Training table. Ludicrous amounts of athletic gear. Thousands of followers on social media. These are some of the perks of being a student athlete at a large university. I should know, as I happen to be one myself. My name is Rodrigo Blankenship, and I am a kicker for the University of Georgia’s football team. I came to UGA ranked a Top 5 kicker in the country for the 2015 recruiting class. I finished my senior year at Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia, where I took five Advanced Placement (AP) classes, graduated with a 4.0 GPA, set every single season and career school record one can imagine a kicker could earn, and was named a U.S Army All-American. I thought I knew just about everything about how to successfully balance being an elite athlete and a high-achieving student at the same time, all while retaining some semblance of a social life.
Now, as I enter my final semester to earn my undergraduate degree in Journalism and my fourth season as a member of UGA’s football team, I understand that the collegiate level is an entirely different beast. College has been the most time-consuming, most physically-taxing, and most stressful time in my life as a scholar-athlete. I decided to take a look at other scholar/athletes from a wide variety of sports at the University of Georgia to see what they might have to teach the thousands of students who dream of success in sports and in school. We are about to go beyond the lines of the courts, the fields, and the tracks to see what it is like to be a high-achieving student and athlete at the college level.
PART ONE: VOLLEYBALL
Dalaney Hans, a second-year intended journalism major and setter for the University of Georgia's volleyball team, warms up for the team's game against Illinois State on Saturday, August 25, 2018 in Stegeman Coliseum. The team's match against Illinois State was the third and final match of their season-opening invitational tournament, in which they swept Coastal Carolina, Furman, and Illinois State to open the season with an undefeated 3-0 record (georgiadogs.com, 2018). (Photo / Rodrigo J. Blankenship: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Catch second-year volleyball player Dalaney Hans (if you can) on the go somewhere on campus anytime from 7:00am to 10:00pm this semester. If you don’t, you certainly won’t be able to reach her over the weekends when the team is playing games against top SEC competition every Friday (or Wednesday) and Sunday starting September 21 (georgiadogs.com, 2018).
With upwards of 14-15 waking hours of any given day during the season dedicated to attending classes, eating at pre-scheduled team meals, going to tutoring sessions, practicing, and playing games, combined with another eight hours of sleep that any reasonable athlete should aim to get each night to be at their best every day, Hans is left with one to two hours at the most each day to do homework for her NCAA-required minimum of 12 hour’s worth of classes (ncaa.org, 2018).
Listen to my interview with Hans a few hours before their season opener against Coastal Carolina to learn about her start in the sport, her jam-packed days, and the team’s dense season schedule.
Rachel Ritchie, a second-year intended English major and outside hitter for the University of Georgia's volleyball team, makes her way to the baseline in preparation for a serve during the team's match against Illinois State on Saturday, August 25, 2018, in Stegeman Coliseum. Ritchie proved vital in the team's 3-1 win over Illinois State, contributing three serve aces, seven digs, and 13 kills while playing in all four sets for the Dawgs. (georgiadogs.com, 2018). (Photo / Rodrigo Blankenship: email@example.com)
Rachel Ritchie, second-year player from California and teammate of Dalaney Hans, expects her limits to be pushed to new heights this semester and season (georgiadogs.com, 2018). While Ritchie also wakes up near the crack of dawn to workout with teammates at 7:00 in the morning, she has been ever-so-slightly more fortunate than teammate Hans in the fact that her days ends at 9:15 with her last Rankin-Smith tutoring obligation, as opposed to Hans’ which end at 9:45.
Ritchie has explained that this past summer was the most physically-exhausting she has endured yet, as Head Coach Tom Black, who enters his second year at the helm, is working to establish what Ritchie calls a “new work ethic” standard for the team since taking over (georgiadogs.com, 2018). She deals with some serious pressure to maintain a high standard of simultaneous academic and athletic success.
Listen to my interview with Ritchie to learn about the team’s summer schedule, handling pressure, and utilizing every resource made available to her whenever possible to stay on top of her life.
I’ll check back with Hans and Ritchie at the end of the semester to see how well they are or are not handling their second season as college student-athletes. I hope you will continue to follow my story, as I am enthused to continue to explore different sports, and show just how much is going on beyond the lines.