College of Coastal Georgia volleyball players Holly Hammer, left, and Emma Anderson are also both students in the school’s nursing program, a combination most students shy away from but one in which the two have struck a succesful balance. Photo by Bobby Haven/The Brunswick News
Sitting in the front row of a charter bus at 2 a.m. somewhere in the middle of Iowa, College of Coastal Georgia volleyball coach Jeff Huebner realizes not all his players are asleep.
Most of them are, heads planted in pillows leaning against the windows or the headrests of their seats as the team patiently endures a 22-hour drive to the NAIA national volleyball tournament in Sioux City, Iowa.
Three rows behind Huebner, senior Holly Hammer, one of two volleyball players in Coastal’s nursing program, sits under a faint overhead light absorbing as much information from her Medical Surgical Nursing textbook as her brain can stand. Another light comes from across the aisle and shines on junior Emma Anderson pouring over her Pathology textbook.
With a brutal block of finals scheduled for the week after the tournament, the aspiring nurses have to squeeze in whatever extra time they can to hit the books.
It takes a special person to be a nurse, Anderson says. If that’s true, then what kind of person does it take to be a nurse and a student athlete at the same time?
“I don’t even understand it myself,” Huebner said of Hammer, who is the first of Huebner’s players to take on the daunting task of balancing nursing school and volleyball and is now in her final semester in the program. “She has set an almost unachievable example.”
Hammer endured two seasons in which she handled a demanding volleyball schedule from a demanding coach without letting it detract from her studies at the rugged nursing school. The nursing program is one that requires students to nearly work themselves to death so they can learn to save lives. Adding a sport on top of that workload seems formidable.
“From what everyone told me, you just don’t do it,” said Anderson, who was ultimately convinced by Hammer to give it a try.
Many athletic programs won’t allow it, Huebner said. Coaches are often afraid the player won’t be fully committed to the team and push students to choose one or the other.
But that’s not Huebner’s philosophy. The task requires a mutual understanding on the part of coaches and professors, but if they can work together, it’s not impossible.
“He’s always been understanding,” Hammer says of Huebner. “He knows ultimately that we go to school to get our degrees. I really appreciate him doing that. He did nothing but make me feel comfortable about the decision.”
Hammer, who played for Huebner on a club volleyball team when both lived in Illinois, came to Coastal Georgia because of her relationship with Huebner, who has built the volleyball program from scratch and led the Mariners to their first NAIA tournament appearance in December. She approached Huebner about the idea of nursing school in her sophomore season. When she began her first semester of her junior year in the fall of 2013, Huebner moved team practice to run from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. It was early, but it didn’t interfere with anyone’s class schedules. Hammer, and Anderson in the just-completed fall semester, had class right after practice until 4 p.m.
“You understand you no longer have a social life, and time management is the hardest part,” Hammer said. “I didn’t have an option of, ‘I could do this or study.’ I had to study.”
Hammer is known on a first-name basis at the Starbucks at Glynn Isles Market on Altama Avenue. She spends a lot of her time
The Brunswick News