Balancing DI athletics and academics as a University of Denver Pioneer

My goal with this slideshow is to illustrate the challenges University of Denver athletes face in juggling their time between academics and Division I athletics. The project is a case study on the Pioneer women’s soccer team, but it is meant to represent Denver athletes as a whole.

Many DU athletes begin their days before the rest of the students even wake up, heading to practice or traveling to away games. These athletes typically spend as much time in class each day as the rest of the student body, but, on top of that, they are practicing and playing for hours everyday.

To demonstrate this balance between athletics and academics, I did my best to photograph the team practicing, playing, traveling, studying and sleeping—incorporating the major aspects of their busy lives.

As DU athletes, these women have immense pressure on them to represent the rest of the university as our Pioneers, but I think that, a lot of the time, people forget that they aren’t just athletes; they are student athletes.

Personally, I feel that the ending photograph of a woman asleep on top of her homework is one of the most powerful images, truly depicting the struggle of balancing so many different tasks.

Creation process
In regards to the photographic process itself, I certainly struggled with capturing the high-paced atmosphere of athletics. Many of my action shots turned out blurry, especially when I was photographing a game that took place at night. This issue alone eliminated a number of my photographs as possibilities to include.

My lack of a better lens also prevented me from attaining many of the close-up shots I would have liked, but I did my best to crop images. I definitely learned the importance of having a good camera, and I now know that to be a truly effective backpack journalist I will need to invest in one.

If I could do it all over again, I would cross my fingers for a game to take place during the day instead of at night, and I would check out a better camera.

Connection to issue story
This slideshow adds a new level of depth to my issue story, illustrating with real student athletes the challenge of balancing athletics and academics. Several of the quotations cross over between the two pieces, but I felt the players’ and coach’s words were too powerful to be excluded from either.

The photo project inspired me to look at the issue from a different angle, as I had to figure out how to display this struggle via images, rather than with my own words. Instead of simply saying the athletes have to study while traveling, I needed to actually photograph it.

It certainly took dedication to attain the images I sought; the eighth photograph of the team loading the bus really was photographed at 5:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and it required a rather chilly bike ride across campus to capture.

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