Juggling the Ball (and School)

For student-athletes, the quest for success fuels the drive to balance sports and school.


Lori Heim

The North Allegheny Girls’ Soccer team has become staff writer Halle Marsalis’s second home during the season.

Halle Marsalis, Staff Writer

Sports are a huge part of the North Allegheny atmosphere. They are the cause of most social events and gatherings, making NA, from the athletic perspective, feel like a small college. The district’s athletic excellence contributes to the expectation that athletes always show up to work, thrive through the determination to continue yearly success, and, ultimately, win.

As a four-year varsity soccer athlete, I really do not have time for anything besides school, soccer, and the occasional weekend babysitting gig. During the North Allegheny soccer season, most of my time is spent with my team. It feels as though I am with them more than my own family.

Newman Stadium feels more like home than my own living room. Usually, my family will eat dinner together, but during soccer season, I tend to just grab something as I am walking out the door to the stadium. 

Although I attribute the formation of my best self to soccer, all I ever want to do when I get home is sleep. During soccer season, I can always use a good nap, but because of the amount of school work in addition to practice and game times, I can never really get in the long, overdue sleep time that I desire.

Let me set the scene for you.

During the North Allegheny soccer season, most of my time is spent with my team. It feels as though I am with them more than I am with my own family.”

My schedule consists of soccer six days a week, with only one day off. My practices are usually right after school from 3-5 pm. Most varsity games take place at 7:30 pm, but if it is an away game, I usually have to be at NASH by 4:15 pm to catch the bus to the game. This makes it hard to study or get any homework done before the game.

On our off day, we usually have a team-bonding activity, like going to the Pitt women’s soccer game or having dinner with some teammates. Of course, I love spending time with my team, but this makes “off-days” never really feel like off-days. 

By the time I get home from school, I usually only have time to grab a quick snack and to get dressed. I find myself either doing homework on the bus or after my game, and when I know I have a lot of work, I will usually try to complete it in advance. 

For me, nothing is worse than the sinking feeling of staying up late after my 10:30 pm game. At that moment, I dread the amount of work I still have to complete. On game days before a big exam, I am usually a mess. I will try to study here and there, which makes me prioritize the free time I have. 

In addition, the morning after a big game is brutal. All I want to do is sleep in. However, if I miss too much school I will not be able to compete or attend practice. Athletes have to be at school for at least five periods in order to attend their sporting functions. 

In some ways, however, I find that I have more of a routine and schedule during soccer season. I use my time wisely and tend to not waste any moments of leisure. It is exhausting and sometimes painful, but the excitement I get from playing makes me want to achieve my best in school and on the field.

Playing sports at North Allegheny causes much fatigue, pain, and late-night study sessions, but I would not trade it for the world. As I put on my uniform, I feel like a whole new person. 

NA students are pressured by the constant shadow of our classmates. Everyone wants to go to the best college or be the best athlete. Therefore, being an athlete at NA comes with being able to manage time wisely during lots of late nights. 

Despite the responsibilities, such as keeping up on schoolwork, winning games, attending practices, and managing school,  in the end it is so worth it.