Pitching Saves and Saving Lives

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ALEX SMITH Contributing Writer

It’s 4:30 a.m. and senior, nursing major Sarah Walker slowly climbs out of bed. She gets dressed quietly, trying not to wake up her roommates. By 5:10 a.m., she slips out the front door and into her truck to head to her clinical in Gainesville.

This is considered a normal routine for most college nursing students. However, on the days when other nursing students are able to sleep a bit later, Walker is still up before the sun comes up and heads to 6 a.m. practice with the Piedmont Lady Lions softball team.

Being a student athlete means a lot of things. Piedmont prides itself on being a place where students can be successful on and off the field. These student athletes live busy lives both in and out of season, but most athletes don’t have to come to practice after working a shift where they witnessed their patient dying or a family who just had a new baby.

The emotional and physical highs and lows of working in the medical profession can be taxing on an individual, so imagine doing so all while being in school and being successful on the diamond.

This is the life that Walker leads. She is a leader on the field for her teammates when they need her most, and she is there for strangers in their most vulnerable times. How does she balance it all?

“It is definitely tough to play a sport and be in nursing school but what has helped me most is time management,” said Walker. “We have a set schedule for practice and games for softball so I write it down on my calendar then plan my studying accordingly. By playing softball and going to practice, I have to take time away from my books which actually helps me by giving me breaks so I don’t study all the time.”

Walker was successful on the mound long before she became a Lady Lion. Originally from Lawrenceville, Ga., Walker graduated from Peachtree Ridge High School in 2013. She was MVP both her sophomore and senior years, had the best school record in 2012, and was looking to play in college.

“I knew I wanted to be a nursing major early in high school. This played a major role in deciding to come to Piedmont because many of the coaches I was being recruited by did not like nor allow their players to be nursing majors because of the demanding schedule with class time and clinical. When I met with coach Martin he said he would support my decision to be a nursing major and we would work around the schedule when the time came, which he kept his word on,” explained Walker.

The winning combination of a well-respected nursing program and successful softball team sealed the deal for Walker to become a Lady Lion, a decision that she is grateful she made.

All of this would not be possible without the right coach and the right team. Like having a family away from home, Walker says that her team has been more than supportive of her journey through nursing school. Above all, Coach Martin held to his word and has enabled Walker to continue to pursue two dreams of hers.

“My advice comes from a Biology faculty member: anything worth having, you will have to work hard for it,” said Terry Martin, coach of the Piedmont softball team. “I hope I can bring recruits in that do not mind working hard, but the key is time management. They have to learn to manage their time.”

Walker has been successful in her time here at Piedmont, highlighted last season when she was voted onto the USA South All-Conference First Team. Now, she will step onto the mound for her senior season as a role model for many on what hard work and big dreams can achieve.

“To student athletes with a demanding major, don’t give up,” said Walker. “It can get very hard at times but with time management and dedication it is doable. When you learn how to manage the sport and the major, it is very rewarding when you look at all you have accomplished.”

While she will miss playing softball, Walker is looking forward to exploring emergency room and trauma care nursing, trading in one uniform for another.