The Balancing Act of Academics and Athletics
by Chelsea Hess-Moore, Photography by Kelly Ann Shuler
Kayla Mealy, Field Hockey
Bishop McDevitt High School to Alvernia University
When it comes to the stereotypical athlete, Kayla Mealy believes that many people have a misconception about the physical build of a successful athlete.
“A lot of people mistakenly assume that all athletes are football players with big muscles,” she says.
Mealy diminishes this notion. As a senior field-hockey player at Bishop McDevitt High School, she proves that, although she’s physically petite, she has the drive of a giant. Since the sixth grade, she’s played field hockey, and because of her love of pushing herself to be the best, she has earned the opportunity to play field hockey at the next level for a Division 3 college in the fall.
For Mealy, the determination to be the best that she can be on the field transfers to the classroom.
“A lot of athletes, myself included, take academics seriously,” says Mealy. “I don’t work hard in the classroom just to stay eligible for my sport. Being an athlete has actually pushed me to work harder in the classroom. My desire to compete carries over to the classroom, and I push myself to earn the highest grades I can.”
Aside from field hockey, Mealy also runs track at Bishop McDevitt. When it comes to academics, her goal of excelling in the classroom shows in her list of academic-driven clubs. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Math National Honor Society, peer counseling and the school’s Christian Service Club. She also volunteers her time with the youth track camp at Bishop McDevitt, and for the past two years, she has been a “buddy” at the Special Olympics.
“Academics and athletics are equally important because both require self-discipline and time-management,” she says. “I found it necessary to utilize time in study hall and after school to complete homework. Unfortunately, this means there is less time for socialization, but it’s worth it to excel in both realms.”
Finding a college that fit her needs both academically and athletically was important. Her high-school head coach helped lead her in the direction of Alvernia University, where she will major in chemistry. She hopes to attend medical school afterward to study to be a pediatric surgeon or pediatric oncologist.
“My high-school coach recommended Alvernia because she thought it would be a good fit for me both athletically and academically,” explains Mealy. “I visited the campus last summer and had a chance to talk with the coach. She was very welcoming, and I could see myself playing for her. She saw that I was willing to work hard for her and offered me a spot on the team.”
Hard work carries through in many aspects of Mealy’s life, which she believes comes from her involvement in sports. She credits learning many good habits through sports that she applies to the classroom and real-life situations, including teamwork, self control and learning to accept criticism to make herself better and stronger. But the most valuable trait she takes from sports is her ability to be her biggest fan.
“Sports give me the chance to root for myself and push myself as hard as I can go,” says Mealy. “This creates self confidence, which helps me tackle challenging situations in life.”
This article appears in the May 2016 issue of Harrisburg Magazine