Play, work, play, eat, repeat

5:20 a.m.  An alarm goes off, informing the slumbering form curled under the blankets that it’s time to start the day.  Slowly, Jacquelyn Mallet, a freshman at TMU, slides out of the warmth of her bed and forces herself to get mentally alert.  

She’s dressed and down at the gym by 6:00 a.m., ready to hit the weights hard.  By 7:00 a.m., she’s tired and sweaty, but changes in the locker room and heads to the cafeteria for breakfast.  8:00  a.m. rolls around quickly, and she makes her way to the front of the classroom for Old Testament Survey.  Then comes chapel, and two more classes afterwards.  This is just the start of the day for her.

The challenge of adjusting to college is one every student faces at some point in time.  It’s a new place, new people, a new life.  

The triangle of a college student’s life embodies three things: school, social life, and sleep.  Choose two, you’re told as a freshman, because that’s all you’ll have time for.  However, in the case of a student athlete, they must learn to juggle even more.  

Learning to organize and use that time wisely is imperative.  Time is limited, but the number of things that need to be done seems never-ending.  

For freshman college students, academic standards are raised, and academic excellence is a higher priority than it was in high school.       

Jessica Soares is a freshman, playing her first year of college basketball for TMU.  “At first you’re coming in, it’s college, you’re totally new, and they just give you the syllabus.  You look at all that work and you go in shock mode. Literally.”

This shock is real.  For athletes, just as much as anyone, academics is important.

Kam Kilchrist, a freshman shortstop on the Master’s baseball team, said, “Academics first.  Our coach taught us in the first meeting that we are a student before an athlete, and we can’t be an athlete unless we do well in class.”

Each of the freshman have found making a schedule is very beneficial to their day to day success.

“For sure make a schedule; that helps a lot,” Soares said.  “I think it’s good to have a planner of all your months for the semester, so you can see how your work is spread out.”

Jacquelyn Mallet is also a freshman at The Master’s University.  She played four years of high school basketball, volleyball, and softball at her hometown high school in Spirit Lake, Idaho, and is continuing to pursue basketball during her first year of college.

Mallet uses this technique as well, “I make my own weekly schedule every single week. It puts my mind at peace.  Having it mapped out, and being able to see it, totally calms me down.”

This is important because Mallet’s schedule doesn’t allow for many mistakes.

“Some days I have lunch and some days I don’t,” she said, “so I have to plan ahead for those days.”

Dan Waldeck, the Master’s women’s basketball coach, has specifically taken it upon himself to prepare his freshman athletes to schedule out their days, weeks, and months.  Over the last ten years, he has conducted a meeting with his athletes on how to make schedules for themselves.  In his time as a coach, he has had only one student who became ineligible to play.

Academics isn’t the only avenue that pushes freshman.

Kilchrist, who is studying to become a sports broadcaster, said, “I feel like, I don’t know, the term grind, I had no idea what that meant till I came to college.  Like, I thought I was working pretty hard for high school baseball and schooling, but it’s just a whole new level in college.”

There’s no doubt that college sports challenge the average freshman.  Jessica Soares has also felt this first hand.

“I definitely felt it in basketball.  For me it was a big leap. It’s been very different from the high school ball that I played.  Here, it’s a lot faster, it’s legit, you gotta do it.”

Mallet agreed and said, “College athletics is totally different.  In college, you’re being paid to play.  It’s like a second job.”

This influences coaching as well, as the coach must help the freshmen adjust to the level of excellence he needs from them.  Coach Waldeck understands the shift in these areas; he knows that each girl is coming from a high school team of which she was most likely the star. “They were all the best; now, they are just one of many.”

This means that each girl must be willing to give her best just to compete.  Coach Waldeck believes that the best way to help adjust to the higher competitive level of college is to do it before you get there.  

“Having an overly disciplined work ethic,” he said, “can make the transition to college level basketball less drastic.”

With academics on top and athletics a close second, freshman athletes are left with little time to socialize, forcing them to be specifically intentional with others.

Rebekah Throns, a freshman basketball player, smiled and leaned into her sister, Hannah Throns, and their teammate and new-found friend, Jessica Soares, as she said, “Once we got to know each other – It’s actually really cool – It feels like I’ve got thirteen more sisters.”

Mallet echoed Throns by adding, “Having those people and those friendships with your teammates – especially from the beginning – they become like your family.”

Waldeck has specifically nurtured this culture and strongly fosters an atmosphere of sisterhood and trust among his athletes.

“The more vulnerable you are, the more personal victories you will have.”  He greatly encourages the girls to be open with one another and to invest in each other as teammates, as girls, and as Christians.

Kilchrist admitted that on the scale of importance, his social life came last, so he says, “It’s definitely helpful just having teammates be there with you and be there for you.”

The players see their common beliefs as a strong advantage and bond between them, one that draws them closer than they could ever be alone.  “Masters is very special because you are with a team of believers.”  Mallet said.

Kilchrist’s appreciation for this was voiced as he said, “I think, overall, like Master’s, and the people here, do a great job at helping keep you calm and knowing that God’s in control of it all.  That definitely, like, eased my soul.”

As each day goes by, filled with practice, classes, homework, and friends, student athletes learn more and more how to use the time they have to glorify God.  

“Put God before baseball, and put God before anything else.” Kilchrist said wholeheartedly.  He continued, “We can’t gain time, we can only use it.”

At six o’clock in the evening, as Mallet makes her way to practice after a long day of classes, she again prepares her mind to push herself to the limit.  She laces up her shoes as the girls begin to trickle onto the court.  

Their smiles and laughter give her the energy she didn’t have to finish the day strong.  Side by side, they do the impossible.  They don’t look at each other as seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshman. Together, they are a team.  

Later that night, as she turns out the lights and curls back into the blankets, Mallet praises God for getting her through another day.