|Story by Debra Vaughn Smith||
Falcon basketball forward Jeff McBroom's biggest fans are his wife, Karrie, and daughter, Ashley. "Ashley has a little jersey with my number
on it," says Jeff. "I don't know if she understands what's going on, but she knows I'm out on the court and she'll yell and cheer."
Seattle Pacific University senior Jeff McBroom knows the importance of teamwork on the court -- and at home. After practicing up to four hours a day as a starting forward for the Falcon varsity basketball team, attending classes and studying, he carves out time for his most important priority: his family.
McBroom is one of six SPU student-athletes on this year's basketball, volleyball and soccer teams that balance academics, a demanding athletic career and a family.
Married for three years, the 23-year-old McBroom and his wife, Karrie, found the move to SPU from Green River Junior College in 1995 took some adjustment. With the arrival of their daughter, Ashley, McBroom admits that it hasn't been easy juggling basketball, marriage and fatherhood."We were newlyweds with a baby going to a school where we didn't know anybody," he says. "It was really challenging."
Until this year, McBroom was the only married man on his team and sometimes had trouble connecting with teammates whose lives seemed carefree in comparison. "I felt like they just had no clue about the life that I live," he says.
That's changed this year with the marriage of senior center Chuck Carter and junior point guard Ryan Skogstad.
"I wouldn't have guessed when I was a freshman that I'd be married now," admits Skogstad, who says he can see why other players might not understand his life. "They do a doubletake when I take off my ring and put it in my locker."
Like McBroom, Skogstad found his transfer from Western Baptist College this fall difficult. Married in early September, he and his wife, Kelsie, had only a few weeks to get adjusted before Ryan began classes and full-time practice. "A new school, a new city, Kelsie's new job --all these changes were a stress," says Skogstad.
Carter, whose wife, Kathy, is a nurse, says the biggest challenge in his marriage is keeping up with each other. "If you are just a student and married, it's still tough with classes, but being married and an athlete just squeezes that much more out of you."
The Skogstads also struggle to find time together. Kelsie works full-time as a program director for Olympic Athletic Club during the day, while Ryan often has evening practices. "We try to find time together," he says. "I find little breaks for homework so the time I have free I can spend with her."
Another married Falcon basketball player is Shauna Bland, a junior point guard on the women's varsity team. For Bland and her SPU-student husband, Eli,"Time is the biggest challenge because our schedules are opposite," she says.
In addition to juggling schedules and time for study and work, the couples experience tensions related to budgets and finance. McBroom's main source of income is an athletic scholarship -- but that doesn't pay for everything. "Week to week we barely get by," he says. The couple relies on family for some financial support, and Karrie has put her own college education on hold to work full-time. The Blands rely on a combination of athletic and academic scholarships, work and their families to pay for school and living expenses.
Faith in each other and faith in God helps the couples stay in balance. "We do devotions together every night," says Ryan. "I think that keeps Kelsie and I together and helps us realize what's important in life."
Likewise, the McBrooms find support at the Solid Rock Community Church where Jeff is a worship leader.
Despite all the challenges, the athletes say they wouldn't do anything differently. "I'm not worrying about who I'm going to marry and what's going to happen," says McBroom. Carter agrees, adding, "You have someone waiting for you at home that loves you as much as you love them."
For these Falcon athletes, teamwork has a whole new meaning.