Student-athletes balance athletics, academics and mental health

Chapman student-athletes are expected to attend practice, finish their homework on time and constantly perform to the best of their abilities in all areas of their college career. Not only is being a student-athlete physically demanding, but it can be mentally demanding as well.

Rob Nelsen

Rob Nelsen

It can be a mental struggle for student-athletes when it comes to handling the pressure and lists of assignments and tasks that are thrown at them. Junior basketball player Rob Nelsen is an Army ROTC and will commission as an officer after graduation. He is also in a fraternity, volunteers for the Special Olympics and has worked as a door-to-door salesman.

Nelsen said there is no in-between when it comes to committing to life as a student-athlete.

“All of the time that you have to put in to do well is a lot,” Nelsen said. “As a student-athlete, you still have to put in a lot of hours outside of practice. It would be great if you could just spend a few hours playing a day and expect to do great but that’s just not how it is. You either have to put in time lifting or put in time taking extra shots or reviewing the plays in the system and whatnot. There is a lot that goes in if you want to do well.”

Sophomore Brad Steiner is a pitcher on the Chapman baseball team and president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Steiner said it is often difficult for athletes to balance all of their commitments.

“When you get overwhelmed, you just try harder in sports because when you do bad in school, then you have time to come on back and get your grades back up,” Steiner said. “When you do bad in a sport, you have to forgive and forget and get to the next stage and go out and play again. So if you get stressed out, you just have to play harder, because I am happier when we do better.”

mental health

Brad Steiner

Steiner said it is important for athletes to take a step back when they are stressed out and appreciate the opportunities they have.

“Whenever you get bogged down with school or bogged down with sports, you have to take a step back and just realize like, wow, you are at a great school and you’re doing what you love and playing sports, which is maybe why you are here or just kind of helping you along the way,” Steiner said. “It really helps to take a step back and realize, wow, this is what I really love to do. The stress does not really add up to the love.”

Sophomore Courtney Justus, who plays volleyball and is on the track team, said time management is crucial to managing her schedule.

“I don’t have a ton of free time, so I have never been much into Netflix,” Justus said. “Everything is pretty much on schedule. I’ll get back from practice at this time and I’ll do my homework at this time, which really does help with stress. If you know everything down to a science, you don’t really have time for stress. I drink a lot of coffee because I stay up pretty late.”

Nelsen said creating an organized schedule every night for the next day helps him manage what he has planned.

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Courtney Justus

“If it’s just kind of chaos, then that’s what it is, but if it’s organized and I know exactly where to go and what I’m doing, it gives me a lot more time to maybe have like an hour of downtime or some free time here and there,” Nelsen said.

Justus said that while stress can sometimes build up, she finds ways to deal with it.

“At times, it can get overwhelming,” Justus said. “Especially this semester, I am taking a pretty dense course load. I have definitely called home a lot, but it really is just all about trying to get everything done. It is definitely stressful, but I couldn’t picture it any other way. I think that I just deal with the stress because this is what I want.”

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