For the average student-athlete, balancing sports and classroom work can be a chore in itself.


For the average student-athlete, balancing sports and classroom work can be a chore in itself.

For Bethel College junior basketball player Chelsea Harris, the time balance is made even harder by adding motherhood.

Harris has a son, Braxton.

“It’s been kind of tough for me,” Harris said. “My dad and my mom take care of him when I’m at school or playing basketball. I get to see him a couple of hours each day. That’s where I’m kind of lucky to have the help I have. That allows me to take care of my school work. I get him on the weekends.”

Harris transferred to Bethel after two years at Fort Hays State. She played just her freshman year for the Tigers.

“It’s cool,” Harris said. “Bethel is small. Everybody knows everybody. Nothing gets past anyone. I like the teacher-student ratio. I like how they are willing to help each student and make sure you get the help you need. It’s definitely a change from Fort Hays State.”

She continued her classes during her pregnancy, which kept her on track academically.

“It allowed me to concentrate on classes,” she said. “I didn’t have Braxton until June. I continued to work out. I’m a very active person.”

Harris said she made the move to Bethel be closer to home.

“(The team) is fun,” Harris said. “They are an interesting group of people. There are some loud ones and some real quiet ones. We’re all honest with each other. There isn’t any tension between any of us. We work together well.”

Harris lettered at Fort Hays State in the 2007-08 season. At Bethel, she has averaged 12.09 points, 7.64 rebounds, 2.55 assists and 3.09 steals a game. She leads Bethel in scoring, rebounding and steals. She is ranked 12th in the NAIA Division II in steals per game and 23rd in offensive rebounds. She is second in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference in steals.

“I want to help the team get better,” Harris said. “I want to be more of a leader. At first, I was a newcomer. You can’t just come on the court and be a leader. They have to respect you. ... For a while, I worried that put more points on the board. In high school, I never worried about putting points on the board. We had people who took care of scoring. That’s another thing I like about this team, we have people who can put points on the board. I’d like to get more in that defensive frame of mind. I don’t ever remember of being a stealer.”

Bethel has had an up-and-down season. The Threshers are 5-6. Bethel had two three-game losing streaks that sandwiched a three-game winning streak. Two of the losses came to NAIA Division II top 25 teams. One of the losses came to an NAIA Division I team in Benedictine, which received top 25 votes.

“We are still trying to figure everybody out,” Harris said. “We can be an awesome team. We can come out and play awesome in the first half, and come out and be terrible in the first half and awesome in the second half. If we would play the same way the whole game, we’d be winning games.”

The team is currently on break, just resuming practice. The team returns to play Jan. 5 at home against Friends.

Harris said she misses the atmosphere of Fort Hays State basketball, which has become a power in NCAA Division II women’s basketball.

“There you were treated as a true freshman,” she said. “You were to respect your older teammates. You were to be the ball person, do the laundry or pick up after them. Here, we don’t have that because we’re so young. The coliseum is amazing there. That is one thing I truly miss.”

She got to return to Bush-Gross Memorial Coliseum earlier this season in an exhibition game the Tigers won 95-61. Harris scored eight points with three rebounds and three steals against her former teammates.

“It was nerve wracking,” Harris said. “I remember at the beginning of the season thinking, there’s no way I can play there. Once I got there, that was the most comfortable I’ve been all season. There’s something about that court. I remember loving it. I didn’t have the greatest luck. I had foul trouble, and I usually don’t foul ever. I wanted to prove I could do it.”

At that game, Harris got to guard another Newton High grad — Kate Lehman. Harris gave up nine inches to the freshman Tiger post.

“That was an experience,” Harris said. “I’ve gotten put on big posts before, but she’s a head-and-a-half ahead of me. She has the potential to be a great player for them. She’s just a freshman. When she gets stronger, she’s going to dominate. I didn’t want to go at her. She’d probable stuff the heck out of me. I didn’t realize how big she was until I stood next to her.”

After Harris left the Fort Hays team, she continued to work out, but said the transition back to college basketball has still been difficult.

“I continued to work out and lift,” Harris said. “I had no intention of playing until this summer. Two weeks before school started, I ran into (assistant coach) Brian Huxman at the nail salon. He was getting something for his wife. I told him, ‘I really wanted to play again.’ ... The only thing holding me back was finding a major and getting classes to transfer. Then I met with (head coach Mark Fox) and said ‘I can’t guarantee that I’ll be in great shape, but I’m willing to try it.

“I remember the first workout. I was close to (throwing up). I have never reacted to a workout that way. He about killed me. I’m shocked at how well I’ve gotten back into it. I’m still not at 100 percent. It’s getting there. I hope to play next year, taking the summer to get into the shape I want to be in. ... I’m not old. I just turned 24. I’m more sore. It’s tough getting used to that again.”

Harris was a member of Newton High School’s 2006 state championship team.

“That’s still kind of exciting,” she said. “I still have the medal that hangs in my room. That and our team picture. It’s still fun to be a part of the first team to win it at Newton. It’s awesome to see (the sign) in the gym. It’s really cool.”

Harris still keeps in touch with teammates, especially former BC player Amanda Hiebert.

“She was my best friend,” Harris said. “She always will be.”

Harris is a nursing major at Bethel. She said she’s not quite sure what area she wants to practice in after graduation.

“I don’t do blood, and I don’t do ‘oozy’ stuff,” Harris said. “I talked to my mom, and she said there are a lot of things you can do with a nursing degree. I needed to choose a major. My whole family is in the medical field.”

She said when not in school or basketball, she enjoys country dancing.

“I really enjoy dancing, two-stepping,” she said. “I also do horseback riding. If I need to get away, I saddle up a horse and take a nice, long ride. I spend time with Braxton. It brings out the child side of me.”