For student athletes, dedication is the only option: Volleyball co-captain Cassie Wahlin give us an inside look to the constraints and requirements of college athletics.

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By Kyle Bruderer, Staff Writer, @brudkyle

First appearing in print on September 8, 2014.

There are few experiences that one can go through in life quite like that of being a collegiate athlete. Utah Valley University’s senior co-captain of the women’s volleyball team, Cassie Wahlin, shed some light on what her experience has been like as a student athlete for the last 3 years.

After much success as a volleyball player in high school, Wahlin graduated with in 2011 from Keller High School in Texas, and she then brought her athletic talents to Orem, where she had been granted a full-ride scholarship to continue playing the sport that she loves. As a freshman, she had to adjust and deal with a bit of a learning curve on and off of the court.

“The game is much faster and more competitive in college, and as a freshman it’s hard to adjust because all of the other girls are way older,” Wahlin said.

Adjusting to things such as new teammates and a much higher level of competition aren’t the only changes that a student athlete has to embrace in order to have a successful career, athletically and academically. For most students, going to college is the first time living on their own.

“Being away from your family you have to take care of yourself, you have to go to bed on time, you have to eat right, and that’s difficult as a college student because my mom isn’t here to take care of me anymore,” Wahlin said.

A typical school day for a volleyball player at UVU consists of 6 a.m. workouts, followed by classes and then about three to four hours of practice, before doing a couple hours of homework and finally spending some time with friends or watching something on Netflix if she hasn’t passed out by then.

In many cases, teammates end up living together as roommates, but there are others who do not. For the first three years of Wahlin’s college life, she lived with teammates. This year is different, though –her previous roommates have graduated.

“I have to be a lot more responsible now because before if you didn’t wake up for workouts you’d have a teammate to wake you up, but now I have to do it all on my own,” Wahlin said.

For many student athletes, becoming a professional athlete isn’t really an option. But the experience and work ethic developed during their college stay will greatly benefit their careers regardless of the field they pursue. For Wahlin, it’s elementary education, and she sees her student-athlete experience as vital to her future career.

“Being a student athlete, you have to be really responsible and manage your time really well because as a teacher you obviously have to manage your time well,” she said.

You’d think that living the life of a student athlete would destroy any shred of a social life that you once had because of the schedule that you have to live by. However, Wahlin wouldn’t have it any other way. In her experience, having a social life is made possible by managing her time well and by meeting other athletes and fans. Not to mention all of the traveling that they get to do for road games and tournaments.

“I honestly don’t know how I would do college without also being an athlete,” she said. “I’m not a huge school person – like I don’t love to go to school – but being an athlete you get to meet lots of people and be a part of a big family.”

Student athletes definitely don’t have it easy. Waking up at 5 a.m., hours of practice, eating healthy, dealing with minor to severe injuries and studying for finals like everyone else can be daunting. But the gratification of seeing your hard work translate into success on and off the court makes it all worth it.