While the idea of continuing sports at the collegiate level is a dream for many high school athletes, the emotional, physical and mental drain of early workouts, long practices and missing classes can cause some student-athletes to change their minds once they get to college. For four former student-athletes at Oklahoma Christian University, the strain proved to be too great, and each decided to walk away from the sport they played for years.
Junior Tripp Fuller spent his freshman and sophomore seasons with the Eagles basketball team before deciding to quit over the Christmas break of this school year.
“I first realized I did not want to continue playing basketball during finals week last semester,” Fuller said. “Up until that point, both my academics and my play on the court were going well. I was in the rotation on the team and I had A’s in all of my classes. However, during finals week, both of those changed. I began to feel as though every moment I spent on the court, I should have spent studying and vice versa. I decided I needed to make a mature decision that would ultimately be best for my future.”
Fuller was on a basketball scholarship for the Eagles.
“Coach Hays offered me my scholarship the March of my senior year of high school,” Fuller said. “I chose OC because I knew no matter how basketball turned out, I was making a good decision for myself by surrounding myself with good, Christian people.”
Instead of quitting basketball entirely, Fuller decided to join the Oklahoma Christian junior varsity team and rushed Delta Gamma Sigma so he could participate in basketball intramurals.
“I still wanted basketball to be a part of my life,” Fuller said. “I have been playing since I was five-years-old, so I view it as a necessary part of my life. Throughout playing for OC for two-and-a-half years, I have made some very good friends on the team and I miss getting to see them at practice every day, but I realized that I was wearing myself too thin and both my grades and athletics were suffering as a result.”
Sophomore Jourdan Bruce decided to leave the Lady Eagles softball team after the 2016 season because she wanted to be more involved on campus.
“I came here on a campus visit, fell in love with the campus and Scott Young introduced me to Coach Heath because he had wanted me to play softball here ever since I was little,” Bruce said. “Coach Heath asked me to do a tryout, so I came back a few months later, tried out for the team and they asked me to join.”
Bruce said it was during the 2016 Spring Sing weekend when she realized she would not be returning to softball for her sophomore season.
“Seeing the community of the clubs and not being able to participate killed me more than the temporary happiness I was getting out of playing softball,” Bruce said. “So, I decided that it was worth sacrificing softball so I could gain community in other aspects of my life.”
Although Bruce said she misses her teammates and the opportunity to work hard for something each day, she said she does not regret her decision to leave the softball team.
“I can play intramurals now,” Bruce said. “I can be involved in a club and not have to worry about being held back by a sport. When I played softball, I was so worn out from 6 a.m. workouts and all the practicing. Now that I do not put all of my energy into a sport, I have noticed the way I talk to people is different and I can actually invest in those people because I am not so worn out.”
Similarly, junior Blaire Hall walked on to the Lady Eagles basketball team her freshman year at Oklahoma Christian.
“Sophomore year, I rushed a club and did not get a lot of playing time in basketball,” Hall said. “I was more like the cheerleader. Sometimes people are more focused on their sport, but I was just focused on relationships — relationships with my teammates and those off the team, so I felt the better decision was to let my time go, branch out and go build more of those relationships.”
Hall, an interior design major, said the conflict between classes and games became too great of a cost for her to continue playing basketball.
“Our games would be on Thursday night and I would have class and I thought, ‘Okay, I cannot be missing class to not get playing time,’” Hall said. “I love sports, but it was not ever my main goal in life to be a basketball player forever, because obviously for girls, sports usually end after college. For me, it was always more about making friends and having a good time.”
However, Hall said if she had been on scholarship she most likely would have continued playing for the Lady Eagles.
“With anyone, if you have at least a little scholarship, it makes you stay more,” Hall said. “But since I did not, I did not have any tie to it really. If I would have had some money, I would have stuck around and worked really hard, because that would not have been something I would have walked away from.”
Junior Veronica Cassel joined the Lady Eagles softball team during the second semester of her freshman year at Oklahoma Christian.
“Coach Heath had been asking me all through high school to come play for him, but my freshman year he called me, told me several girls had quit and said he just really needed one person to be there, not all the time, but as much as I wanted to be,” Cassel said. “I really liked everyone on the team, so I decided to do it full time.”
Cassel said she played softball through her sophomore year, when she realized she would have to choose between her sport and her major.
“At the end of my freshman year, I was not sure if I wanted to keep playing because it was hard to keep up with engineering and homework while missing classes for games,” Cassel said. “I was really on the fence until second semester sophomore year when I was in the more advanced engineering classes. That year, instead of missing just general education and entry-level classes, I was having to miss really important information in class.”
After stepping away from sports, Cassel served as social service club Theta Theta Theta’s 2016-17 rush director and has been able to participate in intramurals and Spring Sing — things she said would not have been possible while playing softball.
“I just like being able to be more involved without being stuck in the bubble of softball,” Cassel said. “While it has been hard giving up a sport I had played for so long, it has been nice having so much free time. I miss my team, but I have not even once regretted it.”