Balancing act: Life as a Butler student-athlete

RHYAN HENSON | Multimedia Editor

Being a student-athlete and representing a school on a daily basis can be a heavy burden.

A student-athlete’s life is a balancing act. Juggling school, athletics and social responsibilities can be difficult.

“The general problem is time,” said Sonya Hopkins, Butler athletics’ academic support coordinator. “You have practice. You have competition. You have travel. And there are times when you are spending time on the field or in the film room on your own because you want to.

“There are only so many hours in the day and you want to be the best student you can be. You want to be the best athlete you can be. Finding time to do that, especially in season, is difficult.”

Senior softball player and bio-engineering and chemistry major Krista Hakola said planning well ahead of time is crucial for academic success.

“My days are pretty planned out for me, so I have to use any free time for homework,” Hakola said. “In my major, there is a lot of outside work and a lot of studying, so you have to make sure you start everything far in advance in order to have time to ask professors questions and to be able to get everything done.”

This year, the softball team has already missed class the past four Fridays due to travel. With all this time on the road, athletes cannot afford to waste a second; or they risk falling behind.

“I have to make up a lot of assignments on the road, on bus trips, in hotel rooms or in airports —in order to make sure I can turn them in on time,” Hakola said.

Being an athlete not only takes up time, but energy as well.

To Erik Fromm, senior basketball player and pyschology major, it is the latter that he finds more difficult.

”It is more difficult to find the energy to put into school work, and studying is the most difficult part when balancing academics,” Fromm said.

Fromm said long nights after games and road trips combined with morning classes make putting the necessary energy forth difficult at times.

“Finding time to do homework on the road is challenging, but it gets easier as you go,” Fromm said. “Butler is a very hands-on helping community, especially with academics.”

Hopkins said communication is key in terms of student athletes keeping up in class and with assignments, especially during the season. By instilling good study habits early on, student athletes reap the benefits later in their academic careers.

“It is mandatory for all freshmen student-athletes to take part in study tables,” Hopkins said. “They have to do a mandatory six hours a week, and the reasoning behind that is to emphasize the need for good study habits.”

“Our goal is for freshman to have as good as a first semester as possible. Because if you have a good first semester and all of these things are involved in that then you will have a tendency to repeat that.”

With the opening of the new academic centers from the Hinkle Campaign, student-athletes will be more prepared than ever before. Traditionally this service was provided to students at night in classrooms. Now, that designated space will be moved into Hinkle, and students can study when they are most alert and attentive—during the day, Hopkins said.

Although Butler is known for a rigorous curriculum, upholding The Butler Way 24/7 can have its challenges as well.

“Since the two Final Four runs, The Butler Way has been the trademark of the university, especially to the outside world,” Fromm said. “To the media The Butler Way is a lot of things, but specifically, you have to hold yourself to a high standard to make sure you are not doing things that put the university in a bad light.”

One of the biggest issues most teenagers and young adults struggle with is social media, Fromm said. Figuring out what is and is not appropriate can be challenging. Student-athletes are no exception.

“The biggest thing athletes find themselves not being able to handle as well is the social media. All of our friends have social media,” Fromm said. “On Twitter, we are saying things that we would say to our friends, so you have to be sure to make sure you are not saying things that could be misconstrued in a bad way. “

Fromm said he takes a different approach when deciding what is appropriate for social media.

“Coach Terry Johnson is our twitter guy. So every time I tweet, I say what would ‘T’ say about this. If I do not think ‘T’ would like it then I don’t tweet it,” Fromm said.

Although the pressures of maintaining high athletic and academic standards can be tough,  student-athletes are just normal people when it comes down to it.

“We are one of the only seasons that stretches from the early part of first semester to the halfway part of second semester,” Fromm said. “Through the season, we try to do things socially that keep us going and keep us having a fun time. That comes down to seeing friends when we can or going out and seeing a movie.”

Being around teammates all the time can make finding social time easy for some athletes, due to the closeness and comradery of those teams.

“The best thing about softball, though, is that my best friends are on the team,” Hakola said. “So even though I’m gone a lot, I’m still able to spend time with them.”