Student Athlete Spotlight: Taylor Bellman and Dayana Jacome

By Aleah Cole

Taylor Bellman starts her morning commute to York College taking the train to get to her 9 a.m. health class. She has just spent all night finishing her english essay before the 11:59 p.m. deadline.

When she finishes her classes at 2 p.m., Taylor either goes straight to the library to do some of her homework or to the gym to prepare for her 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. basketball practice. After practice is done she goes home, prepares for the next day and hits rewind.

Just a day in the life of a student athlete.

Bellman, a freshman at York, strives to juggle the challenges of her academic and athletic responsibilities. She is constantly working on assignments after practice and usually right before the deadline which sometimes affects her arrival on campus for her morning class.

“Some professors are okay with me being late or missing classes but as long as you email them in advance they’ll understand.” she said.

Bellman’s Spanish professor understands what her student goes through and knows Taylor would email her two days in advance if she can’t make it to class. Otherwise, the women’s head coach, Anastasia Bitis, would give letters to the students to deliver to class during basketball season.

Bellman is doing well in her classes but probably not as good if she wasn’t a student-athlete.

She conditions with her teammates during basketball season. The team practices six days a week, Monday to Saturday at 8 a.m to 12 noon and their coach chooses which day to rest.

“During basketball season, the beginning is always rough,” Bellman said. “But sometimes we get one or two days off either Wednesday or Thursday.”

A simple task like getting to practice can sometimes pose a challenge for Taylor, but missing out has never been an option for her.  

“It’s something I am passionate about, so I make the time for it,” she said.

The difficulties of combining training, practice, games and academic work can sometimes add loads of pressure. She noted that dealing with these things can be stressful but it’s part of the process of being a student-athlete.

Like her practices, she tries her best to never skip class. Taylor makes an effort to get most of her work done in advance but sometimes completing assignments the night before is inevitable.   

“Even though I struggle with academic work from time to time, I take it easy,” she said. “Some of my professors know that I play sports so they are fine with me missing classes but I make sure I get the work done.”

Just a couple locker spots over, Dayana Jacome, a junior guard for the basketball team, goes through the same struggles as a student-athlete.

The Brooklyn native started playing basketball at York in 2017 and also has plans to join the soccer team in the future. She’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Movement Science and shares the same conflicts with Bellman.

“It is a lot of work,” Jacome said. “You have to maintain practices, homework and exams but I still manage to get them done.”

Dayana mentions that the journey of being a student-athlete gets better as the years go on. With time and experience, she’s seen improvements with grades and management.

Dayana and Taylor work hard in their classes not to disappoint their professors, the same goes for their coach.

Unfortunately, the past season came with a couple bumps in the road.   

After a 66-52 loss to Baruch College on Jan. 3, Coach Bitis had an intervention with the team. The disappointed Bitis spoke with the team and a particular line stuck out from that meeting.

“We have got to do better,” said Coach Bitis.

Bitis is strict with her student-athletes about punctuality and always participating because it shows their dedication to the team and an understanding of what she is giving to them.

“If you do not want to be here you should make an opportunity for someone who does,” Bitis said.

Understanding that her players are indeed student-athletes, Coach Bitis connects with them to ensure they’re doing well on and off the court.  

“If we do not have off days and we are not on the court, you need to focus on your academics,” Bellman said. “Education comes first at the end of the day.”

Student-athletes could be ‘benched’ if they aren’t performing well in their classes. If the coach is aware of an athlete struggling academically, she will try to refer them to the proper tutor.

“It was rough in the beginning but we have the hang of it.” Bellman said.

Jacome mentioned that being a student-athlete has gotten easier now because she’s more efficient with time and does a better job keeping up her grades.

Both Jacome and Bellman offered up advice for other students-athletes like themselves that are also struggling to balance their academics and athletics.

“Make sure you are always on schedule no matter what,” Jacome said. “Even though you play a sport you have to keep your grades up. You need a 2.0 or higher to participate in sports.”

“Make sure your classes does not overlap with practice,” Bellman stated. “So, try to look for classes that are before or after basketball practice.”

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