Life can be challenging for students at Stetson University as they juggle classes, studying and other activities. Now, imagine the extra responsibilities for collegiate athletes.
A sophomore this year, I also became a Hatter cheerleader and needed time to adjust to my new schedule. I was curious to learn how other student athletes adapt to this fun, yet chaotic, life.
Sophomore Dwight Lawrence plays defensive back for the Stetson Football team and is majoring in Marketing. While many college students are still sleeping, he and his teammates were up before dawn for strenuous practice sessions during the football season.
“We usually have to get up around 5:30 for a 6 a.m. practice, go through our day with team meetings and lifts, as well as class and homework. I don’t usually go to bed until 12 a.m. – 11 p.m. on a good night,” said Lawrence, who started playing football at age 7 and hopes to play in the NFL one day.
“Being a student-athlete is very busy. It’s not really stressful but most definitely is tiring. Overall, it’s really fun. I enjoy being active,” he said.
Lawrence grew up in Eatonville, outside Orlando, and was selected as an Orange County Public Schools Super Scholar. A member of the National Honor Society, he graduated from high school with a 4.1 GPA and chose Stetson over the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“In college, the game speed is a lot faster. There is a lot more things I have to remember and know, and a lot more studying. Overall, the demand of school and football combined is extremely high and time-consuming,” he said.
His advice to new student-athletes: “Manage your time well and be on time to everything. Even if you’re super-tired, don’t be late to practice or class. It is good to show initiative to your professors and your coaches, so they know you want this. Also, buddy up with a vet who can help and mentor you in this transition.”
Pegjohngy Moses, associate athletics director for Student Services, Academics and Compliance, said the added demands on student-athletes can benefit them in the business world.
“People see student-athletes, particularly in the business world post-college, as folks who understand how to organize themselves, with great organizational skills,” Moses said.
She works closely with student-athletes and said they also form long-lasting friendships with teammates. They develop strong networking skills, as well as resilience. Their passion for their sport is obvious because many of them, such as Hatter Football players, do not receive athletic scholarships for joining the team.
Lawrence said the best part of being a student-athlete is having the support of the university, fellow teammates and classmates.
“A lot of people didn’t know me before, but being in football has allowed me to get to know a lot of people. If I weren’t an athlete, I don’t think I would have as many friends, only because it pushed me out of comfort zone,” he said.
As a new member of the Cheerleading Team, one of my favorite things about being an athlete at Stetson University is the Athletic Academic Advisors, a team of people dedicated to helping student-athletes plan out their schedule, help them with their classes, and even provide feedback on how they are doing. The advisors are extremely helpful and are located in the Edmunds Center for easy access.
As my first semester with Cheer came to an end, I realized I had an easier time with the transition than I expected because I had a mentor to help. Lauren Potts, captain of the Cheer team, was returning for her senior year. Having her support and guidance definitely helped me.
Added Lawrence, “The sense of community that Stetson provides is what made me commit here. Being close to home and having coaches that I fully connect with has made my transition to a D1 school all that much easier. Without my coaches, I don’t think I could make it as a student-athlete.”
–Student writer Ajah Conage is a member of the 2019-20 Hatter Cheerleading Team and a double major in finance and sales. She competed in weightlifting in her Orlando high school, was captain of her cheer squad and graduated with a 4.2 weighted GPA.