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Keys to success: Day in the life of an NU women’s basketball player

By Krystina Iordanou
Medill Reports

Entering her final season on the Northwestern University Women’s Basketball team, senior Abi Scheid is a seasoned veteran when it comes to balancing academics, practice and nutrition among the many responsibilities that come with being a division one athlete at a top university.

Coming off her best statistical season yet in 2018-2019, Abi earned a position on the Big Ten All-Academic Team. This past week I wase able to spend a typical day with Abi. She utilizes the following strategies to stay on top of her game.

Academics

Northwestern has long been considered an academically challenging school. For student-athletes who compete in the Big Ten conference all year, the importance of prioritizing schoolwork is critical to  success. Abi’s typical day consists of early morning strength and conditioning, academic classes and afternoon practice with meals, homework and social time mixed in throughout the day.

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Abi Scheid spends multiple hours during the week catching up on work and studying in the Walters Athletic Center. (Krystina Iordanou/Medill)

“Eventually you develop the skills that help you with time management, why not to procrastinate, and I think in turn it helps you with the rest of your life. It’s hard but you get used to it,” she said.

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Student-athletes on average take a minimum of three classes during each academic quarter. At Northwestern University, they must balance the rigor of sports and academics that come with being a student at the ninth best college in the U.S., according to U.S. & World Report News. (Krystina Iordanou/Medill)
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Abi considers time management as the key to success for any athlete that must balance a time restricting schedule, such as hers. (Krystina Iordanou/Medill)

PRACTICE

What many fans, family, and friends observe are the games and competitive landscape the athlete undertakes. However, what goes unseen are the countless hours athletes spend preparing for those moments. On days that Abi does not have a game, she can spend more than six hours in the gym. The 2019 Northwestern women’s basketball season was their most successful since 2015, as the team won 21 games and reached the NIT Championship.

This postseason success, which high-level athletes hope to achieve, pushed the season through April requiring the student-athletes to balance their schoolwork, training, travel, and games for over six months. Perfecting their craft through hours of training has led Abi and her teammates to the recent athletic achievements.

“I don’t think people understand how much time goes into being a student athlete, especially the 6 a.m. morning every day. We also have to tackle a commitment to school as well as a 20-hour commitment to basketball,” said Abi, “Every college athlete understands that if you want to get better you need to go by yourself, get extra shots up with a partner, with a coach.”

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By 6:30 a.m. the team was already getting in conditioning work in advance of their upcoming 2019-20 season opener Nov. 10 against Loyola Maryland. (Krystina Iordanou/Medill)
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The team emphasizes bringing in referees to not only create a game like environment but to also help players become more knowledgeable on the changing rules of the game. (Krystina Iordanou/Medill)
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Training started at 3:15 p.m. but Abi was already on the court by 2:45 p.m. perfecting her shot before practice began. (Krystina Iordanou)

Nutrition

After being diagnosed with Celiac disease in high school – an immune disease where people can’t eat gluten –  Abi has altered the way she approaches nutrition as a high-level athlete. She met with the team nutritionist and found ways to cater to her needs for optimal performance with a gluten-free diet. Training multiple hours throughout the day has players burning hundreds of calories, which makes nutrition a vital piece to their performance on the court and in the classroom.

“Coming into college I didn’t know much about getting in carbohydrates, especially before a game,” Abi said. “Coming to college definitely highlighted how important it is to eat well and fuel your body, especially with hydration.”

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Each morning, breakfast offers an array of options, such as fruit, for student-athletes at the Nona Jo’s Dining Center inside the Walters Athletic Center. (Krystina Iordanou/Medill)
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Though celiac disease prevents Abi from eating traditional carbohydrate choices, she fuels up each morning with a freshly made omelet and hash browns for a healthy source of fats and carbs to start her day. (Krystina Iordanou/Medill)
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In each of the student athletes locker rooms, refrigerators stock healthy snacks athletes can grab on the go in order to stay hydrated and fueled throughout their busy days. (Krystina Iordanou/Medill)

In addition to all of her work on and off the court, Abi believes her college experience has been especially rewarding because of her teammates. She considers them her closest friends.

“Our team is super close, and I think it makes waking up at 6 a.m. a little bit better. Traveling away is fun because we get to spend extra time together, “ she said. “It’s definitely a blessing to be a part of such a good team.”

Photo at top: Northwestern Basketball plans to build off their National Invitations Tournament Championship appearance last season, and make a run in the NCAA Tournament. (Krystina Iordanou/ Medill Reports)