Academics and social life have taken center stage for the members of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, according to several players who balance their daily demands.
The No. 3 Huskies will travel to Memphis today to play against the Tigers, but also must make time to study for exams and complete assignments given in their normal classes at Storrs, said Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Anna Labonte.
“All teams have academic advisors to ensure they do their work while on trips and the teams have mandatory study halls while missing class on the road,” Labonte said.
Katie Lou Samuelson, star guard and eighth-semester human development and family studies major, said the designated study halls are monitored by an academic advisor, who tracks the students’ progress while on the road.
“We have to all sit in a conference room and just do our own thing for two hours straight, and we will usually have one of the academic advisors with us if people need help,” Samuelson said. “It gives us actual time to sit down and make sure we get our work done.”
Forward Kyla Irwin, a sixth-semester individualized major in youth development and disabilities, said balancing academics with basketball requires her to be proactive.
“You have to plan ahead and get your syllabi,” Irwin said. “I definitely talk to my professors and make sure they know I am missing, or have the academic advisors reach out to them.”
Irwin said while on the road during exam periods, the academic advisor is responsible for giving exams to the students and ensuring they take it in a normal fashion.
“If we have to take an exam then our academic advisor will proctor it for us,” Irwin said.
Star freshman Christyn Williams is a second-semester sociology major and said she had to make major adjustments transitioning to college life to deal with court time and school time.
“You miss a lot of class so you have to make friends in your class to get your notes,” Williams said. “It gets challenging at times but once you get the hang of it you are good.”
Williams said she believes she has had a better time learning to balance her time than some of the other players have in the past.
“You learn a little bit in high school but it is not near as much in college, so you kind of know the ropes,” Williams said. “I guess I acclimated faster than the normal freshman would.”
The girls said outside of basketball, making friends and maintaining a social life is difficult but not impossible.
“Liv [Olivia Nelson-Ododa] and I have a lot of friends outside of our teammates, like we are very social,” Williams said. “We have that southern hospitality. But you do have to sacrifice a lot.”
Crystal Dangerfield, the starting point guard and a sixth-semester communications major, said the girls frequently discuss the importance of maintaining their social lives off the court.
“We talk about it a lot because most of the time we are in here and want to work on our game a little bit more,” Dangerfield said. “But we do try to get out as much as possible and want the other kids to see our faces outside of the game.”
Each player lives on campus like most of the UConn population and strives to fit in despite the demands and fame of their team, Irwin said.
“I am in my classes and I am trying to do the work the other students are doing,” Irwin said. “I do not feel like I cannot speak to them because I am on the basketball team or I cannot have some sort of communication with them or feel awkward with them.”
Irwin said she enjoys being able to be a typical college student as much as she can when she is off the court and on campus.
“At the end of the day, we are both students too,” Irwin said. “It is not difficult for me to ask questions.”
Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. They can be reached via email at email@example.com.