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By Madie Leidt, Student-Athlete At Middlebury College

Sitting uncomfortably in a black wooden chair, my backpack straps still hugging my shoulders, I stared blankly at my college counselor while she assured me that, with my ACT score, I would have little to no chance of acceptance at Middlebury College. I smiled at her and shook my head in agreement – good thing I had more than a test score.


Athletes aren’t always the most naturally gifted students but playing youth sports—having to work for victories, for a championship, for whatever you’re chasing—instills a drive in many kids that translates into the classroom setting. Varsity golfer and ice hockey player at Middlebury College, Anna Zumwinkle, noted in a recent interview,

“Like any athlete, we all know the value of time management and I applied those skills that playing multiple sports growing up had taught me. So, recognizing I had limited hours to get homework and training done, made me that much more driven, focused, and diligent with my work.”

Zumwinkle and I share the need for structure as a motivator, as many athletes do. I often wonder what kind of college student I would be if my afternoons were not spent in the rink from 4:45 pm to 7:00 pm, with no worries except what the power play shape would look like for that upcoming weekend.

Balancing academics and athletics is hard. At times, it feels nearly impossible, especially at a school like Middlebury. But while hockey takes time out of my day, over the years it has forced me to develop and hone skills such as time management, and the drive, focus, and diligence, that Zumwinkle mentioned, in order to land myself here.

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While Middlebury is known as a “little Ivy,” as all NESCAC schools are, each major offered by the college represents a different level of commitment. As an economics major with a global health minor, my courses, while challenging, require much less time spent in the classroom as opposed to majors like Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. Women’s ice hockey player, Morgan Griffin, is one of the very brave souls to take on such a major. Her desire to attend medical school guided her down this path—one of the five-day-a-week lectures and three-hour labs. Her love for hockey, however, would not be outshined by her long-term goals. Griffin has realized what it takes many of us longer to come to terms with—that our sports don’t last forever.

“I definitely put a lot of thought into how much work balancing my major and sports commitments would be but I never reconsidered it because I know that it is what I want to do with my life.”

For most student-athletes, especially women, there is no “next” with their sport of choice. As Zumwinkle notes, “Sports are what you do, not who you are.” This truth is what drives many of them to put time and effort into the classroom. So many of us love our sport—that is why we are college athletes after all—but the balancing act, no matter how difficult, is vital if we want to be excited about the next chapter in our lives.

Being a college athlete is hard—there is no question that school and sports tug two ends of the same rope, not to mention the pressure of social commitments. However, it depends greatly on what you desire to do after college that determines how many hours you will spend in the library, in the classroom, in the gym, or at the rink—the balance is in your hands.

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Google Reuse, Madie Leidt Facebook