Anatomy of a Student-Athlete

The term student-athlete covers both the academic and athletic side but what people don’t always see is how those two aspects relate to each other. Also, how those two aspects affect the mental side of juggling the equivalent of two jobs. Often what happens on the field and within a team can take away from being a student. And if there are issues the mental time it takes to deal with, I can overlap into both being an athlete and student.

The three layers that make-up being a student athlete are the physical, logistical, and mental.

Courtesy of Linfield College Sports Communications

Jenna Hessel

Sophomore psychology major at Linfield College. Starting attack player for the Wildcat’s women’s lacrosse team. A two-time varsity letter and named to the second-team All-Northwest Conference. Started in 16 games and had a career high of 40 goals and six assists.

GPA 4.0

Originally from Albany, Oregon. She went to West Albany High School and competed in volleyball and lacrosse. 

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Physical

Elements of the game

Women’s lacrosse is an extremely skillful sports that requires speed, power, endurance, agility, and strategy. The biomechanics involve simultaneously coordinating the upper extremities, trunk, and lower extremities. It is a sport the lends itself to multisport athletes. Often the endurance, strategy and coordination required are compared to soccer, basketball, and hockey.

Characteristics:

Lacrosse Shot Breakdown

Collective action sequence of a crease roll shot on the goal

Injuries

02

Logistical

A typical day-to-day make up of Hessel's week while in season
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Mental

The hidden player behind the game

I feel it in my tongue. It gets itchy and I get nervous and then there are the butterflies in my stomach and my brain won’t stop thinking so that makes me stressed out.

Managing Self-Care

Hessel said that a lot of people say the ratio between the mental game and physical one is 90:10 but she says it’s more 50:50 for herself. There were some games that were more mental than they were physical she remarks.

Practicing the Mental Game

Practice time is just as much training for the mental side as it is for the physical. Professionals and coaches all over continually say “practice how you want to play” that doesn’t just mean upping the intensity level but also a focus that requires mental clarity. And a lot of that mental intensity that happens at practice requires a lot of time off the field to get there.

“I am more of an introvert so when I spend 2 hours every day at practice, I need a lot of alone time outside of practice to decompress and just spend time with myself cause – the time with other people tends to – drain me,” Hessel said about how she works the mental side.

After practice Hessel said she can be mentally exhausted even if she’s not physically hurt or exhausted. It’s a balancing act because she has to bring the mental focus while on the field but also has to find ways to decompress because staying that hyper focus off the field is draining. Hessel said that it can sometimes take away from her school and self-care.

Managing Self-Care

Hessel said that the little things outside of practice that don’t take too much focus like painting her nails, cooking, and drawing are the ways she helps her mental side.

Also, short quick meditation sessions help reinvigorate the mind and to quiet running thoughts. Hessel that this has helped when she’s needed to be one hundred percent focused in class and on the field because she has already had some moments to decompress ahead of time.

“I get stressed when I have a lot going on,” Hessel said. “You know how you have some weeks everything falls on one week and you have like ten assignments and practice and we have two games and you know that’s just life, so I’ve managed by organizing all of my time.”

Having everything pile on at once is a big stressor for her.

“Some games I stress way more than others it used to get a lot of athletic anxiety even at practices,” Hessel said. “I feel it in my tongue. It gets itchy and I get nervous and then there are the butterflies in my stomach and my brain won’t stop thinking so that makes me stressed out.

Hessel explained that there’s this thing in psychology called rumination which refers to the tendency to overthink or think in a circle where you can never just let something go. Hessel said that she still remembers a moment from when she was seven-years-old and everyone looked at. She can still feel the anxiety and nervousness from that event to this day.

“I can feel the memory coming up and I have to divert my attention cause then I’ll get pulling into this circle of thinking it over and over again,” Hessel said she uses working out and practice as a mechanism to divert her attention.

This season I was always thinking about lacrosse. Every time I ran into someone on the team, we ended up talking about lacrosse and I’ve never had that. 

Dealing with Stressors

“I get stressed when I have a lot going on,” Hessel said. “You know how you have some weeks everything falls on one week and you have like ten assignments and practice and we have two games and you know that’s just life, so I’ve managed by organizing all of my time.”

Having everything pile on at once is a big stressor for her.

“Some games I stress way more than others it used to get a lot of athletic anxiety even at practices,” Hessel said. “I feel it in my tongue. It gets itchy and I get nervous and then there are the butterflies in my stomach and my brain won’t stop thinking so that makes me stressed out.

Hessel explained that there’s this thing in psychology called rumination which refers to the tendency to overthink or think in a circle where you can never just let something go. Hessel said that she still remembers a moment from when she was seven-years-old and everyone looked at. She can still feel the anxiety and nervousness from that event to this day.

“I can feel the memory coming up and I have to divert my attention cause then I’ll get pulling into this circle of thinking it over and over again,” Hessel said she uses working out and practice as a mechanism to divert her attention.

Lacrosse as a Stressor

Lacrosse is a social game with around seventeen players on a team and twelve on the field competing. There are a lot more relationships that need to be balanced than a volleyball team.

“At any given moment you are interacting at least 11 other people on your team even if they are on the other side there’s times that you’re interacting, or you are all in one place and if you are if you are not in a good spot with your relationship off the field it can possibly make on the field harder,” Hessel said.

Hessel explains that a team is a network. When the relationship is going great and there’s a lot of team chemistry everyone is working well, and everything is seamless on the field. There’s a lot more sharing of the ball and ideas.

Even if one person if Hessel says that you can see a difference on the field. Some people are better at compartmentalizing she said so sometimes you might not see but you still feel it. There’s a lack of trust or a doubt in your mind that can take away from the flow of the game.

“When you get more than two people fighting, when there are three or four or half your team or your whole team fighting then it’s just that much work that goes into fixing it. So, that much more of your time goes into trying to relate to people and try to understand people even when you aren’t together you will be thinking about it,” Hessel said.

When there was drama on the team last year Hessel said it was taxing on and off the field. Her team is her family away from home and when there was strife on the team it was like having problems at home when your parents are always fighting, Hessel said. Everyone is involved with everyone’s life even if you don’t want to be because you are part of a team.