UMW News BureauThe secret to success for student athletes competing on the collegiate level is learning to juggle academics and athletics. For University of Montana Western senior basketball guard Kristen Luedtke, her juggling act is quite a bit more complicated. By Wally Feldt [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="154" caption="Kristen Luedtke and her son Hudson."][/caption] The secret to success for student athletes competing on the collegiate level is learning to juggle academics and athletics. For University of Montana Western senior basketball guard Kristen Luedtke, her juggling act is quite a bit more complicated. In addition to school work and basketball, Luedtke and her husband Matt Luedtke are the parents of two toddlers, Maddie, age 4 and Hudson, age 3. Matt is a 2008 graduate of Montana Western and an assistant coach for the Bulldog men’s basketball team. Together, the young parents balance a daily schedule that would make most people dizzy. Kristen’s list of responsibilities includes practices, film sessions, weight training, class and homework, which is not to mention the constant demands of caring for two young children. “The question everyone asks is ‘How do you do it?’” Luedtke says with a smile. “It is kind of a juggling act and can be crazy. I think when we are both done and life slows down a bit, we’ll look back and say ‘Whoa, look what we did.’ But now, it just seems easy and normal for us.” Luedtke is also quick to point out the support and help that she and Matt receive from their parents and “Western” family is a key ingredient. Luedtke, a Montana native, was an all-state performer in both basketball and volleyball at Butte High School. She began her college career at Miles Community College in Miles City, Mont. where she earned all-conference honors. She soon met Matt, and before long the two married, had their two children and Luedtke’s college career seemed over. It was nearly four years before Luedtke returned to the court after a prompting from Montana Western’s former women’s coach Kevin Engellant. Matt had finished his playing career at Montana Western and after a couple of years of professional basketball in the Continental Basketball League he was back in Dillon, Mont. completing his degree and coaching the Bulldog junior varsity team. He joined Steve Keller’s staff for the 2006-07 season. Kristen says the encouragement and support her husband and Engellant provided allowed her to once again pursue her love of basketball. “It was always in the back of my head to finish my career,” Luedtke explains. “I knew I had two years of eligibility left. I knew if I didn’t I would have that regret, but my kids come first. I curbed by basketball feelings by playing city league with other moms who had played college basketball. But the coaches kept asking me to go out. I just didn’t know if I wanted to. I had never been away from my kids, ever...A year went by and I didn’t play. Kevin asked again at the start of last season and I said no again. Then, in November, I decided to play and went and talked to Kevin again.” Luedtke began on the women’s junior varsity team and by the time the Frontier Conference season began, she moved to the varsity roster. “I talked to Kevin about just practicing so I could get back into shape,” Luedtke adds. “He said I could take my time and get comfortable and maybe be ready to play with the varsity by conference. It was important for me to earn my spot on the varsity team.” Last year, Luedtke played in 14 games and averaged nearly three points per game. This season, she is now a starter and is averaging eight points and five rebounds per game. Current women’s varsity coach Cara Cocchiarella is happy that Luedtke is a member of the team. “The best thing Kristen brings to our program — and on a daily basis — is a very competitive spirit and intensity on every play,” Cocchiarella says. “Just through her effort alone, she makes us a better team.” Academically, Luedtke is majoring in social studies with a related area of psychology. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she wants to be an addiction counselor specializing in treatment. “I have always been interested in psychology but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it,” Luedtke says. “My mom is an addiction counselor and tells me about her job and it is so interesting to me.” [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="The Luedtkes. From left, Maddie, Matt, Kristen and Hudson."][/caption] As a mom herself, Luedtke is her own role model for Maddie and Hudson. She is also a source of inspiration for her husband Matt, her biggest fan, supporter and ally. “I can’t say enough about her as a mother and a wife,” he said. “She is everything and more to me and the kids.” A typical day in the Luedtke house may sound complicated and busy to an outsider, but to them, it’s just another day. The day starts early at the Luedtke house. After breakfast, Matt goes to work while Kristen plays with the children. When Maddie and Hudson are occupied with activities, Kristen works on her homework. She then helps the children with their own education counting, writing and other learning activities. Lunch is followed by practice for Kristen. After practice, dinner is followed by baths for the kids, reading and finally sleep for the busy family. The day doesn’t leave much time for reflection, but the young mother, wife and student athlete says forward momentum is the key to her and her family’s success. “Busy yes, hectic yes, but we don’t think about it," Luedtke says. "We just do it."
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