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Finding balance as a student athlete

Juggling 20 hours of athletic training per week with meets, schoolwork and a social life, junior sports leadership and management (SLAM) major Jessica Rockwell manages to conquer her routine with plenty of room to breathe.

"Time management," she said. "That's the key."

A transfer student from Grand Valley State University in Michigan, Jessica has faced some obstacles adjusting to Miami. She had to redo an entire semester's worth of foundation credits -- including a few unpleasant math-based classes -- alongside her rigorous training schedule as a track and field thrower for Miami.

"The athletic competition is vigorous, for sure," Jessica said. "It takes a special person for each sport, and I'm constantly trying to learn and grow."

On average, Jessica practices four days a week, typically for five hours each day.

"Most days for a thrower revolve around a lot of weightlifting and strength training, but we do a lot of the technical stuff too, out on the field," Jessica said. "Meets are usually on the weekends, and we have only had about two home meets outdoors so far."

Within Miami Athletics, there is a designated center that helps students with many classes, like economics and calculus. There are also academic advisors, a majority of whom have specialized education and training backgrounds within the athletics field.

"Scheduling classes can be obnoxious sometimes, having to find their placement around my practice block," Jessica said. "You either end up with really early classes in the morning or really late ones at night -- whenever works for you specifically."

Since Jessica travels to competitions virtually every weekend, keeping her grades up is a perpetual struggle. The student-athlete has found peace in a regimen that involves starting work early and wrapping everything up on Sunday.

"It's just trial and error, back to back," Jessica said. "I didn't have a really good GPA last semester, but it's because I'm not a test-taker. I definitely knew the materials and genuinely took something out of it, plus I really like what I'm doing, so that's what's important to me."

There is also always a potential risk for injury, a dreaded issue within the athletic industry. Jessica has had recurring back issues -- stemming from a bulging disc -- but is currently recovering. Fortunately, Miami offers on-demand care for all athletes.

"For every sports department, we also have athletic trainers and sports medical doctors on-site, though mostly for minor injuries," Jessica said. "When an injury is much more serious, then the department would make the decision whether or not you would need intensive care, X-ray and call in more professionals. I know there is also medical and physical therapy available."

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Jessica said that there wasn't a specific way to maintain a social life outside of practice and school.

"I wish there was a secret to doing it right," she said. "You just got to figure out your routine and what works for you. I mean, I'm still figuring it out. A lot of my friends are on the team, and then there are my roommates and some classmates too. With us [athletes] being on travel most weeks, there are always plenty of opportunities for bonding -- meets, dinner, hotel nights together, all that stuff."

Jessica plans to stick with throwing as much as she can, and hopes to make it professionally. She's also interested in either coaching or professional work in track organization as potential career paths.

Jessica said that while balancing life as a student-athlete can be challenging, she is confident that she chose the right path for her.

"It's stressful," she said. "But there are moments when you just learn to take a step back and realize you're here for a reason, that it's all worth it in the end."