The burden of balancing college classes, extracurriculars and free time is a theme that every college student is familiar with, but the experience can differ significantly with a commitment to a Division 1 sports team.
Sophomore forward Catherine Barry of the South Carolina women’s soccer team experienced this stress when the pandemic forced the college soccer season to be broken up between the spring and fall semesters.
“It’s been kind of a weird, I would say, first year and a half just because I’ve been in season every semester that I’ve been in college so far,” Barry said.
Barry led the team with eight goals across 18 games this season during her team’s run to the Elite Eight while simultaneously continuing her studies as a chemistry major in the South Carolina Honors College. She said academics have always been a priority for her.
“It’s definitely a sacrifice. There’s times where I can’t go hang out with my friends or I have to go to the library late to study,” Barry said.
She hopes to get involved more around campus with her newfound free time this semester.
Finding a balance between athletics and academics has been a learning curve, Barry admits, but she said she makes it work because both are important to her. Catherine also has a built-in support system in Columbia in her sister, Caroline.
“It’s been really cool to have my sister on campus with me,” Catherine said. “I think, if anything, it’s just made us closer.”
Caroline Barry is a senior visual communications student who began interning with the women’s soccer team during summer 2021. She works as an on-field photographer for the team and does graphic design for the team’s Instagram in addition to other part-time visual communications work.
“I’m really, really grateful that we both ended up here, and it’s really nice to have your sister here when you’re coming from as far as Massachusetts,” Caroline said.
The pair’s journey to Columbia began at the same time, despite the two-year age gap between the two. When Catherine was touring colleges between her freshman and sophomore years of high school, the Barry family made a trip out of it and USC won the pair over together, they said.
Directly following the visit, Catherine committed to the Gamecocks and, six months later, Caroline was accepted to the university.
“We joke about it all the time. I’ll tell her, ‘You followed me here,’ and she’ll be like, ‘No, but I was here first,’ so it’s kind of a running joke with us,” Catherine said.
The sisters played soccer together as kids but hadn't shared the field since middle school until Caroline began working with the women’s soccer team.
“It’s just so cool to get to be more closely involved and to get to be involved in Cat’s life in that way and to have that connection, and it’s kind of an atypical way to be involved in the same sports team but not be playing,” Caroline said.
Her sister shares the sentiment.
“It’s been awesome just to have her around at soccer this past semester and being able to see our two worlds sort of, merge — which is not necessarily something that I ever thought we'd get the chance to do,” added Catherine.
Their father, Christopher Barry, said he is proud of both of his daughters’ abilities and is appreciative that their journeys have reunited them after attending separate high schools.
“Cat has been as excited about Caroline’s successes both with her photography and her academics as Caroline has been about Cat’s successes both with soccer and her academics, so it’s been a real support system that's really strengthened and tied together their relationship,” Mr. Barry said.
Each sister keeps a full schedule, and Caroline said that one thing they always have in common is how busy they are. During the fall semester, however, Caroline had a more in-depth look at the extent of time it takes to be associated with the women’s soccer team.
“I feel like I had some understanding of that last year, but I see it even more now how they spend so much time preparing for all of this. I guess as someone who is not a D-1 athlete, it's eye-opening definitely to see how much (work) they truly put in," Caroline said.
While Caroline will graduate in May, Catherine has two years remaining at South Carolina. Catherine said she will continue to strive to grow in the classroom and on the field while taking care of her mental health.
It's about “finding time to kind of put both those things on the back burner and be a human being and remind myself that I’m not 100% defined by my sport or grades,” Catherine said.