PALMYRA, Pa. (WHTM) – Balancing athletics with schoolwork is a common act high school students across the country perform throughout the year.
However, there are a select few Palmyra Area High School athletes who have chosen to push themselves further and juggle football or cheerleading while also participating in marching band. This means during Cougar football season these students are very busy.
“It’s a mental grind I will say,” Luke Vanatta said. “I’m taking all honors classes so it’s tough because the expectation is that kids have the entire night to get a certain amount of stuff done, but I’m expected to get that amount of stuff done in maybe three times less the time.”
Vanatta is a 10th grader who is a wide receiver and corner on the Palmyra football team and plays the cymbals in the marching band. His freshman teammate Josh Tshuddy is in the same situation. Tshuddy plays tight end and linebacker for the Cougars and plays saxophone in the marching band.
“This is my first year doing marching band and honestly it’s really fun,” Tshuddy said. “But I like football as well. So I figured, why not just do both.”
Both boys head to football practice after school at 4 p.m. where they stay until 5:45 p.m. Next, they go straight to marching band. Neither of them gets home until at the earliest 9 p.m. They work on their homework until they can no longer stay awake and anything left unfinished gets completed in the morning before school begins.
On days they don’t have practice, they usually get home around 6 p.m.
“Then I have that time to do my homework and actually be a person,” Vanatta said.
Vanatta chooses to participate in both activities because choosing between two things he enjoys so much would be really hard for him; harder than putting in the work to make it happen.
“I love both of them equally and I just feel like it would be too much on me to give up one and not give up the other,” Vanatta said. “I feel like I’d be shorting myself somehow.”
Vanatta started playing football when he was in third grade and he picked up percussion the following year.
“It’s just kind of merged and. . . by the grace of God, I was able to continue to keep doing both,” Vanatta said.
Tshuddy began playing football in seventh grade and started in music by playing clarinet in fourth grade. He changed to saxophone last year.
On game days, the boys appreciate being able to do both of their passions because the activities help to balance their emotions.
“I think that it’s really good because it keeps you mentally engaged as well as it keeps you from getting in your thoughts where you can lose your confidence at times,” Vanatta said. “One of the seven virtues is diligence and I feel like that doing this is a perfect example of diligence and being able to always keep yourself in the now.”
Tshudy welcomes the mental break he feels during halftime when he gets to perform with the band.
“Takes your mind off something, gets you refreshed and you’re ready to come out and explode in the second half,” Tshudy said.
Megan Holl is also balancing her sport with band. The junior is in her 12th year cheerleading, third on Palmyra’s varsity high school squad, and does auxiliary percussion for the band.
Holl has been in the Palmyra music program since third grade, where she previously played saxophone, and decided to join marching band to follow in her sister’s footsteps.
“I am a musician,” Holl said. “I like being a music student. I feel like I can really connect with it.”
However, Holl wasn’t willing to give up her passion of cheerleading. Holl also found she enjoys breaking stereotypes and showing others that labels don’t matter.
“When I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m in marching band’ they’re like ‘Oh, really? I never really expected that from you’ [and] I think it’s important to. . . not be stuck in that one stereotype,” Holl said.
Holl has practice for her two activities from Tuesday through Thursday and they typically don’t interfere with one another. However, on certain special days leading up to band events, there are some days she has to sacrifice missing cheer.
“I’ll just let my cheer coach know; she’s super flexible with it,” Holl said. “She’s super supportive. She loves that the cheerleaders represent and everything.”
On game days, Holl cheers every quarter and then performs with the band during halftime. She says is can sometimes be exhausting, but she enjoys the constant activity.
“I’m pretty much active the entire game,” Holl said. “I’m a physical person, I like the physical activity. I just think it’s a lot of fun.”
Neither Tshuddy, Vanatta or Holl know how or if their multiple passions will play a role in their future yet. Both Tshuddy and Vanatta would welcome the opportunity to continue playing football after high school, but don’t know if it’s in the cards for them. Tshuddy does plan to continue music after graduation.
Holl knows she wants to continue cheer in college but is unsure about band. She hopes if she has time, she can join her university’s concert band.
“I’ve taken away that even though you might be interested in one thing, it doesn’t matter what category you’re in to be able to do multiple things,” Holl said.