Balancing the Ice and Academics

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NU Women's Ice Hockey huddle

NU Women’s Ice Hockey huddle

This guest post was written by Heather Mottau, a freshman hockey player on the Women’s Ice Hockey Team at Northeastern University. 

Have you ever gone to bed with four different alarms set on four different devices?  I have.  Days we have practice at six in the morning here at Northeastern, I have alarms set on my watch, iPad, iPhone, and my iHome.

Waking up for hockey practice is not easy.  Every part of your body tells you no.  Sometimes I swear I can hear my teddy bear whispering, “Stay here with me” as the alarm goes off at 6AM.  The only thing that gets me out of that bed of mine is will.  Hockey has taught me not only the power of will but a multitude of other life lessons including, discipline, determination, dedication, commitment, tenacity, responsibility, reliability, devotion and so many others that I plan to keep with me for the rest of my life.

I’ll never forget the day I was taught the importance of punctuality.  I was sitting in the locker room getting ready for practice when I noticed that one of my teammates was not there.  A few other teammates tried calling her but there was no answer; we all continued to get dressed as usual.  Being a freshman, my mind was racing as I laced up my skates.  What would happen to this girl for missing practice?  What would be her excuse?  Would her excuse even matter to the coaches?

About 15 minutes into practice, my she arrived, opened the gate and hopped onto the ice with a look of total panic on her face.  She was the first person of the year to be late to a practice.

The coaches did not say a word to her for being late, which I found so odd.  Practice simply continued as usual until the end when our team came together in a group huddle.  Coach told the latecomer she was going to skate for being late.  He did not ask her why she was late. It did not matter. After practice, one of my teammates informed me that she took a nap and forget to set her alarm. She made an honest mistake but she also made a commitment to our team. Now do you understand why I set 4 alarms anytime I sleep?  In the future, when my teammates and I graduate college, we will have a  strong understanding of what making a commitment really means in whatever occupation we pursue.

Heather handling the puck

Heather handling the puck

Every student athlete at the collegiate level has acquired the skill of time management.  If not, there would be no possible way they would be able to continue being a student athlete. Northeastern’s course load is intellectually challenging with a rigorous schedule along with experiential learning outside the classroom. Student athletes must learn how to manage their time well and balance their sport with their academics.

One must not forget the extra pressures added to a student athletes life.  An athlete represents their school.  They are a symbol of their school and must carry themselves respectably in all areas of their life. It is a privilege to play for your school, and players must understand that this privilege can be taken away very easily.  There are always people waiting for you to fail, and people that would kill to be in your spot at the Division One level.

Being a student athlete, in my opinion, is a job. Just like any job it consists of learning how to handle different kinds of pressure: pressure within their sport, expectations and pressure put on them by coaches, as well as academic pressures. It is a necessity to balance practice time with studying time, plan ahead and know when they will be missing classes because of games.

When that fourth alarm goes off in the morning I know the only thing that gets me out of bed is my will and love of the game.  I made a commitment to my team.  I admit some days are hard.  I’ll be sore and tired but I know I have to push through.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Northeastern Women’s ice hockey team and for the opportunity to represent my school.  What I’ve learned thus far from this experience could never fit in a single blog post.

A student athlete boils down to two simple concepts: you have to do well in school and well in your sport, but it all starts with the will to do so.

Heather Mottau is a freshman who is #26 on the Women’s Ice Hockey team here at Northeastern. She attended boarding school at the ripe age 14 in the cold state of Minnesota to pursue her hockey dreams (and as a result picked up a slight Midwestern accent after living there for four years). She loves hockey, writing, and sitting in Starbucks pondering life.  

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