Senior nursing majors trade jerseys for scrubs

Varsity athletes reflect on juggling nursing school with DII athletics.


Andres Ramirez // THE CHIMES

Senior outside hitter Becca Branch spikes the ball forcefully over the net for one of many kills she’s had this season.

Ashley Grams, Staff Writer

(This story was originally published in print on Oct. 31, 2019).

It takes many months to form a single habit. Perfecting a craft takes years. Nursing students accrue thousands of hours within the walls of hospitals and classes. Athletes also find themselves consumed with long days between early morning practices, weight training and late night games. Among others, seniors Madyson Brown, Becca Branch and Annmarie Alvarez have accomplished the daunting task of juggling being a nursing student-athlete. These women will graduate with nursing degrees after playing for various athletic teams at the NCAA DII level. 

Each of their journeys are different as the balancing act of school and sport is unique to each athlete. After starting at center back for three years, Madyson Brown, a decorated soccer player, was forced to redshirt her senior year because nursing clinicals have proven overwhelming. She found herself in an entirely new position. However, Brown discovered she had the opportunity to lead and encourage her teammates from the bench. 


“[Senior year] was the most demanding for nursing. I would have missed so many games because I can’t miss nursing,” Brown said. “[My coach] let me redshirt and I basically just cheered on the team for a year. Then this last semester is very low key compared to the other ones so it’s allowing me to really shift my focus back to soccer.”

Brown is not the only player to take time away from her team in order to earn her nursing degree. Becca Branch, an outside hitter for the volleyball team, played her freshman season and then took three years off before rejoining the team for her senior season. 

“I was really burnt out, so stepping away from volleyball allowed me to find my identity outside of athletics and have the college experience,” Branch said. “I was able to focus on my friends, school and my job.”

Both Brown and Branch expressed how they gained a more holistic view of the sport they love through their time off.

“God gave me an option [to play again] and I feel like he said if you’re going to do it, do it well,” Branch said. “I feel settled in my life and secure so now I can love on my teammates and that love is contagious.”

Communication, understanding and sacrifice all play an integral role when balancing these two aspects of their lives. Each student-athlete spoke of the constant communication required with both their coaches and their nursing professors. As nursing and athletics are both very time consuming, the women came to the realization that they had to make hard decisions each week about what aspect was more pressing. 

“I think I’ve learned a new gift in community and my teammates and allowing my teammates to help uplift me in my weaknesses,” said Alvarez, forward for the women’s soccer team. “It is definitely not easy. My team pushes me to keep going and my coach does as well. I wouldn’t be here without my coach.” 


Each woman has relied heavily on God during emotionally and spiritually taxing seasons. Often times they have struggled to find rest between practices, clinicals and classes. This took time away from their families, friends and the typical college experience. Trusting that God ordained this call on their lives was a way to find solace amid chronic busyness. 

“It’s difficult to spend time with the Lord at the end of the day or the beginning of the day but it was always the thing that changes my day and renews my mindset,” Brown said. “On my drive to Newport Beach at five in the morning, I listen to a little bit of a podcast or an ebook, a Christian one and then I listen to worship music. Because like before the day it always helps me get in the mindset of, ‘give me strength.’” 


For Brown, professional soccer has been a recurring goal throughout her life. She is working alongside her coach to attend recruiting combines and contact professional clubs overseas to pursue her dreams. 

“I’m having a continual conversation with my coach about how to [play professionally]. I signed up for a professional combine. Coaches come from Norway, Sweden, Iceland and then they are agents that come. If they like what they see I can connect with one and hopefully I can sign with a team,” Brown said.

Other student-athletes, like Branch, hope to get a job in the hospital after graduation. But none of the athletes want to give up their passion for sports. Branch has had the opportunity to coach youth volleyball in the past and will continue to do so after her time at Biola. Coaching provides a way to stay involved with the sport they love without the physically taxing effects of playing the game. 

Anyone who can work a 12-hour shift in the hospital, only to arrive back on campus just in time for an NCAA match displays an incredible amount of grit and strength. Each woman persevered through extensive time commitments with communication, vulnerability and outside support.   

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