During a match, the current play is the only thing on a player’s mind.
That can change when the team is on a bus, traveling to or from an away game.
For the second time in a week, the Ball State men’s volleyball team will be loading onto a bus and traveling to road matches, missing class in the process.
For some players, keeping their grades up when they can’t be in class isn’t always easy.
“It’s been rough, this year especially because I’m in anatomy,” outside attacker Matt Sutherland said. “I’ve been pretty behind in that class and I’m trying to catch up, but it’s tough.”
Ball State faces Quincy and Lindenwood this weekend as they continue their conference schedule. But the team often leaves for road matches on Thursdays, forcing students to possibly miss multiple classes.
When the team returns Sunday, it can feel like they’ve spent over half their week on the road, a difficult situation for any student-athlete.
Sutherland goes to the learning center to keep up with his school work and utilizes the tutors offered by Ball State.
Although he and his teammates have ample time to study and do homework on bus rides, it isn’t necessarily a practical choice. Sutherland said he gets carsick when trying to read or do work while riding the bus.
He meets with a lot of his teachers after class so they know he’s doing his best to keep up with his coursework.
Jennifer DeSilva, a professor in the Ball State history department, has worked with student-athletes before.
She said last semester was the best she’s ever had with student-athletes, saying they were mostly “A” students who always had their work in on time. However, she’s dealt with student-athletes who struggled to communicate and finish work.
“I can’t imagine students studying on the bus or on the plane,” DeSilva said. “It’s difficult to do your education when you’re at an away game, you don’t want to be thinking about Buddhism when you’re figuring out strategies for playing against Akron or Arkansas. … It’s two different worlds and sometimes they work well together and sometimes they’re exceedingly separate.”
Ball State will be trying to figure out strategies not for Akron and Arkansas, but for Quincy’s sophomore outside attacker, Ian Lawson. The young athlete ranks fifth in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association in kills with 109.
The Cardinals will try to counter with the MIVA’s best blocking wall. Middle attackers Kevin Owens and Matt Leske lead a defense that’s putting up 3.80 blocks per set.
When their hands aren’t blocking volleyballs, they’re also working to keep their grades up.
The hard work doesn’t surprise head coach Joel Walton. He said players typically have better grades during the winter and spring, which is men’s volleyball season.
He attributes it to the players’ knowing they don’t have time to procrastinate with the erratic schedule of practice and games his team plays. Instead of putting off work, they force themselves to study as opposed to the fall semester, when he said grades tend to drop.
Outside attacker Marcin Niemczewski scheduled his classes so that he wouldn’t miss much when away. Regardless, it isn’t always easy for the player who’s leading the MIVA in kills per set.
“It gets pretty difficult when you’ve got to take homework on the road and try to figure it out on the bus with all the distractions,” Niemczewski said. “There’s no doubt it gets hard.”
There won’t be any brains thinking about math or history when Ball State is on the court against Quincy and Lindenwood. During Ball State’s road trip against those team’s last season, the Cardinals won both matches, sweeping both opponents, adding up to a perfect 6-0 weekend.
Not a very tough equation there.?