Student-athletes cut winter break for competition and to keep in shape

Many out-of-state student-athletes don’t go home at all for winter break.

Mark Remme

As harsh winter conditions descend upon the Twin Cities, some University students are preparing to relocate to their hometowns after finals.

Student-athletes, however, won’t find themselves at home quite so long.

University student-athletes look at winter break as just another day at the gym. Their main objectives lie in keeping focused and winning competitions, not spending four weeks at home.

“We get to go home on Dec. 22, and practice officially opens up again Jan. 2,” said Adam Reichow, a freshman member of the men’s gymnastics team.

“We’re allowed to train at the gym at home, but it’s up to us to keep in shape so we can maintain the level we’re at,” he said.

The men’s gymnastic team, which will travel to Chicago for the Windy City Invitational on Jan. 14, is one of 12 University athletic teams competing over winter break.

To stay prepped for ongoing competition at the collegiate level, Reichow said, time off is minimal, but appreciated.

“You really enjoy that week (at home),” Reichow said. “You take two days off and then get back to the gym.”

Freshman Jamie Cheever and sophomore Laura Massey, members of the women’s track and field squad, begin competition by hosting the Minnesota Open on Jan. 7 at the Field House. They echoed the importance of keeping a training regiment.

“Over break, we’re given track workouts to do, but we can do it at our high schools back home,” Cheever said.

Cheever, a two-sport athlete who also competes on the University soccer team during the fall, said discipline is key when juggling two collegiate sports both during the season and over breaks.

“It goes back to good habits from high school,” Cheever said, “and high expectations for myself.”

Time is devoted strictly to soccer during the season, but now track regiments take over, she said.

Massey agreed with Cheever on what it takes to be successful at the collegiate level.

Each week, Massey said, the team goes through 1 1/2 hours of weight training three days a week, and 20 hours of practice.

Women’s basketball senior guard/forward Shannon Bolden said the team gets three days at home ” starting after their matchup against Iowa State on Dec. 22 at Williams Arena and ending with practice, which resumes Dec. 26.

Bolden said the players learn to adapt this time of year in order to complete academic obligations while competing at a high level.

“It was hard to juggle finals at first,” Bolden said. “You get used to it, but it was overwhelming freshman year. It’s all about time management.”

She said the time spent away from family is hard for some players, but team success helps drive their work ethic.

Postseason success, such as the team’s trip to the 2004 NCAA Final Four, Bolden said, makes their commitment worth it.

Athletic schedules, and the extensive training agendas that come along with competing at the Division I level, bring teams close together, but weigh on family ties, Reichow said.

“Mom’s always trying to get me home; she offers to drive me home at times,” he said. “But it’s easy for me because I’m from the suburbs (Eden Prairie).”

Many athletes competing on campus come from other states and countries, which makes it tough to get home often, he said.

Men’s basketball freshman guard/forward Kevin Payton, whose parents live in Austria, attests to the difficulty posed by distance, but finds comfort in his sport.

“You don’t feel happy for that short time (during the holidays) because you don’t see your family,” Payton said, “but we have the bigger picture in mind. We want to win games.”

Payton said that the last time he saw his parents was in July, and he will utilize his two days off Dec. 24 and 25 to meet them in New Jersey, along with other relatives.

Despite the time away, Payton said, he’d rather be playing basketball than have time off.

“I think I speak for the rest of the team when I say once we hit the court, it’s all business,” Payton said.

Bill Walker, assistant men’s basketball coach, said young players often need time to adjust to the collegiate athletic schedule.

“Everyone has the adjustment to balancing the school and athletic schedule as a freshman,” Walker said. “But out-of-state freshmen have a harder time adjusting, because they don’t have the ability to see their family on a daily or weekly basis.”

He said the coaching staff makes sure everyone is able to stay with a teammate or a coach during holidays if they are unable to go home.

Reichow said he cannot stress enough how valuable that closely knit team mentality is.

“Some get homesick, but that is why you have your team,” Reichow said. “It’s your second family; it would be tough without your teammates.”