Finding the balance for success in athletics and academics at ONU

Education major and ONU athlete Elizabeth Treadway has worked hard to find the balance between practicing, competing and student teaching.

March 28, 2023 Athletics

“My coaches weren’t worried about my being a student athlete and a student teacher,” says Elizabeth Treadway, an education major and an athlete on Olivet Nazarene University’s track and field team. “I’m a strong student and a dedicated athlete. My work ethic proved that I would be able to handle this challenge. My coaches, professors and I worked out a plan together for me to fit both student teaching and athletics into my schedule.”

Elizabeth is one of 11 student athletes who are education majors preparing for or completing their student teaching experience while competing in their sport during the 2022−2023 academic year. Now in the third year of offering this option, the School of Education and the Department of Athletics are cooperating to help students avoid the need for an additional semester to complete the student teaching degree requirement.

“We are seeing an influx of athletes who want to become teachers,” says Dr. Lance Kilpatrick, associate dean of the School of Education. “We want athletes to become teachers because they know how to work hard and work as a team. They also make great coaches in the K-12 sector, often coaching young athletes in middle school and high school. It’s exciting to see our ONU student athletes utilizing their background in and understanding of sports to influence the next generation.”

Preparation helps students meet challenges
Students, professors, coaches and practice teaching mentors are fully aware of the demands for athletes who want to complete the education degree. As they are preparing for student teaching, education majors petition the School of Education for permission to compete in athletics and teach at the same time. All parties are aware of the arrangement. Accommodations and recommendations, on a case-by-case basis, help make it possible for students to enjoy an enhanced college experience.

“We remind our education majors that they are at ONU for academics first and athletics second,” Dr. Kilpatrick says. “At the same time, we understand how difficult maintaining that priority can be because of the excitement of competition and working with their team. Everyone’s goal is for the student to get their degree and prepare for a career while competing in their chosen sport.”

Managing two major commitments takes everyone’s determination and cooperation. Dr. Kilpatrick praises the excellent partnership among professors, coaches, advisors and mentors to give students every opportunity to succeed and earn their education degree. Creating compromises is key to helping this balance work for everyone involved.

For some sports, coaches may provide alternative practice times. When a student does have to miss a scheduled practice or competition in order to fulfill academic requirements, coaches consider the circumstances and often make adjustments. The reality is that some sports are able to provide more scheduling flexibility than others.

“Our coaches are very helpful in making this arrangement work,” Dr. Kilpatrick says. “They see the value in this as well. They have a different relationship with the student athlete, and they can help a student keep their priorities correct even during the sport season.”

Maintaining this balance relies heavily on the students to communicate well and plan properly. For example, a student teacher who is a swimmer on the Tiger swim and dive team gets up very early in the morning and practices at the Perry Student Life and Recreation Center. Then the student does student teaching from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at a local school. Missing the team’s afternoon practice, with Coach Diana Caise’s permission, is sometimes necessary. Competitions are usually on Saturdays with the team traveling to various schools in the Midwest and South. One student athlete made arrangements with her mentor to be away for an entire week because it was necessary for her to compete in a national swim competition.

Student athletes in all sports must complete all the requirements of student teaching while practicing and competing — and often traveling for competition. They may have to prepare and turn in course assignments in advance so they can compete in scheduled events. Or they may have to arrange to leave their student teaching assignment early to get to a competition.

Success comes with sweat and sacrifice
Education major and ONU Tiger athlete Elizabeth Treadway has worked hard to find the balance between practicing, competing, and student teaching. Now in her senior year, she devotes daytime hours to her work at a local school, and then takes care of her track and field athletic commitments after school and on the weekends. She dedicates evenings and Sundays for self-care, spiritual growth and nurturing her friendships.

Elizabeth has managed to succeed in both arenas. She has made the conference team every season as an individual athlete while scoring points to help lead her team to victory often. She has maintained a 3.9 GPA while earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts in art education with a minor in Spanish. She will graduate in May 2023. In fall 2023, she will begin her job as an elementary school art teacher.

From the coach’s perspective, Bill Bahr — head coach for the ONU women’s soccer team — is coaching six education majors in his program for the 2022−2023 academic year. “We make sure students are fully aware of the demands from both the academic and athletic perspectives,” he says. “We’ve found that the ability for students to compete while doing their student teaching provides them with a built-in stress reliever. They are able to stay connected with their teammates instead of being absent from the team.”

Dr. Kilpatrick underscores how appreciative the student athletes are as they are able to complete their degree requirements while also enjoying the senior year of their sport. “And the School of Education appreciates the cooperation and flexibility of our coaches, too,” he says. “This is definitely a cooperative effort.”

“To succeed as a student athlete and a student teacher, you have to have determination, a great work ethic and excellent time management skills,” Elizabeth says. “I’m very excited for the next stage of my life, and I know I have the confidence I need to lead a classroom.”

To learn more about The School of Education at Olivet Nazarene University, contact the Office of Admissions at or 800-648-1463.


Published 3/28/23

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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