Working on a college degree is already a challenge for students. Mix in hours of practice with schoolwork and other activities, and you start to realize the demanding schedule of a student athlete.
College sports fans, especially those following Division I schools, often see what athletes accomplish on the field and the state-of-the-art facilities they use. But what most do not think about is the sleep athletes often sacrifice to finish classwork while doing the hours of practice necessary to compete at a high level.
As high school athletes spend their sophomore and junior years developing skills with aspirations of competing collegiately, it is important to consider the sacrifices and time commitments that will be required at the next level.
Park High School graduate Temi Ogunrinde started college as a walk-on athlete with the University of Minnesota women’s track and field team, choosing a Big Ten school over scholarship offers from Division II programs. Her decision has paid off, as she earned an athletic scholarship and won a Big Ten championship in the hammer throw this spring as a redshirt sophomore.
“Being a student athlete is not just, 'Oh, you play your sport, you have fun, you get free gear, you get a free ride,'” Ogunrinde said. “It’s a lot of work, and we do value our education.”
Ogunrinde has taken on more responsibilities than many other athletes at the University of Minnesota. Besides the hours of training and homework she has as a student athlete, Ogunrinde is also a volunteer coordinator for the track and field team, a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (S.A.A.C.) and a participant in Bible studies with a group called Athletes in Action.
“Our coach always says, ‘Make sure you are not spreading yourself too thin,’” she said. “There are times where I’m like, ‘I’m spreading myself too thin.’ I definitely love everything that I do, and I wouldn’t stay in it if I didn’t.”
Former Ellsworth athlete Jens Lantz, who now wrestles at the University of Wisconsin, echoed similar thoughts about academics. The adjustment took some getting used to in his first years at college.
"Ellsworth was small enough where teachers can see if you're struggling and they are willing to help you," Lantz said. "In college, you have to be able to keep track of yourself and if you're struggling you need to find help. You can't dig yourself a hole because it's tough to get out of it."
When former Prescott athlete Michael Brookshaw went to Augsburg, he had his older brother Billy there to show him the ropes and help him adjust to the variety of responsibilities that come with being an athlete. The advice helped as he figured out how to squeeze everything into a sometimes all-day schedule.
"You are up at 5:30 a.m. three times a week lifting weights," Brookshaw said. "On top of that, you have to go swing and throw or go to practice and also go to class. So the biggest thing that surprised me was time management and how I had to figure out what worked with me for when I had to study and get my swings in."
The Auggies, like other teams, expect their players to do a fair amount of volunteering.
"There are many sacrifices that go along with it, so you have to be 100 percent dedicated to that sport and your team," Brookshaw said. "You can't really prepare for it because when you get there, everybody you are playing with and competing with is way bigger and stronger, the balls are hit harder at you and people are faster. You just have to experience it to know how much of a jump it is."
Lantz agreed, saying that the jump from high school to Wisconsin for wrestling was unlike anything he could have expected. The process is something first-year student athletes will discover when they reach campus.
"I would tell (high school athletes aspiring to compete collegiately) to go with an open mind and be willing to learn," Lantz said. "Never get down on yourself even though that is very hard. Always find the good in situations. I would make sure you really pick the coaches’ brain and make sure you can have a great relationship with them outside of wrestling because once you leave home, your coaches become your second father."
Blaze Fugina contributed to this story