Central Kitsap fastpitch: Stars on the diamond, scholars in the classroom

Central Kitsap High School fastpitch players, left to right, Jayme Beckon, Kim Chase and Sarah Buskirk have found success on the field as well as off, as have many of their teammates. - Christopher Carter/staff photo
Central Kitsap High School fastpitch players, left to right, Jayme Beckon, Kim Chase and Sarah Buskirk have found success on the field as well as off, as have many of their teammates.
— image credit: Christopher Carter/staff photo

Kim Chase is planning ahead. The Central Kitsap High School senior will pursue a career in athletic training or medicine. That’s why over the past two years she logged 500 hours as a trainer for the football and wrestling teams in addition to being a student-athlete.

Whitney Samora is enjoying the challenge. The 18-year-old Central Kitsap fastpitch player has excelled at Olympic College, accruing college credit. Next year she will attend the University of Washington to study business.

Jayme Beckon is striving to become a leader. The senior is proud of the 3.7 grade-point average she’s earned while working a part-time job, attending fastpitch games or practices daily and managing a course load that over her high school career has included six Advanced Placement classes.

“If people say, ‘Hey, they can play a sport and get a really good GPA,’ then they are going to look up to us,” Beckon said. “We want to be role models.”

Central Kitsap fastpitch teammates Chase, Samora and Beckon approach their roles as student-athletes with different mindsets, and their motivations vary, but they all have successfully juggled the responsibilities of being a student-athlete.

So how do they do it?

“It’s all about time management,” Beckon said.

Beckon will attend Central Washington University along with teammate Sarah Buskirk, another player whose GPA has never dipped below 3.0. Beckon begins most days at 7 a.m., attends her first period class about an hour later and stays on campus until school ends. After school she goes to fastpitch practice or work at Emerald City Smoothie, depending on the day, and then heads home to eat, study and sleep. Beckon does that five days a week and plans to double-major in Spanish and advertising in college.

Her teammate Chase has a similar schedule, replacing the smoothie job as a volunteer student-trainer for the football team each fall and wrestling team each winter.

The 500 hours she accrued doing that for two years didn’t prevent her from taking 10 Advanced Placement classes and participating on two fastpitch teams, all the while maintaining a 3.87 GPA.

Chase said there are days when she struggles with the work load — “It’s a love-hate sort of thing” — but she believes the rigor will prepare her for college. This fall she will attend Linfield College in Oregon, where she will study athletic training and perhaps play fastpitch.

“It’s worth it to go through the struggles because I know in college it won’t be easy to be a student-athlete,” Chase said.

Alyssa Hellrung, who has a doctorate in women studies from the University of Washington and completed her undergraduate work at the University of Notre Dame, wrote a dissertation in 2009 about the motivations and intentions of female athletes. Her 200-page analysis, “Athletic Girls: Motivations, Intentions and Advanced Participation in Sports,” included interviews with about 20 student-athletes ranging in age from 14 to 17.

Nearly every athlete Hellrung interviewed said they had learned off-the-field life skills by playing sports. One of the most popular responses among the athletes, Hellrung said, was that sports helped them learn how to efficiently manage time.

“They were extremely motivated and driven to succeed at something,” Hellrung said. “All of the kids who were in school were aware it would affect their future.”

Some athletes, however, told Hellrung they wished they had more time to participate in typical teenager activities — similar to Chase, the senior who said she had a “love-hate” relationship with her workload.

Still, Hellrung said, those same athletes acknowledged the sacrifices would pay off.

“They felt like they didn’t have time to hang out with friends or party or go to the mall, do things that kids do,” Hellrung said. “But then they would say, ‘I might not be able to have everyting right now, but it’s worth it.’”

Somora is learning how to handle a college schedule and manage time and believes those lessons will pay off soon.

The second baseman is enrolled in the Running Start program at Olympic College and is already earning college credit. She has class every other weekday, a change she welcomes from the daily course structure at Central Kitsap, and Samora believes the schedule has made her more disciplined.

Attendance isn’t taken in some of the classes, and nobody reminds her to complete homework.

“I always like a challenge,” Samora said. “Plus, it’s preparing me for UW next year.”

Samora, Chase and Beckon agreed it’s an expectation, almost a given, that they do well in class as members of the Central Kitsap fastpitch team, which has a strong academic tradition. The team had the second-highest cumulative GPA in the state in 2008, coach Bruce Welling said, and it’s collective GPA last season was 3.77. District spokesman David Beil said accurate figures for the team’s GPA for this year were not immediately available.

Welling, who teaches physical education and has been an instructor at the school for about 30 years, tells his players they must do well in the classroom if they want to play. He encourages hard work and focus and strives to foster a healthy learning environment, even if it’s on the bus going to and from a road game or in the dugout during practice.

He wants his players to think critically on the field as well as off.

“My belief is you cannot have a — I’m going to use the word politely — ‘dumb’ ballplayer, because too many thought processes have to go through their mind,” he said. “If they can play ball, I know they can handle things academically.”

Welling urges his players to help their teammates who need help in the classroom.

He remembered an instance last season when former players Carolyn Cross and Erin Curtis, who were the school’s co-valedictorians, took turns in the dugout helping a freshman teammate who was struggling with chemistry homework.

They alternated every 15 or 20 minutes, Welling said, giving the freshman guidance in an effort that epitomized teamwork.

“If you let the team down by becoming academically ineligible, then that’s not fair to everybody else,” Welling said.

A season ends early

Central Kitsap was eliminated from the Class 4A West Central District III tournament in a 10-5 loss Tuesday to Jackson High School. The Lady Cougars had advanced to the 4A state tournament three seasons in a row.

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