Being a high school student-athlete is hard. Being a college student-athlete is harder. Being a college student-athlete and a mother – mind-boggling.
Last fall, Aleena Hammelman was supposed to be a freshman on the Sauk Valley Community College women's basketball team.
Then, quite literally, life happened. Hammelman got pregnant. Her son, Carter, was born April 29 this year.
Would college have to be put on hold? What about her athletic career?
"There was no question I was coming back," said Hammelman, who scored 10 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, dished out six assists, and grabbed three steals in the Skyhawks' 72-53 season-opening win Monday over Lincoln.
"I don't know how she does it, being a mom and going to school," her teammate Jordan Giddings marveled.
Obviously, Hammelman's body changed, at least for a while.
"I gained 50 pounds," she said.
Hammelman, a 2012 Sterling High School graduate and the 2012 SVM girls basketball player of the year, rebounded quickly, getting back into shape as soon as it was possible. The weight was not a long-term issue.
"The first few weeks were kind of hard," she said. "After that, it kind of fell off with breastfeeding. Then, I got right back into basketball."
Hammelman returned to the court 6 weeks after delivery.
"Coach [Jed Johnson] told me to take it easy, but I didn't think I was that out of shape," she said. "I was like, 'Man, I thought I'd be a lot worse,' but it definitely took some time."
Johnson was amazed how quickly Hammelman returned.
"When she came in, she was in wonderful shape," he said. "There were no worries that way at all. She was ready to go Day 1."
Life as a student-athlete and mother has been anything but easy.
"It is very difficult. It's hard to juggle everything at once," Hammelman said. "I get a lot of support from my family and my boyfriend. It's a lot easier with support, but it's definitely hard sometimes, like getting enough sleep. But, I like it. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Giddings, a Rock Falls grad, and Hammelman are two of the seven locals on the roster. The lone returning local player is sophomore Rebecca Hendley of Dixon.
The other four Sauk Valley area freshmen include Newman grad Jaimie Hurd, Rock Falls grad Aubree Johnson, AFC grad Sarah Matson, and Amboy grad Autumn Smith.
"I'm excited about how much local talent we've got," coach Johnson said. "I've been trying to build this program for 4 years now and get local talent out here. This is a big year for us, because we've got a bunch of it."
Not on the roster is freshman Rock Falls grad Morgan Mammosser, who has decided to focus on volleyball.
Johnson is assisted by former Newman and Western Illinois University star Michele Salvatori.