Millions of high school students in the United States dream of being collegiate and professional athletes; however, only a small portion of high school athletes make it to the college level.
Division 3 NCAA athletes have unmatched determination and love for their sport. The only prizes for these athletes are the satisfaction of winning, a fun experience, and the occasional medal and award.
Not only do student-athletes spend more time at the school for their sport, but they tend to be heavily involved on campus and bring school spirit wherever they go.
These four student athletes show how different sports impact their experience as athletes and students on campus. They are examples of the hardworking students that are involved in sports, academics, and organizations inside and outside of Elmhurst.
Ericka Creek: When choosing a college, what did you look for?
Lorrie Decker: “Personally, my sister is my coach. Wherever she went, I was going. We have a dream to win a national title as sisters. She is very respected on my end. Honestly, Elmhurst has so many other things that I like about it. I feel like I am actually at home here because I am from Ohio. I am in graphic design and there are a lot of opportunities in big cities.”
Megan Engstrom: “When looking for colleges and ultimately choosing a school, I looked for a school that was moderately close to home, had my major, and most importantly would give me an opportunity to play college tennis. I had dreamt of playing a college sport since I was little, and it was not something that I was willing to compromise on. I wanted a school that offered me a chance to be a collegiate athlete while earning my degree in Speech-Language Pathology.”
Chris Pederson: “When I was looking at colleges, I was going where the money was. Honestly, I wanted to go to the school that was giving me the most scholarships and Elmhurst was that school for me.”
Zander Romano: “I looked for somewhere close, somewhere not crazy expensive, less competitive, and a D3 school so I could continue doing track. I also looked at choirs because I wanted to join my school’s choir.”
EC: Do you think that your college experience has differed from other students because you are an athlete?
Decker: “I feel like athletes get a family aspect no matter what team you are on. Last year, it was not like that, but my second year was like that. I was at a different school before this. You have a team behind you all the time and to be able to have someone to talk to is great. I have athletics, my team, and my coach behind me.”
Engstrom: “I do think that my college experience has differed from other students because my entire day and class schedule revolves around practice and matches. I am having to manage my time more as well as make-up assignments outside of class because there are times that I am competing during class time.
I also think that I have had a little bit of a different experience socially as well because I am not always able to attend the fun social events my friends are going to or go out on the weekends due to an early morning match or practice the following day.”
Pederson: “Yes, as an athlete we have more leniency with the school and more availability to be seen and heard compared to those who do not play a sport.”
Romano: “Yes, I know a lot more people. I know people when I walk into my classes. My team is giant so I get to know so many people. I am also a lot busier because I am an athlete. On my least busy day, I am at the school for 8-10 hours compared to 3 hours if I was not an athlete.”
EC: How can the school better your experience as a student-athlete?
Decker: “I do not think the school has to. Compared to my last school, Elmhurst is so much better. For my sport, we do not get recognized a lot. We get recognized by athletics but not by the rest of the school.”
Engstrom: “I personally think that one thing the school can do better is have specific academic and athletic advisors who know the athletes’ practice schedule as well as someone who would help with class conflicts. It would be really nice to have an athletic advisor that can help us plan classes and assist with letting the professors know our athletic schedule ahead of time instead of us being responsible for handing them notes the day of or emailing them the night before with the note from our coach.”
Pederson: “I think we need a fieldhouse. In order to be better at a track, a fieldhouse is needed. As a football player, we need the turf to be redone and the new scoreboard.”
Romano: “We could definitely have better resources as throwers. COVID-19 hurt our ability to get a full-time throws coach and get the other resources we needed. I would like to see practice slots set in stone. We practice at all different times because we are not told our practice time in advance.”
EC: Have you experienced different treatment because you are an athlete or female athlete? If so, please explain.
Decker: “I think being a female athlete means we have more to prove. Especially with bowling, it is a man’s sport. It was not built from a women’s standpoint. The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) is made up of a lot of men. Bowling itself, yes but not on campus.”
Engstrom: “I have experienced different treatment because I am an athlete, specifically a female athlete. Growing up I played with all boys because no girls my age played in my subdivision. I would constantly get picked on by the boys for not being strong or fast enough to keep up with them.
However, since playing on my high school and now college teams I don’t personally feel as though I am treated differently because I am a female athlete. I think that Elmhurst does a pretty good job at celebrating all athletes and our accomplishments.”
EC: Do you feel supported by the school?
Decker: “Athletically, yes. I feel supported by my teachers and although you do not see admissions a lot, they were a big help when I was transitioning to Elmhurst. The student body and administration do not show as much support to all sports. They think of football, basketball, maybe softball, and baseball. Track and field gets lost sometimes. I do not think that people think “we should go see this.’”
Engstrom: “I do feel supported by the school. When the school brought Shawna on to be the assistant alongside Glen I felt that the level of support for student-athletes increased. I applaud Glen and Shawna, our athletic director and assistant director for the athletic program that they are building.
Being an athlete means there are sometimes missed classes and my professors have all been extremely supportive of me being an athlete and always want to see me succeed in the classroom and on the court.”
Pederson: “Football-wise, yes. They have our backs. As for track, it’s half and half. Sometimes we get support, but it feels like it only comes when we are doing well.”
Romano: “Yes, as a student for sure. There are a ton of resources for my classes including office hours and study groups. As an athlete, we could have a better weight room and more resources.”
EC: What change would you like to see on a national level for student-athletes?
Decker: “Probably mental health. I am an ambassador for Morgan’s Message. It is a foundation for a family that lost their child too soon due to an injury in the NCAA. I always wear butterflies in my bowling attire because I live in and bleed their message. I would like to see more mental health awareness, including for non-athletes.”
Engstrom: “I personally would like to see more support for D3 athletics. I feel as though at the national level everyone focuses on D1 athletes and they are amazing athletes but I think that nationally D3 athletes should be recognized for their outstanding athletic and academic success because at the D3 level, we are not just athletes but we are students first. I believe having the support and recognition on that national level would boost participation and support for D3 athletics as a whole.”
Pederson: “There needs to be more protection for student-athletes. For football, concussions are a very hot topic. It is especially prevalent in college when our brains are still developing and could affect us for the rest of our life.”
Romano: “I would like to see a better focus on mental health for students and student-athletes. There are counseling services, but they tend to have wait times. As for student-athletes, they are sometimes told to put the team before themselves, causing them to ignore how they are feeling to help their team.”
EC: Do you have a community on campus? If so, what created that community?
Decker: “I have multiple communities. I see the whole campus as my community. I work behind the scenes for Chartwells so I see them as a community. I have my athletic community with my team and I also feel like I have a different community with the athletic administration. Shawna and Glen are amazing people and my coach is amazing. I am also beginning to join the Asian Club. I love the members and culture they are providing.”
Engstrom: “I do have a community on campus both inside and outside of my sport. When together my teammates and I are each other’s community. We have a lot of fun and enjoy being together at practice, matches, and on the long bus rides in between.
In addition to my sports community, I am involved in a few different organizations on campus including a social sorority, OSL, and NSSLHA while holding 3 campus jobs.
I not only have my teammates and coaches as part of my community and support system but I have my friends, roommates, sorority sisters, fellow OSLs, and my bosses support as part of my community.
My closest friends and roommates are my number one supporters and support system, especially as an athlete but I know that I have the support from my entire community that I have created here on campus for myself.”
Pederson: “I have multiple communities, it is mostly teams. Football is a community and track is a community.”
Romano: “My choir is for sure a community. I also have a community within the track team with the throwers, but there are only four of us so I do not know if it is a community or a little posse.”