Striking the balance between athletics and academics

In high school, I always wished I could attend a team “pasta feed” or wear those “we love our seniors” shirts for my sports team. I was jealous that my classmates could represent their school in their athletic passions and at times, I was discouraged that I fell in love with figure skating and not a sport such as soccer or lacrosse because I felt like I was missing out.


Two years ago, I went to my first competition with the Cal Figure Skating team. Normally at a competition, when you are called to the ice, the announcers calls your name followed by your home skating club but at this competition my name was followed by “representing the University of California, Berkeley”. Hearing those words for the first time is a moment that l’ll never forget because like every freshman during their first semester at college, one wants to feel that they made the correct college decision. In that moment, despite what others had thought about my decision, all of my doubts had gone away.

If we rewind to when I was applying to colleges, I was extremely fearful that I would have to give up my identity, biggest passion and a sport I had invested my heart and soul into for 15 years prior to college to pursue my academic goals. UC Berkeley allows me to explore my academic curiosities while allowing me to continue doing something I love so greatly! Berkeley allows me to be myself!

Last year, Cal was honored to host Intercollegiate Nationals. The team proudly stands with Oski, who has some awesome skating skills!


This weekend, the Cal Figure Skating Team competed in Colorado Springs at Colorado College at our first qualifier of the season. 18 of us competed- more than any other school at the competition! Some of the other teams in our West Coast section include UCLA, UCSD, University of Denver, Colorado College, and Utah State University. While collegiate figure skating surely is very different in many aspects than the non-collegiate events, I find it to be a wonderful option for college students. While so many people stop skating after high school, it appears that the people that choose to join their school’s team and compete, are those that are still skating because it makes them happy and they still love the sport, event after 10 or 15 + years. It is a cool fact that everyone at these competitions has a skating past, and we all can bond over loving to skate and being a college student.

As soon as we walked into the competition rink at 6:00 am Saturday morning, I was greeted by some familiar faces. One of the girls was a freshman at Denver University and I had met her this past summer when we competed at the Collegiate National Championships. It was so wonderful to see her and the other girls that I had met throughout the years. The relationship one builds with other collegiate skaters has to be another one of my favorite parts of attending these competitions. It is so fun to compare college stories! For example, this weekend I explained to the Denver team what Football game days entail because they do not have a football team and instead everyone gets super excited about hockey season!

Last year, at the Intercollegiate Nationals, all 9 of the colleges that qualified stand on the ice at the awards ceremony.

As the day goes by, we take turns competing our individual events. In the collegiate skating world, the team captain and teammates put each other on! It always feels so wonderful to have the support of your teammates, training partners and best friends. After all of the individual competitions are complete, team maneuvers begin. Team maneuvers are an event reserved solely for intercollegiate figure skating. A favorite event of many, the team all gets on the ice at the same time and then as the officials call out elements, one member of the team goes and competes that element. Ultimately, the whole team receives a placement and I couldn’t be more proud to say that Cal Figure Skating came in 1st place!!! But even more proud than having a first place finish, I’m proud to be a part of a supportive team that pushes each other not only in skating but also in our own academic careers and explorations! Go bears, Go Cal Figure Skating!



Author: Sara

Hello! My name is Sara Billman. I am a junior studying public health with hopes of having a career in sports medicine. Since I have been figure skating since the age of three, I have a vested interested in working with athletes to maximize their potential through preventative measures such as proper weight lifting education, nutrition and recovery. At Berkeley, I am on the Cal Figure Skating Team , the assistant philanthropy chairman of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority, a research assistant for a Berkeley psychology lab, and I serve as a part of the Catholic Student Ministry Team. In my free time, I enjoy studying to become a group fitness instructor or just hanging out with friends (often while hiking or drinking coffee). After Berkeley, I plan on filling my gap year before grad school by working for Disney on Ice or as a Catholic Missionary. Cal has offered me the best undergraduate career I could have asked for. It allows me to be a part of a diverse family that encourages each individual to reach his or her highest potential by exposing them to a range of interests. Berkeley allows me to reach my highest potential not only in my passion for figure skating but also in my academic goals. Go Bears!