Azusa Pacific’s student athletes live a life of balancing school and sports. Finding the right time to do homework and class assignments rides on the schedule of their sports. A large part of that schedule involves traveling to other schools for road games.
While teams like the men’s and women’s tennis squads play the majority of regular-season matches at home, other teams like baseball and softball have to take long flights and bus rides to away destination, which takes time away from the players’ schedules.
“It can be stressful. In the end, when we travel, it’s all about business, so any time we aren’t on the field, it has to be study time,” said senior baseball third baseman Danny Gonzales. “In [Utah], I was up probably until about 2 or 3 in the morning just trying to knock out a paper. If it weren’t a road trip, I probably could have went to bed much earlier.”
With road games normally being tougher environments to perform in, traveling adds some extra fatigue along with the stress of school work. Gonzales says he enjoys the adversity that comes with playing on the road.
“It’s been great. It’s tested our team’s ability to play on the road,” Gonzales said. “In the classroom, it makes things a lot more interesting with time management and later nights because we don’t have as much time, but overall, I embrace the adversity that comes with playing on the road.”
Another difficulty comes when matches conflict with important dates — in this case, graduation. Senior psychology major David Schulte, who participates in the 400 meter and long-jump events for track and field, will be missing his scheduled May graduation to attend the NCCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Rome, Ga. He will be walking in July instead.
“I’m happy to go to nationals. Although I will miss graduating with everyone, I’ll be able to graduate with some of my close friends on the team, so that’s cool,” Schulte said.
On balancing school and the team’s travel schedule, Schulte said it can be difficult if professors “make that a problem.”
“As long as professors are lenient and willing to work with you, it can be done,” he said.
Road trips are nice opportunities for these athletes to enjoy themselves. According to Gonzales and junior softball left fielder Sona Babayan, they often result in opportunities for teammates to draw together.
“The road trips are so much fun,” Babayan said. “We do a lot of team bonding and though the trips can get long and tiresome, we always come back with great jokes and memories.”
Gonzales also gave a recent example of how the team bonded on its current road trip in Hawaii. According to Gonzales, the baseball team is staying at an area “surrounded by poverty,” so on Sunday, April 13, they bought hamburgers from McDonalds, gave them to homeless people in the area and prayed with them.
“It was, by far, the best part of this trip,” Gonzales said.
Other positive aspects mentioned by Gonzales, Babayan and junior water polo utility player Taylor Whitney include seeing new places, growing as a team and representing the Azusa Pacific name.
“We get to go to different schools and represent APU and our athletics and show people who we are, and we get to travel to different places to play softball, which is awesome,” Babayan said.
Staying focused on what needs to be done is a struggle for student athletes who are always out and about. This forces the athletes to become good at managing their time. According to Whitney, this skill is acquired with time and patience.
“It was rough missing classes and having to play catch-up all the time, but being a junior, I have definitely gotten used to it and found the right way to manage everything,” Whitney said.
Babayan says she, softball head coach Carrie Webber and her teammates help each other to stay on task. Some of the players have the same classes, which makes it easier to hold each other accountable, according to Babayan.
“There isn’t really just one person, but mostly our whole team, including coaches, that make sure we are getting our work done,” Babayan said.
When on the road, the sense of comfort mentioned by the players goes away. While some teams’ matches are more difficult to attend, some sports like water polo do not get a lot of road support, according to Whitney.
“Home games are always better,” Whitney said.
According to Babayan, the parents will keep track of the softball team’s schedule and travel with the players to support.
“We have amazing parents. They travel almost anywhere to support us and watch us play,” Babayan said. “They are completely amazing and loyal and we are so thankful to look up in the stands in an unfamiliar area and see familiar faces. It makes it feel a little bit like our own field.”