Juggling Act: Christman Balances Softball, Nursing Clinicals, RA Duties

Story by Bob Romantic
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau

Janelle Christman sits in the bleachers at Stapleton-Pierson Field, politely answering questions as she anxiously looks toward her teammates getting ready to go through a conditioning drill on the softball field.

Her uneasiness stems partly from the emotions the interview evokes as she tries to put into words what it means to be part of this Antelopes team.

But, even more than that, the time spent answering questions is time that she’s not on the practice field.

And that means the world to the junior pitcher.

“I want to be out here whenever I can,” Christman says. “Being part of this team is the biggest blessing I have ever had.”

The calendar is full

To understand Christman’s devotion to her team, you first have to understand the lengths that she and others go to make that possible.

Christman is a Level 4 nursing student, which requires about 20 hours of clinical duties per week. She also works as a resident assistant at Canyon Hall, which involves one eight-hour shift each week, meetings with other RAs, occasional weekend duty and pretty much being on-call any time one of the 54 women on her half of the fourth floor at Canyon needs someone to lean on.

Conflicts with softball are inevitable. She’s missed four games this season and during the current semester has missed more than half the practices because of conflicts with classes or clinicals.

On this particular day, a Tuesday, Christman is up and out the door at 5:30 a.m. for a one-our strength workout with the softball team.

From 7:30 to 11:30 a.m., she is performing clinical duties with Loving Care Agency, which offers home health-care services.

Regular softball practice runs from noon to about 3:15 p.m. (this is one of the good days that she is able to attend practice).

She has a class that runs from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

And from 5 p.m. until midnight, she has RA duties at Canyon Hall.

“Then I wake up and start all over again,” says Christman, who keeps a calendar for herself and others to keep track of her daily activities.

Other days don’t fit together quite as easily. On Wednesdays, Christman can’t attend softball practice because she has a 12-hour clinical with nurses at Apollo High School in Glendale. To make up for the missed practice, Christman has to do her pitching work and conditioning work on her own time.

Catchers Annie Jordan, Kristen Payne and Nicole Upshaw have all come out in the evening to catch for Christman during her make-up workouts. Infielder Lauren Regester has also caught for her, “and she’s not even a catcher,” Christman says. “It’s not only extra time out of their day, it’s also a second workout. I’m so grateful for them and the fact they’re willing to sacrifice their time and energy.”

The catching trio doesn’t see it as a sacrifice. Jordan calls Christman “an inspiration” while Upshaw says she is “one of the hardest-working people I know.”

“She’s definitely a team role model,” Payne adds. “If she’s willing to put in the work for us, we definitely want to help her out.”

On other days, Christman’s father Richard will catch for her. He lives in Tucson.

“His job brings him here part-time (selling pharmaceuticals) so he’ll arrange his schedule to catch me,” says Christman. “There is a lot of give-and-take from everyone. I can’t take any credit. … The nursing college has been great (scheduling clinical hours around softball when possible) and the girls on my team, they are what make me keep going. I don’t care if I have to come out at 7 at night and pop the lights on to get my work in. My teammates deserve everything I can give to them.

“They’re my best friends, they’re my sisters -- every single one of them.”

A most valuable teammate

By now, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, Christman must be one heck of a pitcher for everyone to go to these lengths to keep her on the team.”

She has pitched just one-third of an inning this season (giving up three earned runs in the process) and posted fairly modest numbers her first two years with the team (a combined 2-3 record and 4.97 ERA in 56 1/3 innings pitched).

“It’s not about numbers,” says GCU softball coach Anne Pierson. “Even though she’s not on the field, she picks up on tendencies of the other team and is always talking situations and strategies with her teammates.

“Janelle is the kind of person you notice when she’s not there. She pours everything into her team.”

In other words, Christman may not be a heck of a pitcher, but she is definitely one heck of a teammate.

“She is a big part of the team with her personality and everything,” says outfielder Haley Walker. “We all respect everything she does.”

When Christman is not contributing by sizing up the opposition during a game, she’s keeping things loose in the dugout and trying to keep her teammates fired up.

And if she needs to, she’ll break out the whisk. Yes, a cooking whisk.

Christman pulls out the whisk and either an “offensive pot” or a “defensive pot” when the Antelopes need to rally and, in her words, “cook us up some wins.”

“We’ll add batter and I’ll run around and stir the pot cooking with the whisk,” Christman says. “It gets them fired up I guess. It’s dorky, but it’s just something that we do.

“Even though I am not on the field 100 percent of the time, I have so many other roles. It’s not about me. It’s not about my playing time or what my ERA is or how many batters I’ve faced. It’s about the team’s success, and any way I can contribute to that is what I’m going to do, even if it’s just throwing to them so they can get hits or being goofy in the dugout so they’re not as nervous. Whatever it takes, I’m there for my team.”

That’s why Pierson has no problem with the accommodations that are made to keep Christman on the team.

“She’s not going to make a living in softball. She will make a living as a nurse,” Pierson says. “Who am I to say ‘No, you can’t do that.’ We do everything we can to support that.”

Somewhere in Christman’s hectic schedule, she finds time to maintain a 3.9 GPA and is on course to graduate this summer (she won't participate in commencement because the softball team is on the road at Dixie State).

“When you have two passions (softball and nursing) like I have, you make time,” Christman says of her studies. “Sometimes you sleep good and sometimes it’s only two hours a night so you can get your work done.

“But I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”

Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or [email protected].


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