Navigating the Challenge of Athletics and Academics | Leeds School of Business

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To excel as both a business student and CU athlete is a tall order, but student-athletes say it’s worth the challenge.


Camden Dempsey (Fin, Mktg’25) is a long-snapper on the CU Football team, but he also juggles being a Boettcher Scholar, Leeds Scholar and a Leeds Honors student.

The student-athlete life is not for the faint of heart. Practicing for multiple hours each day, while still attending their regular classes, student-athletes’ skills are put to the test throughout the whole year, including the summer. So, how do they do it? It is no easy task, but it is definitely one worth working for.

The student-athlete journey begins with recruitment, and no one knows the process for Leeds students better than Don Oest, teaching associate professor for Organizational Leadership and Information Analytics who recruits athletes to Leeds. Sharing insights about the life of a student-athlete, Oest explains the rigor of managing both: “It’s 100% student and 100% athlete, so it’s two completely different jobs and you have to really be able to manage your time appropriately.”

It is a difficult balance. But they do it because they love it. 

Chasing a passion

Choosing to be a student-athlete comes with both benefits and challenges, says Ashley Stokes (Fin‘24), an attacker on the CU Lacrosse team.

Ashley Stokes (Fin‘24), an attacker on the CU Lacrosse team, shares that she loves the competitiveness of her sport, “I didn’t want to stop [playing], I knew starting in high school that I wanted to play in college. It was my dream, so I wanted to work towards that.”

For many of these athletes, playing a sport in college began as a childhood dream, and their perseverance and competitiveness kept them committed to the sport. Facing challenges every day becomes an act of endurance. They continue to push forward because they know they can do it because it is something they truly care about.

Camden Dempsey (Fin, Mktg’25) is a long-snapper on the CU Football team, but he also juggles being a Boettcher Scholar, Leeds Scholar and a Leeds Honors student. When he received a preferred walk-on offer to the team, Camden knew this was the path he wanted to take. He admits that this lifestyle “really helps you figure out what your priorities are and how to get your schedule straight,” but more than that, he “[gets] to be a part of something bigger than [himself] while [he’s] working on [his] coursework as well.”

Not only are they able to chase their passion, but the experiences and connections they make along the way are unique and often, cannot be found elsewhere.

“You could have an awful workout, but at the end of the day, you have to show up for your team and after that, you have to show up for class.”

Camden Dempsey (Fin, Mktg’25)

Taylor Simpson (Fin‘25, PFP) has been captain of her volleyball team since her sophomore year and now plays as the center. She notes, “The best part of it is the relationships I make out of it. You spend so much time with the people on your team…they really become your family.” 

Many athletes are far from home, and might not have the in-person support of their families that they need to stay motivated, so they create their own support system with their teammates and coaches. Spending hours each day together and traveling hundreds of miles across the country, an unbreakable bond is created. This bond is what helps keep them going. Their genuine excitement for each other’s success helps them all grow as a whole, making the team stronger and more successful as a whole.

It takes a team

Being a student-athlete would be much more difficult, if not impossible, without the amount of support received: from their teammates, coaches, families, professors and Leeds staff. Everyone wants to see them succeed.

Campus resources, including the Herbst Academic Center, offer support to student-athletes like Tristan da Silva (Fin‘24), a guard on the CU Basketball team.

Tristan da Silva (Fin‘24), a guard on the CU Basketball team who came all the way from Munich, Germany, points out that he receives support from the Herbst Academic Center, which provides mentors, tutors and academic advisors. The program allows him to feel comfortable, in that “whenever I need help or I am stuck in a course, there are always people I can reach out to and ask for help.”

While it is no easy task to make time for both academics and athletics, completing mandatory advisor check-ins throughout freshman year sets the tone for success, and allows students to create a connection with their support system early on.

While Herbst plays a major part in this support, the coaches and teammates do as well, offering words of encouragement throughout the season. Many athletes say they have sayings on their team that help them keep going: “Give 100% of what you have that day. You don’t always need to be at 100%, but if you’re at 80% give that full 80%,” says Simpson.

“It’s 100% student and 100% athlete, so it’s two completely different jobs, and you have to really be able to manage your time appropriately.”

Don Oest, Teaching Associate Professor for Organizational Leadership and Information Analytics who recruits athletes to Leeds

“You could have an awful workout, but at the end of the day you have to show up for your team, and more than that you have to show up to classes after that,” says Dempsey.

Another big source of support is the fans. Da Silva notes, “I’m out there in the public representing the university and I have gotten a lot of love from the community and student section. Walking around campus, people telling you ‘great game last night,’ it’s a pride thing where you can be happy with the work you put in and see it pay off.”

These support systems don’t just help athletes to succeed, but they also teach and shape them into who they are today.

Choosing to be a student-athlete comes with both benefits and challenges, but most will agree, “It’s awesome. I love to do it every day. I wouldn’t change it for the world,” says Stokes.

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