Being a college athlete can be a full-time job, which means student-athletes don’t always get to enjoy the same breaks as their peers do. In the case of the University of Utah softball team, the start of the Pac-12 season overlaps with spring break.
The softball team still makes the best of their time together while they are on a break from their academic responsibilities. Even though it is a challenge for the players not to have the week off, they are used to working constantly to achieve their goals to where they want to be.
“I don’t know that she really ever takes a break from playing,” said Tracy Ball, father of sophomore Ryley Ball. “Even in high school, she was always playing over her breaks. She always wanted to play even if I wanted to rest.”
Sometimes players even look forward to spring break for the opportunity to travel and bond with their team without the responsibility of homework and academics.
The family atmosphere present in the program comes out over these breaks because the coaching staff allows the players some freedom to enjoy their time as not only athletes, but also as college students.
“I wouldn’t say that I miss out on a spring break,” Ryley said. “I enjoy being with the team and getting to know them. Being with them during spring break is better than an actual break.”
This season, the team will be in Arizona for the beginning of its spring break. Players anticipate they will be allowed some free time together while they are there.
“We usually do a lot of stuff together as a team without our coaches just to keep us all connected so that we don’t get homesick, but they still schedule stuff for us to do over the break,” said junior Hailey Hilburn.
During Hillburn’s freshman year, the team went to an amusement park together while they were traveling over spring break. When they are not together as a team playing softball, they do their best to keep their focus off of softball and on each other.
This year, the team will be back in Utah for the second half of their spring break. The Utes will get the chance to be in a familiar place, and some of the girls will even be able to see their families.
Even though their week off of school is essentially condensed to a single day, none of the players think of it that way. Since these athletes spend all year looking forward to the season, it is a time of the year they all enjoy.
“Spring break is the only real holiday in the spring semester,” Hilburn said. “We try and be very grateful that we get all of our holidays during the fall when other athletes don’t get to go home over those important holidays.”
Hilburn has been on the team for three years and has enjoyed her spring break each year with the program. As an out-of-state student from California, she had to give up the chances to return home during her first year while she was in softball season.This has never made much of a toll on Hilburn. She enjoys the time she gets with her teammates, who are like her second family here in Utah.
“It’s a long haul when we come back from winter break until the end of May or beginning of June when our season ends, and it’s a long time to be away from home,” Hilburn said. “Having the team helps a lot because we all become like sisters.”