September 23, 2019
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Husson softball players balancing athletics, academics, work schedules

BANGOR, Maine — When Mallory Conary isn’t running down fly balls in center field for the Husson University softball team, she’s chasing down change for a cashier who is low on quarters at Shaw’s Supermarket in Bangor, where she is a customer service representative/cashier.

When Husson second baseman and soccer goalkeeper Jess Poulin isn’t scurrying to her left or right to corral a ball, she’s bustling around Texas Roadhouse as a waitress or manager.

When Haley Spiers isn’t making a throw from left field, she’s making sandwiches at Cressey’s Marketplace on the Husson campus in Bangor.

And when Sami Schultz isn’t building up her batting average as the designated player or third baseman for the Eagles, she’s putting together teddy bears at Build-A-Bear Workshop in Bangor.

NCAA Division III student-athletes aren’t allowed to receive athletic scholarship money. Only Division I and Division II athletes are eligible to do so.

Many Division III athletes find themselves balancing their academics and athletics, as well as jobs, to help pay for tuition and room and board.

Conary, Poulin, Spiers and Schultz all work 10 to 40 hours a week, depending on their academic and athletic responsibilities.

In addition to making sandwiches at Cressey’s, Spiers is also a certified nurse assistant at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor.

Schultz works for The Children’s Place in the Bangor Mall to go with her job at Build-A-Bear.

It is challenging but they are all managing.

“I work about 20 hours a week at Shaw’s. It’s hard. School comes first. I always make sure that’s my top priority. Then softball and then work,” said Conary, a sophomore nursing major from Warren.

Conary worked at the Shaw’s in Rockland for three years before transferring to the Bangor Shaw’s for the school year.

“It gives me a little money for rent. I have an apartment. This is definitely a bigger store and I had to adjust to the changes and get used to it,” said Conary. “As a [customer service representative], there’s a lot more responsibility compared to being a cashier but it’s manageable.”

Schultz said she definitely needs the money.

“I’m a poor college student,” said Schultz, a sophomore forensic science major from Hermon. “It’s hard. Some weeks I’ll work 10 hours and others I’ll work 20.”

Poulin, a junior criminal justice major from Albion, and Spiers, a junior nursing major from Rochester, N.H., said they love to keep busy.

Poulin works 40 to 50 hours a week between sports seasons but cuts back her hours when playing a sport. She started working at the Texas Roadhouse at the end of her senior year at Lawrence High School in Fairfield.

“When I’m not busy, I don’t know what to do with myself. It stresses me out,” said Poulin, who has appeared in 60 games over three seasons as a goalie. “I’ll go to practice or to work early. I’m also in two clubs at school. My grades are a lot better when I’m busy, too. I love to have structure … I’m a little OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). If I could go in the military and have my life run like that, it would be awesome.”

Spiers, who works 20 to 22 hours a week between her two jobs, also likes to keep busy.

“If I didn’t work or anything, I would be such a procrastinator. I wouldn’t do my schoolwork. Now I know I have to do get my schoolwork done because I have to be somewhere (work or practice),” Spiers said.

Being forced to budget their time has its benefits.

Poulin said her nights can be long at Texas Roadhouse and she may not get home until 1 a.m. She won’t feel like doing her schoolwork after work so she’ll force herself to do it earlier in the day.

“It pushes me to get my (schoolwork) done when it has to be done so I don’t have to worry about it later. That would put extra stress on me,” she said.

Schultz said when juggling work, school and softball, “it helps you line up everything. You have to have this done by a certain time, this done by a certain time, then you have to go to work. It helps you stay organized, I guess.”

The players said they have been fortunate in that they enjoy their jobs and have bosses who are understanding and flexible.

“I really do love my job. I couldn’t have picked a better place to work. I hang out with (my co-workers) outside of work,” said Poulin.

Schultz said “I love working with kids. They’re awesome.”

Conary said if she feels she can’t make time for her studies and “I feel overwhelmed, I’ll let my managers know and they’re really flexible and have been really good about working around my schedule.”

She also said she sets the same standards for all aspects of her life.

“I work just as hard at my job as anything else. I want to get A’s in school, be the best I can be on the field and work hard at my job,” said Conary.

Husson coach Kristie Hawkins has been impressed with the quartet and other players on her team who are balancing school, work and softball.

“I appreciate this level a little bit more,” said Hawkins, who played softball at the University of Maine. “Since they have to work, they are playing for the love of the sport, not because they have scholarships and feel obligated to play.”

The Husson coach said she will work around her players’ schedules. If they can’t attend a practice at the scheduled time, they can come and work out before or after practice.

“And some days they just can’t be here but I’m not going to punish them. They have to work to pay for their rent or tuition. I appreciate that they have to work and balance everything. And they’re all very good kids,” said Hawkins.

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