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ISSUE 119 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/16/2005

Sports ease transition for first-year athletes

By John Douglass
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 16, 2005

Every Ole knows what it feels like to be a first-year student. Moving away from home to a place flooded with peers, knowing a handful at most, and sharing a room smaller than your own at home can be a crazy feeling. Adjusting to college life is an experience that all first-year students go through together, but some students have an extra element thrown into that mix: Athletics.

Fall sports often require early move-in times for athletes, sometimes up to three weeks before classes begin. Preseason becomes a demanding yet fun time, completely filled with activities such as two or three-a-day practices, organized social events, and time spent getting to know ones teammates.

Logically, the structure of preseason forces new first-year students to bond with each other and undergo serious training, on an athletic level different from any they experienced in high school.

Consider the recent experiences of first-year student-athletes Paul Schwingler (football) and Cullen O’Neill (cross country). Schwingler, an offensive lineman from Century High School in Rochester, Minn., sees numerous differences between St. Olaf football and his high school team.

“The game is faster for sure. I was the biggest guy on my team in high school, but I am definitely not here,” Schwingler said. “The practices are different in that we don't do as many drills and [we] focus more on plays.”

“It’s also a big adjustment not playing both ways [offense and defense],” Schwingler said. “I love playing defense, but here I’ve got to concentrate solely on offense.”

O’Neill concurs with many of Schwingler’s thoughts.

“College athletics are much more intense than my experience in high school,” said O’Neill, a native of Northfield. “Coach [Bill] Thornton is a much harder coach than [my high-school coach]. I can definitely feel the extra responsibility of being a college athlete.”

Even though the level of competition is at a higher level, both Schwingler and O’Neill spoke positively about things about their athletic experience at St. Olaf so far.

“It was nice to move in earlier and get adjusted to dorm life before classes started,” Schwingler said. “It is also nice to know almost 100 guys right away. It makes meeting people easier if you already know a lot of guys.”

On a more scholarly note, O’Neill said that being an athlete is a positive influence on his studies.

“It definitely has taken up a solid chunk of my time, but it forces me to schedule my day,” O’Neill said. “I think that I am actually more of an effective student when I'm playing a sport.”

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