Student athletes balance finals, competitions

The big coats begin to vanish; the shorts and flip-flops emerge; construction work rears its ugly head; and Colorado weather becomes as erratic as the Denver Nuggets. You know this time of year- it’s Finals Season. But while most students at Mines lock themselves away for a week, student athletes must balance their time between studying and competition. They cannot tune out the extracurrricular to focus on school, as many teams will compete all throughout the month of May. The track team’s RMAC Conference meet takes place Monday through Wednesday of finals week, right smack in the middle of final exams. and students must pide their time as they aim for success in the classroom and on the field.

Most students at Mines understand the time commitment required to succeed academically. What many don’t often realize is that their peers who are involved in sports must carry that same dedication and repeat the process in the athletic realm. For an inpidual to succeed at the collegiate level in sports requires a great deal of skill and hard work. It is similar to arriving at Mines for the academics. A student may be top of their class prior to attending, but soon find a rigorous challenge ahead of them. It works the same way for athlete.

It is difficult for a student not to become distracted by the combination of schoolwork and competition. Thinking too much about a race can hinder performance on a test, whereas worrying about being prepared for a test can have a similar effect on an athlete’s performance in their sport. “It’s definitely distracting,” said senior distance runner Sydney Laws, “But you try to find a balance.”

If you are like me, much of your final exam weekend will be spent cramming and lamenting over the classes that I skipped. But student athletes have no such luxury. As Bradley Nuse, a member of the Swim and pe team, explains, “we will still have 6-8 hours of workouts over that week.” And thrower Chris McPhee’s weekend won’t be any easier. He is traveling to Pueblo for his first appearance in the RMAC Conference meet, and will have to prioritize his time between studying and performing. “I know a bunch of people will bring their tests down and and take their finals down [in Pueblo],” he commented.

But this effort does not go unnoticed. Coaches often understand the stress students experience this time of year. “They realize and support the fact that academics come first,” said Laws. In fact, most coaches allow students to take off a practice or two if they are struggling and need to catch up in their studies. 

So how do the athletes get through? Basketball player Sean Armstrong just shrugged when he was asked. “I really don’t know, man. It’s definitely tough. but you just get through it.” It’s tough, but many participants agree it is worth the trouble and that the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. “Being a part of the track team is a good balance,” said Laws, “Its a fun way to be competitive and I have made a lot of good friends from track.”

The life of a student athlete at Mines is virtually unparalleled. Players on most other school teams do not deal with the same level of academic intensity or rigorous studying as Mines students. And while representing your school athletically is an incredible privilege, I will definitely be glad that all I have to worry about next week will be passing my Physics 200 exam

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