Balancing the diamond and the classroom
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    The San Diego State University softball field on Friday, before it rained. Photo by Kristin Scharkey / North by Northwestern.

    This is the first installment in an occasional series chronicling the personal stories of the Northwestern softball team on the road, on the diamond and on campus.

    This is it. The moment of truth. The moment we’ve been waiting for.

    We’ve put in the time, we’ve put in the sweat and we’ve put in the tears. Now it all comes down to this: As I walk to up in front of the crowd, I recall the hours we spent poring over strategy and the number of times our game plan was revised. “We will be the hardest-working team in the country,” said my coach, and that phrase echoes in my ears as I turn and meet the sea of faces, trusting my preparation instead of listening to a nervous heartbeat.

    “Today,” I begin, “my partner and I will be discussing the effects of non-market work on women’s labor force participation.” It’s 11 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, as I launch into my presentation in Economics of Gender.

    The parallels between my sport and my education are uncanny. Approaching school the same way that I approach an at-bat has become a way of life in college, and I’ve come to find that the hyphen in ’student-athlete’ is essential and underestimated.

    There’s no room for doubt at the plate and no room to question the work that you’ve put in to beat the pitcher on that day. We spend hours taking practice swings to get ready for those three at-bats in a game, and likewise log the necessary amount of time once we get home from practice to prepare for the tests, papers and pop quizzes that a day in the classroom may bring.

    The epitome of the hyphen in ’student-athlete’ is found on the road. A majority of our class work is done on planes, on buses, in hotels, at the fields. During a rain delay at Indiana last year, I remember being entirely soaked trying to pound out a paper on the bus before the weather let up and our game could resume. Trips that end on Sunday nights often include last-minute preparations for presentations after arriving back in Evanston at midnight.

    But that’s what you learn to excel in as a student-athlete: flexibility, time management and pressure situations. Taking a final starts to feel a lot like walking up to the plate with bases loaded once you’ve done it for a year-and-a-half.

    You learn and prepare; you memorize and practice. And then, you hit it out of the park.

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