Success as a Student-Athlete: What Does it Take?

Success as a Student-Athlete: What Does it Take?

By Margaret Campbell, Nils Dillon, Katie Kooiker, Rachael Wilcox, and Magan Wurdelman

What does it take to be a successful student-athlete at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire?

To learn the answer to this question, a group of students in the Advanced Business Writing class interviewed four UW-Eau Claire business students who also play collegiate sports. The business communication students found that time management skills are critical for success—on the playing field as well as in the classroom. The student-athletes’ suggestions—using a planner, setting goals, having a structured schedule, and setting deadlines—will be of interest to any college student balancing multiple and sometimes conflicting commitments.


“You have to really enjoy the sport if you play it at a Division III school because collegiate athletics is a big time commitment,” according Gretchen Bachmeier, a freshman management-entrepreneur major who is also member of the UW-Eau Claire women’s tennis team.

Bachmeier, who excelled at both tennis and track in high school, chose to play tennis over track at UW-Eau Claire in part because the tennis season is shorter, giving her more time for school, work and other activities. She attends practice every day for at least two hours. Matches typically last at least six hours, and she travels out-of-town with the team almost every weekend during the fall semester. Bachmeier’s schedule got even busier when she took a job working on campus 10-15 hours per week. She manages her time by getting homework done in advance. She also uses a planner and lots of Post-it-Notes to mark important items.

Alex Wolf, a senior Economics/Marketing major on the UW–Eau Claire football team, finds his biggest challenge as a student-athlete is balancing school with practice and free time. He tries to do this by focusing on his ultimate goal. “When making decisions throughout the week or even the day, I always ask, is this going to get me closer to my goals or take me further away from them,” Wolf explained.

Katie Kooiker, a senior marketing student and member of the UW-Eau Claire gymnastics team, agreed with Bachmeier and Wolf that time management is her biggest challenge as a student-athlete.

“Scheduling your life between work, classes, homework, practice, competitions, and everything else that is involved with being on a team is a challenge,” she said.

Like Wolf, Kooiker tries to keep her priorities straight by staying organized and planning accordingly. She relies heavily on a planner to help keep her life organized and schedules days hourly in order to prevent distractions. She reminds student-athletes to take care of themselves physically and mentally, otherwise they are likely to fall behind.

“Don’t overbook you schedule and remember to make time for yourself, even if that means having to ‘schedule’ time to relax,” Kooiker advised.

“If you are passionate about a sport, then you have to do it,” according to marking student Alicia Gillberg, who is a member of the UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team. While student athletes at Division III schools don’t get athletic scholarships and other special treatment, Gillberg feels that playing basketball at UW-Eau Claire is worth it. “You don’t get more chances to do college athletics,” she explained.

Her weekly calendar is filled with basketball practice, games, and work, leaving her little time for other outside activities.

“I actually do better academically when I am the busiest because I have to be more focused,” said Gillberg.

To manage her time, Gillberg develops a lot of lists and works ahead in her classes. While she sometimes regrets she doesn’t have time to join a student business organization, Gillberg feels basketball has helped her develop many of the same leadership, team-work and communication skills other business student gain through participation in student organizations.

“Athletics is a good thing to get involved in as it causes you to grow as a person,” she said.

Tips from the Coaches

Tips from the Coaches Jean DeLisle, head coach of the UW-Eau Claire gymnastics team, helps her athletes by giving them the day off of practice if they are behind on their studies and assists them in finding the help they may need. She advises student-athletes to “practice hard, study harder, manage your time, and always keep an open line of communication with not only team mates but coaches.”

Amanda Schultz, assistant coach of the UW-Eau Claire women’s ice hockey team, counsels students to “set high expectations and seek help before you fall behind.” Schultz, who played hockey as a student at UW-Eau Claire, hound it helpful to break her school projects into more manageable sections by setting deadlines for herself.


Margaret Campbell Nils Dillon Katie Kooiker Rachael Wilcox Magan Wurdelman

From left to right: Margaret Campbell is a senior marketing-professional sales major from Plymouth, MN; Nils Dillon is a senior finance and economics major from Iola, WI; Katie Kooiker is a senior marketing major from Grantsburg, WI; Rachael Wilcox is a senior accounting major from Altoona, WI; and Magan Wurdelman is a senior marketing major from Sauk Rapids, MN. They wrote this article for their BCOM Advanced Writing class.

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