Cardaci, Regan, and O’Connor: Alumni Athletes at the Next Level

hockey player and two basketball players

Three notable Williston Alumnus are pursuing their athletic dreams at the collegiate level.

Wesleyan University first-year Shane Regan ’21, sophomore Caroline O’Connor ’20, and sophomore Maddy Cardaci ’20 of Boston University are competing in their winter sport while maintaining grades and the social lives demanded of them from their prestigious colleges.

Wesleyan’s rigorous academics challenges student athletes to perform at an extremely high level in and out of the classroom. Shane Regan, a shooting guard for the Wesleyan University Men’s Basketball team, discussed the struggles of maintaining an equilibrium of sports, social life, and schoolwork.

“Right now, I do have a hip injury which has been a huge setback for me,” Regan, who missed the last two games, said. “To be sidelined and not able to compete definitely took a toll on me mentally.”

Regan’s injury, he explained, has allowed for more studying time since he is not as physically drained from the intensity of daily practices. Regan is battling through his minor setback with an optimistic approach, ready to get back on the court.

Caroline O’Connor, also competing as a Cardinal for the Wesleyan Women’s Basketball team, says the pandemic has affected her basketball career thus far.

“It took away my freshman season; even though we were able to have practices they had to be non contact which was really frustrating,” she said. “I was excited to come to school and finally get back at it, but we never got to scrimmage with each other or play defense until the end of the second semester.”

O’Connor is definitely not alone in this seemingly never-ending battle with COVID.

“This year has been a lot better and we’ve started back into a regular season with games,” she said. “I would say basketball takes up a lot more time than I expected because with last year it wasn’t much of a commitment.”

O’Connor utilizes the resources on campus for academic success, and she reported that reaching out to professors and teaching assistants are the most useful ways to steer through a heavy course load.

Maddy Cardaci, a member of the Division 1 Boston University Women’s Ice Hockey team, finds it important to prioritize mental health and find a sustainable balance between being a student and an athlete at such a demanding level.

“I would consider my mental health my top priority when partaking in such an intense and competitive environment,” she said. “The biggest lesson I have learned at my time at BU is if you’re mentally not in the game you physically won’t be either, and that can correlate to on the ice, in the lecture halls, or in the gym.”

Cardaci said that maintaining a healthy social life has been a key to countering the stresses of both athletics and academics.

“Balance is important, and burnout is real especially in college sports, so it’s good to let loose and have fun once in awhile,” Cardaci said.

A study completed by Kirby Heffrin, a student at Connecticut College in New London, Conn., dissects the New England Small College Athletic Conference’s (NESCAC) student athlete’s well-being. She investigated influential factors that contribute to mental illnesses in athletes within the conference. She used the College Student Athlete Life Stress Scale (CSALSS) to determine the source of stresses in college athletes competing at this level.

“Student-athletes are exposed to additional environmental factors compared to their non-athlete peers, including time demands, performance pressures on and off the field, coaching staff, and increasing academic stress,” Heffrin’s study explained. “The student-athletes in the NESCAC are vulnerable to unique stressors due to the rigor of the academics and athletics at the belonging institutions and are a population that needs further investigation.”

Being successful in every field as a collegiate student athlete is taxing, but Regan, O’Connor, and Cardaci all attribute their organizational skills and ability to manage time wisely to their time at Williston.

This article originally ran in The Willistonian.