Of all the students at Northeastern University, the student-athletes can likely boast some of the most unique college experiences — not least because they have to fit so much into four years. Just ask Carly Wilhelm, a senior forward on the women’s soccer team.
Wilhelm has started 30 games in her Northeastern career, racking up nine goals and 10 assists. She’s scored three goals this year for the Huskies who, at 9-4-1 are looking to add a third Colonial Athletic Association title in four years, two of which Wilhelm helped secure.
Student-athletes like Wilhelm face the ultimate juggling act. Between classes, sports, and sleep, things can become difficult to manage. In spite of that hectic schedule, the Toms River, New Jersey-native is also an English major and Business minor has managed to complete two co-ops, most recently at National Geographic’s publishing arm.
College Town sat down with Wilhelm to get the inside scoop on what her normal weekdays look like:
Wilhelm wakes up in her Mission Hill apartment. She lives with six other girls, most of which are athletes on other Northeastern teams.
The alarm clock rings, and it’s time to prepare for the first class of the day.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, that’s Advanced Writing at 9:15. Tuesdays are a little easier, with a 9:50 start for Wilhelm’s Co-Op Prep class, for which she’s the TA.
The real jackpot comes on Friday; Wilhelm’s Organizational Behavior class doesn’t kick off until 1:35 p.m.
But even with that buffer, it can sometimes be hard to wake up on Fridays.
Look back to late September for instance, when the Huskies took a trip down to Philadelphia for a 6 p.m. tilt with CAA-foe Drexel on a Thursday night.
The Huskies battled to a 1-1 tie, but the night didn’t end for Wilhelm after the final whistle. Players have classes on Friday, so the team still had to pack up and whether the five-hour drive back to Boston.
It was 4:30 a.m. before Wilhelm returned to her apartment.
“You’re tired and you’re exhausted but you have to go to class,” Wilhelm said.
Student athletes get special advisors from Northeastern’s Student Athlete Support Services (SASS). These hired faculty help athletes coordinate with professors and makeup assignments when busy schedules force players to miss class.
Wilhelm says she loves the help, but having an extra advisor monitoring your progress also increases the academic pressure.
“I think there’s almost more of a responsibility to perform academically because as an athlete you do have more people kind of watching you,” Wilhelm said. “You’re kind of forced to do everything you’re supposed to do.”
Noontime is usually lift time for most of the NU women’s soccer players. Players who don’t have noon classes will head over to the gym in the Cabot Center, to which the varsity athletes have exclusive access. Tuesdays and Fridays are the usual lifting days this season.
Midday lifting sessions can make for hectic days. Players often go straight from class to the Cabot Center, then have a short time to get lunch together at Rebecca’s Café before going straight back to another class.
It’s busy, yes, but Wilhelm says the team enjoys the bonding experience.
“We have one lift that’s 12-1 and then everyone has class at 1:35,” Wilhelm said. “It’s kind of cramming in a shower, getting lunch. That’s when we do things primarily as a team.”
Depending on the day, Wilhelm is either starting or leaving practice at 4 p.m.
Monday are usually a rest day, as the Huskies’ CAA games fall on Thursdays and Sundays.
Tuesdays and Fridays are busy, with a noon lifting session followed by a two-hour practice at 4 p.m.
On Wednesdays and Fridays, practice goes from 2-4. But one must remember that this is Boston, and putting a 100-yard soccer field in the middle of the city is a near impossible task. The Huskies have to board a coach bus and drive out to their home turf – Parsons Field in Brookline. It’s only two miles, but rush hour traffic can sometimes make it a 30-minute trip.
The Huskies also play their home games at Parsons, and the distance from the center of campus can sometimes be a deterrent for Husky fans.
Wilhelm admits that support from the general student body isn’t overwhelming.
“A lot of the support comes from other athletes. We try to go to each other’s games a lot,” Wilhelm said. “The student-athlete camaraderie really makes it more special.”
While Northeastern’s hockey and basketball teams tend to draw decent crowds, the Parsons stands are rarely packed for Husky soccer games. But for Wilhelm, the lack of fan support isn’t much of a factor for the team’s on-field performance.
“If I was only looking for a big sports school with lots of school spirit, I don’t know if I would pick Northeastern,” Wilhelm said. “It’s something that comes up and we notice it. But I wouldn’t say it’s something that deters from the experience at all.”
Wilhelm is usually back to her apartment by dinner time. There’s often homework to be done, but the senior also finds time to do what she jokingly calls “normal people things.”
“You do end practice early enough where it is possible to do things with your friends or go to dinner,” Wilhelm said. “It is just kind of making the most of your time and getting things done at other times of the day – like homework – so you can do that kind of stuff at night.”
Wilhelm is 21, but the soccer season doesn’t provide many opportunities to explore the Boston bar scene. The Thursday/Sunday game schedule leaves little time for hitting the town, and the team captains usually set up rules for when players are allowed to go out. Those rules get stricter as the season goes on.
“It’s definitely a sacrifice,” Wilhelm admits. “But that’s kind of crunch time in the season anyways where the games matter more. It’s kind of worth it if you looked at it that way.”
And despite these sacrifices, Wilhelm will look back at her time as a student-athlete fondly. As she prepares to wrap up her final season on the field for the black and red, Wilhelm admits she’ll have to get used to life off the pitch.
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do with myself in the spring, having so much time on my hands,” Wilhelm said.
“I’m going to have to get some hobbies or something.”