A day in the life of Laini Leindecker
By Celia Balf
What is a typical day like for a student-athlete at the University at Albany? It is very common to see, or even smell, a student-athlete from a mile away — they often travel in packs and all drink out of a bright, blue Powerade bottle. But behind the full sweatsuits and plates piled high with food is a student too.
Laini Leindecker is a junior from New Philadelphia, Ohio. Leindecker is a biology major as well as an outside hitter for the UAlbany volleyball team. A day with Leindecker starts well before most students even cue their coffee maker. She wakes up before 8 a.m. every morning.
“I don’t like to get used to sleeping in,” she said.
Her typical morning begins with a hearty bowl of oatmeal or scrambled egg whites. Leindecker even admits to putting “eat” on her to-do-list because her day gets that busy.
“I’m a list maker,” Leindecker said.
Leindecker’s day, per her list, usually goes like this:
- Meetings or tutoring
Every. Single. Day.
Leindecker aspires to be an occupational therapist one day. She admits to being stressed out at times, especially during her first couple of years in college.
“My first two years it was stressful to go to practice, but this year I just focus all on volleyball for those three hours, four if it’s weights. It’s draining, but I focus my energy,” Leindecker said.
She discussed how being present at each task and that task only is important. It is easy to be scattered when you’re trying to balance a sport, school, being president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), and trying to have your individual time too. Leindecker said that despite the stress of it all, being busy helps her.
“Being busy helps me stay on track. You don’t have time to mess around,” Leindecker said.
She even gives up Netflix during the school year, a sacrifice not many of us could say we would make.
Volleyball practice lasts around three hours every day. This year practice is at night, and Leindecker likes this timeslot more because it gives her more flexibility with classes. A volleyball practice generally starts out with a good portion dedicated to film and scouting the team they will be competing against, a skill and tactic-oriented portion, and then a competitive part that prepares the team for situations that could happen in the match. Leindecker adds an hour to her practice before and after to receive treatment on nagging injuries.
“Do I want to pursue volleyball past my four years? Yes. Can my body handle it? No,” Leindecker said.
This junior captain has been nursing nagging injuries since joining the team. However, the amount of time she spends taking care of her body in a week may exceed the time college students study for a final exam.
It is an easy assumption to think athletes just practice and then play games without considering how much off-the-court or field time is put into their craft. It is very common to see a student-athlete in the training room reading a textbook while getting heated or treated by a trainer. Multi-tasking is what they do, and for Leindecker it’s just another part of her day.
“I’m really independent,” she said.
Her goal for the remainder of her time at UAlbany includes staying on top of her schoolwork and putting herself in a good position to pursue graduate school for occupational therapy. She also couldn’t be happier about who she has as her teammates. This season, Leindecker said, is the closest the team has been.
Tatum Jungsten is the lone senior on the volleyball team and co-captain. Jungsten described Leindecker as “ambitious and dedicated.”
“When [Head Coach MJ Engstrom] saw her, she was goofy footed, she was right handed, but she took a left handed approach,” Jungsten said. “Which is bad. So MJ told her that she wasn’t going to offer her a scholarship unless she changed her footwork. Changing your footwork entirely is something that you wouldn’t think she would do. But she walked around her house in high school working on her footwork.”
Leindecker was offered a scholarship to come to UAlbany under Engstrom because she was willing to do the seemingly impossible.
“I think that shows how ambitious and dedicated Laini is,” Jungston said.
“I was never the best. It was always a maybe for me,” Leindecker said.
Maybe she’ll make it to a Division I program, maybe she’ll be one of the best outside hitters to play for UAlbany and maybe she’ll become an occupational therapist. But all of these maybes have given Laini that bite and preparation for any challenge thrown her way.