Knut Erickson Award winners speak out on how to balance academics with sports

Jannae Mehaffey

The Knut Erickson Academics Award is an award given to the top male and female student athletes who attend the blanket award ceremony every spring. The athletes who qualify for an academic blanket are seniors who have earned varsity letters all 4 years of playing and have a GPA of 3.9 or higher. 
Balancing academics with sports as a student athlete is not an easy task and requires a lot of focus and time management. Student athletes must find a way to balance their schoolwork with all the practices and games during the season and all the lifts and conditioning during the offseason. Not all sports have the same schedule. Some sports have practices in the morning while others have them in the afternoon, so time management looks different for each athlete. 
“The hardest part about being a student athlete and trying to balance school with sports is trying to find a schedule that works for you,” Bryson Adcock, former football player and recipient of the Knut Erickson Award, said.
Every student athlete is going to have a different schedule and figuring out the schedule that works best for them is somewhat of a learning curve. Even the best of students have struggled with this and had to learn how to manage their time as an athlete. 
This starts with prioritizing school over sports, while still prioritizing sports over other extracurricular activities. A lot of student athletes also write in a planner to help them with their time management. 
“I struggled a bit at the beginning of freshman year figuring out what times I could do homework and study. But because the football schedule was so consistent, I was able to find times during the day that I could focus on schoolwork,” Adcock said. 
Once a student athlete figures out their schedule, sometimes the hardest part is just staying motivated. 
Mia Lambert, former player on the women’s basketball team and recipient of the Knut Erickson Award, says staying motivated was the biggest challenge for her. 
Sports can be physically and emotionally demanding, so going straight from a game to studying for a big test can be very difficult. Labert said that trying your hardest both in school and in sports requires a lot of drive and motivation.
“Basketball is a long season and it was draining to keep up with all of my school work and still give 110% to basketball,” Lambert said. 
Being a student athlete has helped many Augustana athletes go on to graduate school. Adcock is in the master’s program in business analytics at the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa and Lambert is attending Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. 
Student athletes set themselves apart from all the other graduate school applicants because being a part of a sport shows leadership and a strong work ethic. Mike Zapolski, director of athletics, says that many Augustana athletes who have gone to graduate school shared with him that the main topic of their interviews wasn’t really about school, but about sports. 
“Student athletes will tell me that the interviewer didn’t really ask many questions about academics and was more interested in hearing about what they did outside of the classroom and how that better prepares them for the next step in their lives,” Zapolski said. 
Sports provide an opportunity for students to learn how to deal with both success and failure, manage their time and work with others to achieve a common goal. These learning experiences are exactly what graduate schools are looking for in students. 
Augustana’s sports teams do an incredible job balancing school with sports. Last year, all the women’s sports teams had a GPA above 3.0, the highest being the women’s cross country team at a team GPA of 3.58. The men’s team with the highest GPA was baseball with a team GPA of 3.38. 
Adcock and Lambert are prime examples that it is possible to excel in school while playing a college sport. Not only is it possible, but it is something that can teach a student many life lessons and skills that can last them a lifetime.