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Student-athletes have a unique college experience. They get up early for practice, they go to class, they practice again, they work, they go to sleep for the night, and then they repeat the process all over again the next day.
At Drury University, this is an experience that all former swimmers and business students are familiar with. Four alumni share their stories of being a Breech School of Business student and being a part of Drury’s swim team.
Becoming a student-athlete
Ron Staab came from Indiana to attend Drury in 1980. He chose Drury for two reasons: to study business and to swim.
“I was recruited from my home state of Indiana as a freestyle and backstroke specialist. The team’s history and planning for the future growth of the team intrigued me,” Ron explains. “The Breech School of Business presented a unique opportunity to advance my interest in the business acumen with a focus on a small class atmosphere with a high degree of professor interaction. The quality of the faculty was very important to me as a student.”
Ron currently has two daughters who followed closely in his footsteps. Hillary Staab joined the Breech school as a management and marketing major in 2008. She dedicated herself to sports, and also became a member of the swim team.
“I have been dedicated to sports my entire life and had always planned to be a student athlete in college,” Hillary says. “When I was younger I thought it would be for gymnastics but when I got to high school and swimming became my primary sport, it was evident that no matter where I went I was going to swim.”
Per-Ola Brinck, a 1983 Drury graduate, had a similar opportunity. “[I] came to Drury from Sweden and always wanted to swim and study in the USA growing up,” Per says, “[I] looked at several schools and felt Drury was the best fit—smaller school with a good team.”
Being a student-athlete
Doyt Ladd joined Drury in 1978 when he received a scholarship for swimming. During his time at Drury, he decided to study business administration and economics at Breech. To Doyt, swimming on the team and studying business became a very positive experience. He found that being a student athlete was less stressful thanks to some help from his professors.
Doyt explains, “At Breech you were part of a family of students and teachers. Being a small school it allowed you to get to know your teachers and vice versa. The teachers knew you were a student athlete and respected your requests for special dispensation because of travel day or Nationals.”
Hillary also had good experiences at Drury being a student athlete. Though she had a busy schedule, she formed close bonds with her teammates.
“Every day was an early morning practice followed by a few hours of classes, a few hours of work, and yet another practice, wrap it with homework in the evening and crash early so you can get enough sleep before another early morning,” Hillary describes. “It seems so antisocial with the swimming schedule but it brought the team very close together, it built those relationships that will truly last a lifetime.”
Most of these student-athletes spent four years together—in the pool and in Breech. They share memories from swimming on the team and learning in the classroom. For Ron, swimming at Nationals for the first time was a big moment as an undergraduate.
“My favorite memory was many. The team activities throughout the years I will always remember,” Ron says. “If I had to pick, I would say representing Drury University as a National Champion both individually and as a team member, followed only by representing Drury University at the 1984 Olympic Trials.”
Others, like Doyt, also cherish many memories of being on the swim team.
“No specific [favorite memory], but memories of jumping thru the skylight into the pool, getting up for finals at Nationals by listening to AC/DC in the van on the way to the meet, hitchhiking to a swim meet because our van broke down, and of course, winning our first National Championship in 1981,” Doyt recalls.
These student-athletes also remember their times at Breech, like Per-Ola who remembers talking with Dr. Strube in his office each day.
“[I] met a lot of people both at Breech and being a part of the Panther swim team that became friends for life,” Per-Ola says. “Dr. Strube was my advisor and he was always there to make the best of each day.”
Hillary also favors memories at Breech. She remembers her past professors, like Dr. Rohlf.
“'Everybody Happy?’ It didn’t matter what class you were in, you could always hear Dr Rohlf greet his class with that phrase,” Hillary says.
Life after college
Most student-athletes move on from their sport after college. Some of them keep doing it as a hobby, some go on to graduate school, get their MBA, or go off to work. Other graduates, like Per-Ola, go on to start their own family.
“Drury was and will always be part of my life since I graduated from Breech, met my wife at Drury and got married at Drury [in] Stone Chapel,” Per-Ola explains. “When I came to Drury in December of 1979, I had no idea how my life would change and that I would still be living in the USA 33 years later and having a great family.”
Looking back on their college experience, these former swimmers have advice for future and current student-athletes.
“Enjoy the time and keep in mind that you are there for a reason,” Ron says. “College life is a very important time in a young person’s life. Enjoy your time, but work hard at preparing yourself to enter the world.”
Ron’s daughter, Hillary agrees. “The ‘enjoy it while it lasts’ is so cliché but now that I’m on the other side, I fully understand it now and it really does apply.”
Interview and article by Kaitlyn Schwers. Kaitlyn is a sophomore majoring in communication.