Excellence on the Field and Off: Balancing Athletics and Academics

A Student’s Perspective 

This is part one of a two-part series on balancing athletics and academics.

If McMurry University is filled with impressive students, then Trista Brown is the torchbearer. Trista mastered the art and science of being a scholar-athlete.

A biology major, chemistry minor, and softball player from Crosby, Texas, her schedule is demanding with practice, games, and travel; classes, studying, and long labs.

An accomplished young woman, Trista was named Outstanding Freshman Biology Student and Outstanding Chemistry Student in 2023, Outstanding Junior Biology student in 2024, selected for McMurry’s Honors Program, and received two prestigious scholarships — the Ward-Bottom Scholarship, given to a select few outstanding science majors, and the Dr. Sandra Harper Women’s Leadership Scholarship. “Dr. Harper is one of our biggest softball fans, and I was honored to receive both of these scholarships,” she said.

Trista attacked a new challenge this year. Moving to first base after playing her whole softball career at second base. “It’s fun to learn a new position. It gets me out of my comfort zone,” she said.

“When we made position changes, we said work hard, give everything you have, and success will follow. She did just that,” said Head Softball Coach David McNally ‘07.


Trista’s secret sauce to balancing academics and athletics, while achieving excellence at both? Communication and organization. She also takes advantage of McMurry resources such as the STEM Student Success Center (S3C).

“I have a planner and a notebook, and those are what get me through,” she said. “If you are willing to communicate with professors and go to class, it’s hard to fail. They are willing to work with you. For example, when we go on a road trip, I arrange to take tests early.”

“Trista Brown is a shining example of our scholar-athletes. She works hard to be prepared for all of her assignments. She works with fellow students to ensure that she has a grasp on the concepts and comes into the exams prepared for the questions,” said Dr. Joel Brant, McMurry biology professor and department chair. “Her hard work instills confidence, which allows her to dismiss doubts that might mislead her. She is definitely succeeding in the academic realm.”

Many scholar-athletes and coaches advocate for the art of scheduling classes. For spring sports like softball, take more hours and more difficult classes in the fall. In the spring, take fewer hours and less challenging classes. Planning two years out accounts for classes not offered annually.


Trista applauds Coach McNally for positioning players for success. Studiously organized, he creates detailed trip itineraries so players can plan academic study accordingly, both before and while travelling.

With many current softball players in challenging and time-consuming science majors, McNally plans practice around the team’s class and lab schedule. Daily times may be different, but it positions the team for academic and athletic success. The results show. The softball team consistently posts the highest McMurry team GPA and a winning record.

“Coach understands I have big plans for my future outside of softball. I plan to attend veterinary school, that’s why I am graduating from McMurry in three years,” said Brown. “Softball played a major role in why I chose McMurry. I put 100 percent of my effort into softball because that’s where my heart is. Coach understands when I must miss a practice for a chemistry lab or an important scholarship reception.”


Trista also factors in time to share her talents with others. She tutors other students, is a Student Athlete Advisory Committee representative, biology department peer mentor, and Biology Content Club host/narrator.

She sums it up well. “Softball is such a huge bonus of attending McMurry, and I am so lucky to have professors and coaches that support me from both perspectives of being a student athlete.”

Read part II of the series.

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