Writing theses as varsity athletes


Illustration by Hannah Paul

Ryder Brookes, Staff Reporter

Senior year at Whitman is both a celebratory and stressful time for students, especially as they go through crafting theses and preparing for major exams.

As a senior capstone project, the thesis is a time-consuming undertaking, especially for varsity athletes who don’t have a lot of free time in the first place. 

Senior soccer players Jessie Mano and Bryanna Schreiber, both psychology majors at Whitman, have experienced the struggle of balancing varsity athletics with a thesis. The two are collaborating on a thesis that investigates the subject of mental toughness, a topic that is directly related to their personal experiences as athletes.

“We are examining the topic of mental toughness, which is of strong interest to both of us being athletes,” Mano said. “I have experience with research in the past, however I am really enjoying my senior thesis since we can conduct it at Whitman and be given the opportunities to present our findings at conferences.” 

Even though Mano enjoyed crafting her thesis, it didn’t come without hurdles. 

“Fall semester last year was definitely a challenge trying to manage thesis writing with soccer practices and travel on top of the other courses I was taking,” Mano said. “Fortunately, since my thesis partner and I are both members of the women’s soccer team, it made working with each other easy since we would have the same schedules basically.”

Schreiber felt similarly about dealing with stress due to balancing her thesis and athletics, yet said the relationship between academics and sports is beneficial to her.

“I think being a member of a varsity athletic team greatly improves academics because it allows us to learn time management skills and understand when we need to focus to get our work done,” Schreiber said. “I think both my soccer and thesis have taught me the value in teamwork and cooperation skills.”

Senior swimmer Alex Izbiky, an economics and psychology double major, acknowledged feeling a similar mutually beneficial relationship between his athletics and academics throughout his time at Whitman. However, he believes the two are separate in important ways, helping him work on different parts of himself.

“[Athletics and academics] probably improve each other by working on different parts of myself,” Izbiky said. “Obviously it’s a bit of a balancing act which can be tough sometimes, but I would call it healthy for sure.” 

Although all three seniors have the shared experience of being varsity athletes at Whitman, each individual has coped with balancing conflicting commitments differently. Mano is thankful for what this experience has taught her and is hopeful she can apply what she has learned to her career after Whitman.

“Multitasking is just a part of life and I’m fortunate to have experienced the life of a true student-athlete at Whitman,” Mano said. “I think it has prepared me well for the future — allowed me to develop different skill sets, meet new people, and pursue two passions of mine (research and soccer).”