Students juggling sports, journalism face tough choice
October 25, 2007
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Olivia Dickinson found her attention somewhat divided.
The editor within the Osan American senior listened attentively and took copious notes during the news writing session of Monday’s first day of the annual Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific Far East journalism festival at Nile C. Kinnick High School.
The volleyball player within found that her mind was 800 miles west, at her school, where the Cougars conducted practice without her.
“It’s a tough choice,” Dickinson said of having to make up her mind between loyalty to her team and her duties as editor of Cougar Quarterly, the school’s student newspaper.
Choices are a way of life for DODDS-Pacific students, who can select from 19 Far East activities ranging from sports to Model United Nations to Junior ROTC to drama, speech, music and others.
“Life is about choices,” said David Clausen, Seoul American’s journalism advisor who has run this conference nine times.
“Some people will stay back home and not come to this. There’s never a down week when you don’t have to choose. More times than none, those students who do multiple activities are usually the ones who handle academics well.”
Dickinson plans to attend Texas Tech in her native state next fall, with the hope of entering sports TV broadcasting; thus, attending the journalism conference was important.
But so, too, was the need to keep working with volleyball teammates to ensure the squad’s chemistry and communication would remain strong, especially with a key match at Taegu American upcoming this weekend – a major preparatory match for next month’s Far East Class A Tournament.
“Practicing and team-bonding are important. The chemistry is not what it could be. Missing a week of practice isn’t helping. (But) it’s hard for me to determine what’s more important,” Dickinson said during a break in the news-writing session at Kinnick’s library.
She said she wasn’t going to come to conference until she’d spoke with coach Brian Swenty who encouraged her to try something new, Dickinson said.
Swenty called it a “career decision” that he fully supports. “She came to me and asked permission; she knew what her commitments were. This is something she wants to do as a career. To deny her that would have been unacceptable on my part,” Swenty said.
In addition to volleyball, Dickinson serves as senior representative to the student council and is a National Honor Society member. Doing all of that, she said, would have been unthinkable at her old school of more than 1,500 students in El Paso; Osan has just 60 seniors.
“At small schools, students are stretched thin because you have fewer students but the same things to choose from” at stateside schools, she said. “It’s a good and bad thing. ”
Dickinson wasn’t the only one facing tough choices.
“Journalism I like as much as volleyball. It’s hard to pick one over the other,” Taegu American junior middle blocker Ashley Smith said.
Having the option to choose is an attractive one for Smith. “It makes for a well-rounded education,” she said.
“In the military, there’s so much diversity. It’s better that people have choices.”
While volleyball, tennis and football players couldn’t practice and stay sharp, cross country runners didn’t face that obstacle. One, Guam High senior Johanna Jorgensen, even came prepared with a running plan.
Still, “it’s better, more fun, to work out with teammates. Here, it’s boring,” she said.
Kubasaki sophomore Mateo Sanchez went so far as to make plans to attend the conference and leave in time to return to Okinawa for Thursday’s Okinawa Activities Conference tennis singles championship. It will entail a 5 a.m. wakeup.
“It will be a tiring day,” Sanchez said. “But I’ll be fine.”