lafayette Reservoir 25 minutes from Oakland, and continue with classes from 10 till 2.

“Every morning I wake up and I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to leave my cozy bed to get in a van with a bunch of grumpy rowers,” Kimsey said. “There is nothing sadder than a Cliff Bar at 5 o’clock in the morning.”

However, Kimsey said she continues to row for her teammates, making the time spent worth it.

“I’m doing this for my team and myself,” Kimsey said. “There is no way I would wake up that early just for myself.”

For Kimberly Chew, a senior psychology major and cross-country team captain, her passion for running is just a fact of life. Despite the new early morning practices, from 6:15 a.m. until 8 a.m. on most days, plus another in the afternoon on Mondays, Chew has never considered a life without running.

“I’ve been running for a long time,” Chew said. “It’s something I don’t see as making a sacrifice for. It’s become as much a part of my life as eating and drinking.”

Some athletes, however, have a different reason for their dedication.

“I love rowing,” Kimsey said. “It’s so – I’m a really distractible, angry person. [Rowing] is the only thing that makes me feel so good and quiet in my body.”

Yet, with this love and sense of necessity comes some sacrifice. Many athletes use precious free time for homework and studying, leaving socializing at the bottom of the to-do list.

“You have to have priorities and sometimes the choices you have to make aren’t the ones you want to. My degree comes first, taking care of myself and my body comes second. Then crew,” Kimsey said. “Friends, Facebook, Internet is distant.”

Lange finds having similarly committed friends makes finding a balance between them and her activities easier.

“Most of [my friends] are on teams and in clubs, so they know that my time is precious,” Lange said. “People that are still my close friends know why I keep myself so busy.”

To make the most of what little spare time she finds in her day, Chew takes advantage of any opportunity to do her schoolwork that she stumbles upon.

“I study any free time I get,” Chew said. “Sometimes I’m studying while I eat, in the ice bath, on the way back from meets…I don’t go home nearly as much as I did last year. I don’t go out on the weekends as much.”

So, why do student athletes keep playing?

“I do it because I love Mills and I love all the things that I’m a part of,” Lange said. “If you don’t have that type of commitment, it’s going to be harder to stay on track for everything.”