Work Hard, Play Harder: How Five Athletes Juggle School and Sports
With senior year comes college essays, test prep, and challenging classes. As if a standard academic curriculum at Packer isn’t rigorous enough, some students do all of this work while maintaining a rigid and physically demanding athletics schedule.
While Packer’s athletes are almost universally dedicated, there are some who take their devotion to sports to another level. Seniors Cameron Oliver (‘18), Natasha Wong (‘18), Ethan Ng (‘18), Abby Wade (‘18), and Connor Mraz (‘18) have all shown outstanding commitment to their respective sports, sacrificing weekends and free time for the love of the game.
Such intense involvement in athletics is of course very admirable, though its demands can present challenges of their own. Students can end up spending multiple hours a week practicing their sports. This is worsened by the fact that teams outside of school often practice in inconvenient locations, causing athletes to spend extra time commuting to practices and games.
Ethan dedicates much of his time to playing golf at a club called Fiddler’s Elbow, which is located in New Jersey, one and a half hours away from Packer.
“During the summer I’ll practice six or seven hours a day,” he says, “which is really fun, but during the school year I practice from ten to six on the weekends, as well as during the school week.”
Cameron and Abby both play on Packer’s varsity soccer teams, as well as outside of school. Abby is on a travel team and Cameron plays with the New York Soccer Club Academy in Westchester.
“The commitment [for the club] is six days a week including games and two hour practices,” Cameron says, “which run longer, if necessary. That is every day and it is two and a half to three hours away. All the games are in Westchester because not all of the teams are in the city.”
“[The team] practices on Randall’s Island,” says Abby, “which is a bit of a commute, especially when you’re from Brooklyn.”
Like Cameron and Abby, Natasha participates in athletics outside of school. Her volleyball club, NYC Juniors, is renowned for being one of the best organizations in the city. She enjoys playing, but does admit that the club is rather time-consuming.
“It’s a lot,” she says. “Even though [NYC Juniors] only meets two to three times a week it’s really hard on weekends when we have away tournaments because it takes me out of commission for up to three days at a time. Since [the club] usually practices at either Spence or Nightingale, it’s really far from where I live. All in all the commute takes four hours every day that I have practice.”
Connor has been sailing since he was eight and sails roughly 100 days a year. Though he loves it, he admits that at times his obligations can be overwhelming.
“There are some sailing programs in the city but I’m not connected to those, so I go up to Stamford, Connecticut. It’s about a 45-minute drive [to practices] and I do that almost every weekend and once in awhile during the week … A lot of the competitions are out of state. Almost every holiday we have a competition, so that takes up a lot of my free time during the school year.”
Some students have even had to miss a considerable amount of school, generating additional consequences to school life.
“Freshman and sophomore year I missed 45 days of school each,” said Connor. “That’s one-third of the year.”
Ethan reports missing school days as well, saying, “We travel a lot for golf tournaments. Last year I had 20 missed days of school in the first semester, which is crazy, and it was hard to catch up.”
A lack of free time and many missed school days can take its toll on work time, so these athletes must adopt ways to tackle Packer’s rigorous academics.
“A lot of the time I try to get as much as I can done on the train or in free periods,” Cameron reports. “That doesn’t always happen, though, so I’ll just end up not getting enough sleep … [but] I have kind of gotten used to [it]. I’ll try to get work done in awkward places; if I get to practice early I’ll try to get some work done before everybody gets there, or I’ll try to do it on the train.”
“I have always been busy so by now I know how to handle the workload,” Abby says. “I haven’t really had a situation where I needed a teacher to help me out but I think that if I did need their help, they would be understanding.”
Abby and Natasha are looking at Division 3 (D3) schools so that they can have a more even balance between school work and sports in college.
Though she admits that volleyball is not her top priority next year, Natasha is still considering playing next year. “If I do go to a school that has D3 athletics I would love to play volleyball there,” said Natasha.
Abby, too, has her eye on colleges of similar rigor. “I am looking for D3 schools,” she says, “because D3 is more focused on the student-athlete and I want to go to college primarily for academics as opposed to sports. It’s less time consuming but still very competitive.”
“College sailing is pretty big,” Connor adds. “There are a lot of schools that participate in college sailing, probably around 130. I’m still deciding where I’m going to go but I’m definitely going to be sailing … I love it.”
“I love [soccer],” Cameron says. “Before games I can’t sleep. It’s a massive passion.”
All of these students will get to continue doing what they love through college, which is a sign that all of the hard athletic and scholastic work has paid off for these athletes.