Between Books and the Pool

By Magdalena Knapp, Editor

Do you ever wake up naturally from one of those restorative sleeps? Where you can feel the sun’s rays on your face, hear the birds sing, and feel the warm air coming through your slightly opened window? Well, I do not. I usually wake up when the birds are still sleeping, the sun is still hidden behind the endless cornfields and the outside temperatures are around 30 degrees Fahrenheit. My alarm clock starts yelling at me every morning at 5 and I crawl out of bed with my eyes barely open, take my backpack, and walk with the rest of my team to the cars. Our destination is the same every morning: the swimming pool. This is part of my life as a student athlete.

I usually share a lane with one other person, and we swim next to each other. Practice starts every day with the same words: “On the top!” This means that we have to be in the water when the big clock shows “:00”. Whether you are mentally prepared for a wave of cold water hitting your body at 6 a.m. or not, you better jump no later than “:58”. After two hours of swimming up and down the pool we are ready to officially start our day:  breakfast at Ames and then classes, trying to get that glorified 4.0 GPA.




How can you spot a swimmer girl in class? Wet hair put up into a messy bun, UGGs with fuzzy socks, sweat pants usually combined with a parka – business casual I would say. We pretend to pay attention in our classes, while really, our only focus is to keep our eyes open so our professors might think we are actually there.  Then, we head back to the pool. We put on our suits that sometimes are still wet from morning practice and start our warm up. Between one lap and the other we have time for short conversations, which usually end up unfinished because we have to leave for the next set – on the top, obviously.


After four hours of swimming, gallons of water swallowed, and questioning our life-choices many times, we are officially done for the day. Practices are over and we are ready to head over to Ames to indulge in as much food as possible. If you ever wonder why the tuition here at McKendree got higher this year, the new swim team and the amount of food that we eat might be the answer. At the end of the day we crawl back into our beds and fall into a deep sleep, until we wake up the next day for another day as student athletes.

Difficult to satiate: the student-athlete

After reading this, one might think that I hate being a student-athlete, but that is not true. I like the challenge of balancing academics and athletics every day, facing hard practices and difficult classes all at once. I like the feeling at the end of the day when I lay in bed and know that I have actually accomplished something, that I did everything I could to make it a successful day, and that I try to get the most out of my college experience.

Yes – some days are hard and I wish I could just stay hidden under my blankets; but that’s part of it…that’s part of being a student athlete. I believe that four years in college prepares you more than anything else in the future, where you will have to face other difficult and different challenges every day. If you make it through college as a student-athlete, then believe me, you are ready for every new and unexpected challenge in the future!

3 thoughts on “Between Books and the Pool

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  1. Wonderful article, well written with defining pictures and a fun sense of humor.

  2. Great article! Thanks for letting us get a glimpse into the life of a student athlete.

  3. Great piece, Magdalena! Student-athletes have been some of the best students I’ve taught at McKendree, and more than a few philosophy majors have been athletes (and, really, they often are the cream of the crop!). I always am impressed by how hard you all work and somehow manage to keep it all together (in your case, athletics, scholarship, the paper, etc.). The kind of resilience, organization, and plain hard work you embody will take you very far in life indeed!

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