They have daily practices, grueling weight training sessions, long hours devoted to travel, and don't forget about attending class. Every day, student-athletes are challenged to balance their demanding academic course load with commitments to their team. It takes a special type of student-athlete to not only find that balance, but also excel at it. Andriana Collins is one of those student-athletes.
The junior pitcher for the UC Santa Barbara softball team has shown that she has a drive for success both on and off the field.
Whether she's striking out a batter, setting the curve, or reaching out to the community, Collins knows that she would be nowhere without the support of her parents.
Calling her parents a "solid back bone for me," Collins said. "I really work as hard as I do for them."
Collins' parents remain her biggest supporters to this day. Even though they live nearly 300 miles away in Fairfield, Calif., they attend most Gaucho home games and even travel for the road games.
"They are so supportive and encourage me to try my best no matter the outcome," Collins noted. "They want me to work to the level that they have reached in life, but they also want me to surpass that."
Her life as an athlete goes beyond her performance in the circle, as she is also a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) at UCSB. As a part of SAAB, she works with student-athletes from other teams in planning various activities like the SB Awards, UCSB Athletics' annual awards ceremony, and promoting community outreach from her fellow student-athletes.
"At the end of the day, we [as a community] are one big family, not just a UCSB family," Collins said. "The community outreach allows Santa Barbara to see UCSB athletes giving back and showing that we really appreciate our fans and supporters."
As a student, Collins hasn't only been competitive; she has also been honored as one of the best. Last year, she was the first sophomore to receive the Golden Eagle Award for maintaining the highest cumulative GPA on the UCSB Softball team. A student-athlete must have a 3.2 GPA to even be eligible for the award.
"Whether or not I get [the Golden Eagle] again, it was a really great achievement to have knowing what I did."
But she isn't complacent with one award. She is currently in strong pursuit of her second consecutive Golden Eagle.
"It really pushed me into high gear to accomplish the same thing this year," Collins said. "I know I have a couple teammates on my tale, which I think helps us push each other as we're going for the same spot."
The time demands are obvious, but Collins has found it easy to make her tough schedule work by putting academics first.
"Academics have always been so important for me," she said. "So it's been easier for me personally to balance because, at the end of the day, I know what I'm here to do and that is to ultimately graduate and be somewhere at the top of my class."
Collins has been playing softball for nearly her entire life, but she knows that one day the pitcher's circle will be a thing of the past. The truth may be jarring, but Collins hasn't been put off by this reality.
"I push myself to the limit to see how much I can do. It's all about discovering a different passion when softball is over."
And Collins has determined that entertainment law will be that new passion.
As a sports information intern for the Athletics Communications Department at UCSB, Collins has honed her writing ability, which she knows will be crucial for law school.
Her writing for her internship was so impressive that, last year as a sophomore, she was published in DARE, UCSB Athletics' biannual magazine, for her profile on two athletes on the UCSB women's swimming team. She is one of three interns to have ever been published in the magazine's history.
She notes that for the first time, the next phase of her life isn't exactly clear, but she will be sure to take on the future the same way she has carried herself throughout her career as a Gaucho.
"It's exciting, nerve wrecking, putting so many emotions in one, but nonetheless, I'm ready for it."