By: Aaraksh Siwakoti 

Rookie of the Year, Alix Burkart, shows how she balances her grades with varsity sports.

The clock reads 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning as Alix Burkart wakes up for her long day ahead. A pre-health student, Burkart not only has class to look forward to today but also a varsity volleyball game.

To prepare herself mentally and physically before heading to her morning classes, she hops in the shower and makes her game day breakfast to keep herself energized: eggs and toast for the mind, body and soul.

Burkart, an East Division volleyball Rookie of the Year, balances her time between classroom and court.

“It’s nice knowing you don’t have a bunch of homework to do after playing,” says Burkart on making sure all her work is done before the game.

Athletics and academics have always been a big part of Burkart’s life. Having played sports throughout high school and now in college, she strives to maintain a healthy median between the two.

“Having that exercise in my schedule makes me a happier person and actually helps my studying,” says Burkart. “It’s a mandatory study break, whereas instead of eating chocolate or ice cream, I’m using it to be healthy and productive.”

While Burkart spends her day in class, fellow varsity athlete and all-star Ian McAlpine wakes up slightly later than usual to conserve energy for the game. It’s a different approach to finding that balance.

“Ideally you’d like to sleep in,” says McAlpine, a Thunder men’s volleyball middle and journalism student. “Hopefully you get some breakfast in you, but if you’re not a morning person it’s tough.”

As most students are trying to balance their college responsibilities with a social life and sleep, these athletes have added duties to consider. McAlpine says his team commitments are a stress reliever rather than it being a source. He believes in having that two-hour game, as a much-needed break from your studies.

Both Burkart and McAlpine, agree the team becomes more than just another obligation; it develops into your second family and your social gathering.

“It’s hard to keep new social relationships alive when you barely see the people. Which is why I find it super important to have such a good connection with your team,” says Burkart. “They’re your family for the entire year.”

According to the athletes, they’re not alone when it comes to handling their responsibilities. The coaching staff understands the importance of school over athletics. Players attest to the commitment coaches have to their athletes, making sure players take the night off from practice and focus on their studies if needed.

“My coach last year told the team, ‘You’re student-athletes, not athlete-students.’ They understand that school is important,” says McAlpine.

Although it seems like added pressure on the athletes, they testify to the importance of being on a team and encourage future prospects to not shy away from the student-athlete lifestyle.

“If you’re scared about balancing school and sports, don’t worry about it! I thought I’d have a lot of trouble, but honestly, it almost helps,” says Burkart. “Giving you that two-hour break during the evening is hugely beneficial, and takes your mind off of a lot of things.

“You meet an amazing group of people who become your family away from home; your team and your coaches become an amazing support group.”