A student of the game
By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Medaille Athletics
It’s not easy at times trying to juggle all that comes with being a student-athlete. The work load of a college student is hard enough, then add it practice and games and life can bet stressful.
Athletes won’t admit as much, but there are times they would just like to give up. The stress of trying to juggle course work and athletics can get to daunting. There is a time when every student-athlete gets to his or her breaking point.
But, then again, this is why they do it. This is why they signed up to play college athletics. They know how tough it is going to be. They know there will be times that they will be on only a couple hours of sleep because they had a match and a test in the same day.
It’s part of being a student-athlete. It’s part of growing up. Being able to juggle more than one thing at a time will only help them when it comes to having a job while juggling children or whatever else they may come in encounter with.
“Being a student athlete is really difficult, I’m not going to lie about that. But it's definitely doable,” stated Medialle tennis player Madison Knapp. “Tennis is my stress reliever. When I step out onto the court all of my worries from school just go away and I focus on my match. But as soon as I’m off the court it’s back to business and I have to focus on schoolwork. I'm always a student first, but I made it work throughout my years here.”
Knapp is one of the bright spots on a very good Medialle tennis team that reached the finals off the AMCC title game earlier this fall. The junior from Ravenna, Ohio has been steady influence on the program since her freshman year.
She also knows how hard it is to juggle being a student and a college tennis player. Coming to Medialle for their Vet program, Knapp is constantly juggling the life of a student with that of being an athlete.
This season has been extra daunting as Knapp is in her core subjects for her major. That means there have been times where giving up might have been an option. But, after the initial stress of classes and matches wore off, Knapp knew she could do this. And do it at a very high level.
“This season there have definitely been some times that I have wanted to give up and just not do it anymore because of how much stress I have been under,” stated Knapp. “But, I always just take a step back and relax and realize I can do it. My team and my coaches have always been there for me when I need it and have been really understanding when it comes to school work, so that always helps too.”
Besides being a very good student, Knapp is very accomplished tennis player. While most freshman struggle coming into a season, Knapp succeeded, running off an impressive winning streak.
That kind of streak helped Knapp with the confidence she needed to compete on the court. Being able to win matches early on her career just carried over to her junior year where she has been a big reason for the success of the Mavericks (9-2).
“To be honest I never really thought about how much I had been winning. To be cliché I didn't want to jinx myself by talking about it. I just kept playing my game and doing what I do best. It definitely was a confidence booster and got me really excited to just keep playing and improving every season,” stated Knapp. “This year the team and I have worked so hard on what we've needed to improve on and perfecting what skills we have. We've all been really focused and ready to play every time we step onto the courts and its created an amazing outcome.”
The outcome has been a Medialle team that has exceeded expectations. A year after going to the AMCC playoffs, no one was sure what was in store for the Mavericks this year.
Last season Medialle made the final playoff spot, earning the fourth seed, This year, the Mavericks earned the second seed and a first round bye in the playoffs. It showed the type of work the girls, and coaching staff, put in during the offseason.
“I was so excited for our team to make it to the playoffs last year. Tournaments are my favorite type of competition. It’s fun and gives you so much adrenaline. And for us to of broken the school record for tennis last year and this year was just amazing,” stated Knapp. “Last year when we got fourth we all were so excited and we were all ready to work even harder this year to become even better and we did just that. I couldn't be more proud of all of us.”
Competition on and off the court is one way to define Knapp. But, that isn’t just who she is. She is a person who is trying to find that right balance of school, practice and games with being a normal college student.
Finding the right balance on and off the court is important for any student-athlete. They still want to have the same amount of fun as any other college student.
“Finding a balance is so important to me and I feel like it’s really crucial in being a successful student athlete. Juggling everything at once can be a bit overwhelming and I can quickly find myself not having enough time in the day for everything,” stated Knaop. “So I normally give myself time to relax, time for tennis and then time for school each day with an equal balance of all three. I just try really hard to stay organized to keep myself on track so I don’t fall behind.”
Falling behind is something that Knapp hasn’t done since she first stepped foot on the campus of Medialle. The junior didn’t really know what to expect when she left Ohio for Western New York.
She had no idea what to expect at the school or from the tennis team as she was feeling her way around that freshman year. What she did find, however, was that she made the right choice for so many different reasons.
After three years in WNY, Knapp couldn’t see herself going to school, or playing tennis, anywhere else.
“Coming to Medaille when I was a freshman was a little intimidating, I was far from home and had no idea what to expect. I originally wasn't going to play tennis when I first came here, but my coaches made me feel welcome and all of the girls on the team quickly became good friends of mine,” stated Knapp. “After playing at practice and the first few matches I really wasn't that nervous, and the fact that I was a freshman wasn't even on my mind anymore. I was just in my element doing what I know.”
And doing what she knows is competing and being the best student-athlete she can be.