Sep 21 2017

A glimpse into the life of a student athlete

Published by at 9:25 am under student

(This post was authored by Ms. Susie Jeziorowski)

One of the toughest decisions a high school level student athlete must make before graduation is whether they want to continue playing their sport at a collegiate level. When I was making my decision, I sought advice from my coaches, teachers, parents and especially my sister who had previously played Division I volleyball and studied nursing at Marquette University. The advice was all unanimous. Playing collegiate volleyball is such a unique opportunity that not many people can experience, and turning down any scholarship offering would be a waste of a blessing.

Before visiting Tech, I had also been talking to the coaches at Missouri University of Science & Tech, a Division II university in Rolla, Missouri known for its impressive engineering and computer science programs. After going to see Missouri S&T, I was convinced that I was going to commit to the school because of its high prestige, however I had decided to still have my official visit to Tech just to see what it was like. Having grown up in northern Illinois, my family had never been to Tennessee nor ever heard of Tennessee Tech, so the thought of potentially attending school here completely took me out of my comfort zone.

Tennessee Tech entirely exceeded my expectations. Today, I am forever grateful that I had chosen Tech over Missouri. Although Tech’s computer science program may not be one of the top in the nation, I am undeniably proud to be a part of it and extremely thankful to have Dr. Eberle advising me during my collegiate career. Dr. Eberle has assisted me each semester in making a schedule that would work best for my team and I while also assuring me I could complete a double-concentration degree during my three and a half years here. My sister had warned me about the challenges of having to balance academia and athletics, so to have an advisor who is so understanding and invested in my studies is truly remarkable.


Although the strong computer science department and beautiful campus were large factors in my decision, I ultimately chose to play for Tech because of the coaching staff and girls that I met during my visit. They say that your college team becomes your family, and I can certainly attest to that. Now, my teammates are undoubtedly some of my best friends, and Head Coach Dave Zelenock is like a second father to me. During my career thus far, he has certainly improved my volleyball skills, however the impact Dave has made on me extends much further than what happens on the court. Dave has helped me grow as an adult, teaching me how to be a good person and how to deal with the plentiful stressors that come with being a collegiate student. It is certainly rare to see coaches in Division I athletics who care so much and take the time to understand their players like Dave does, and that is what makes Tech feel so much like home.

Being a student athlete in the computer science department certainly has its perks. As members of the team, we get a lot of cool Nike gear, we travel to dozens of new schools and places, we have things like books and food taken care of for us, and we also get to play the sport we love in an incredible facility. In fact, the Hooper Eblen Center is one of if not the best gyms in the entire Ohio Valley Conference! As great as all of this sounds, it comes at a great cost. As a student athlete, I have an entirely different perception of what college is like compared to other regular students.

Each day, my mornings start off with a 5 a.m. alarm. By 5:15, I am leaving my apartment with a granola bar and some hot coffee, struggling to wake myself up in time for practice. Around 5:30, I meet with the rest of my teammates in the locker room to put on our gear and get the nets set up in the gym. We spend the next 15-20 minutes getting ourselves warmed up and ready for practice. If we aren’t warmed up by 6 a.m., you best believe our coaches will get onto us! Dave always expects our team to have our entire attention on volleyball when we step foot in the gym. That’s what makes practice sort of therapeutic for me, even on the days our coaches are being extra hard on us. For about three hours each day, nothing else exists expect volleyball – no class, no boyfriends, no Object Oriented Programming exams, nothing. Those three hours are nice in that regard; however, a bad practice will most likely set me up for a bad rest of the day.

After practice, around 8:30 a.m., I either go to the Athletic Performance Center on campus for strength and conditioning training with our Cross Fit champion trainer, Matt Hewitt, or I go upstairs to the volleyball offices to study film with one of my assistant coaches, Kyle Gamble. From there, I try my best to grab a quick bite and head straight to class. Having chosen one of the toughest majors at Tennessee Tech, doesn’t always work in my favor. Our Computer Science program expects excellence and encompasses a lot of advanced curricula, so one of the largest challenges I face is staying on top of my studies.

Many would think playing on a college sports team would make a good excuse to slack off in class, however our situation is quite the opposite. Our athletic department expects us to excel in our classes and hold close relationships with our professors despite having to miss 20-30% of our lectures during the week. In fact, each athlete is required to attend weekly academic meetings and complete 8 hours of study hall per week to ensure we are successful in the classroom and eligible to play on the court. Thankfully, most professors in the computer science department are very understanding of how much pressure I must face with having ambitious standards yet traveling often. Many record their lectures, which allow me to watch class while I am on the bus and manage my classes a bit better. Coincidently, I am on my way to Ohio with my team as I write this blog.

TTU_Golden Eagles

Being an athlete is tough. Besides balancing out class, practices, workouts, meetings, and film, I often feel physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. It is easy to feel defeated when your body is sore, your mind is tired, and your classes are constantly testing your knowledge and effort. But this ‘grind’ is what makes it all worth it. This ‘grind’ is what is shaping me into a strong, independent, and intelligent person. This ‘grind’, though difficult and somewhat annoying, is perhaps the best thing a college student could ever put themselves through.

Another challenge I face daily is missing out on many collegiate opportunities. Believe it or not, I envy the kids that are able to attend every single class. Frequently, I can’t attend the fun computer science events our department holds, and I envy the students who can make it to every single CyberEagles meeting. Most often, I envy the students who can go out and enjoy themselves on weekdays, and the students who are able to travel home on the weekends. As a student athlete, my time is very limited, and there is rarely a time during the season when friends and family can come before school and sports.

Despite the many challenges of being a volleyball player at Tech, I would not change my situation for anything. Volleyball has pushed my physical and mental toughness, forced me to be healthy, and taught me what it means to work for what you want. Computer Science has brought me wonderful friends, taught me time management, and inspired me to pursue a successful future. Overall, Tennessee Tech University has blessed me with the opportunity to grow as an individual and has become an irreplaceable home. Although it is not the typical college experience, I am grateful for the opportunities Tech has given me, and am beyond excited for my last year and a half. Being a student athlete is a full-time job and a blessing – one that I would undoubtedly recommend.

Check out the Tennessee Tech Women’s Volleyball schedule at



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