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 two: Soccer
Katie Higgins has been on the move virtually her entire life. At the ripe age of four, barely coordinated enough to muster something along the lines of a cross between and waddle and a run, she began playing soccer. Since then Higgins has moved up in competition age groups, moved between playing with girls and boys in club leagues, and even moved clubs altogether to a club in Somerset, New Jersey, an hour and 45 minutes away from her hometown in Andreas, Pennsylvania (georgiadogs, 2018).
Even now that she has settled into life at the University of Georgia as a captain of the women’s soccer team and highly-driven physics major, there hasn’t been a still moment in Higgins’ life – until now. Higgins committed to the University of Georgia before her sophomore year of high school had started, and made an immediate impact for UGA once with the team, playing in 14 games and starting eight of them as a true freshman in 2017 (georgiadogs, 2018).
Through 11 games in her sophomore year with the Dawgs, Higgins had averaged over 82 minutes played per game (out of 90), and the team was a mere three games in to their conference slate before something finally brought Higgins to a halt. Higgins tore her ACL and meniscus in in practice on Tuesday, September 25th. Now, on top of an already tall order of balancing on-the-field and off-the-field performance at the No. 13 best public institution in the country (US News and World Report, 2018), Higgins now also faces a new set of physical and mental challenges to overcome on the path to recovery.