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Behind the jersey: how football players find balance

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Ava Gifford
Coach Brady Walz gathers the football team together between plays during the Johnston Dragons game on Oct. 27. For Ankeny’s football players, it is important to balance an intense practice schedule with academics throughout the week.

At Ankeny High School, football is an important way for many students to connect, support each other, and show their school spirit. At an Ankeny football game, the crowd screams in support, dressed in uniform together to celebrate another vigorous night on the football field. But for many players on the football team, football is not the entirety of their lives.

Throughout football season, finding balance with the other parts of their lives including school, other activities, family and friends, and sometimes even a job can be a big challenge. Over their time playing football, many student-athletes have discovered strategies to stay on top of all of their commitments while still participating in football.

“I utilize my opens,”  junior and defensive-end Andrew Haase said. “If I have to do some homework, I will try to do it as soon as I get home from practice. I will eat, then do it so that it is taken care of,  because if I procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate, then it all just piles up, and I do not want to be staying up super late.”

For many players, finding ways to manage their time is the first step towards balancing multiple aspects of their lives during the season.

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Senior safety, Dylan Dougherty, is involved with several advanced classes including Spanish 5 and AP Language and Composition. For him, schoolwork takes up a significant amount of time. On top of both school and football, Dougherty has a job mowing lawns.

“It is hard,”  Dougherty said. “I have to find time to cram in the lawns after football practice, and then go home to do homework after that.”

In Dougherty’s experience, some weeks are more stressful than others. For him, the payoff is playing on Friday nights when all of the time-consuming practice gets put to use.

“I like going to school, but schoolwork is a little much sometimes,” Haase said.

Haase explained that a typical day of schoolwork for him consists of about an hour of homework after football practice, which is not finished until around 6:30 p.m.. This practice includes both team workouts as well as individual activities. This is when the team breaks up into their positional groups. Even during weeks that are not as stressful and demanding for the players, many of them are still thinking of the game.

“You get to school at 6, and all throughout the day I am thinking about football,” Haase said. “On game days, we usually leave the school early. Today (Oct. 27) we are leaving the school at 2:30, and we will get home at around 11 or 12.”

On some game days, the athletes will spend almost 18 hours away from home, whether that be at school, or on the field. Despite all of the time that football season requires, many players can relate to Haase’s perspective on the time of year.

“I like football season,” Haase said. “The feel of it. School spirit is really really high and it is just super fun.”

Football is not the only interest that many players wish to pursue.

“Most people would be surprised to know that I am a computer guy. I am really interested in computers,” junior wide receiver and cornerback Sam Sandvig said.

For Sandvig, football is a big focus in life. However, his school commitments are extremely important to him as well. Sandvig returned to the video production team for the second time this year and is proud to be one of the returning students on the team. In addition to video production, Sandvig is taking anatomy this year.

“It is just discipline,” Sandvig said. “It is opening your laptop even when you do not feel like it to watch film or do homework.”

Sandvig explained that watching film is another at-home responsibility for members of the football team. They are expected to complete this on top of their homework load.

“You have to balance your time for sure,” Sandvig said. “If you focus too much on football you will fall behind in school, and if you focus too much on school, you will fall behind in football.”

Although members of the team are football players, they are also students, employees, and a variety of other roles that keep them occupied. Working to manage all of their activities, along with football, can be stressful and often overwhelming. But allegedly, for many of Ankeny’s football players, all the hard work is worth it.

“The camaraderie and brotherhood that comes along with it is everything,” Haase said.

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About the Contributor
Ava Gifford, Staff Reporter
Ava Gifford is a Junior at Ankeny High School. She is involved in Key Club and writing sports stories for the Talon. Ava is involved as a leader in her youth group, enjoys photography, writes music, and plays the piano and guitar. One fun fact about Ava is that her favorite season is fall because she loves when the leaves start to change and when it’s time for apple cider.
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