Lydia Bell’s parents gave their daughter an ultimatum.
If she wanted to own a horse, Bell would have to take care of the horse herself and work on the family’s ranch. With a passion for horses, Bell chose to work for her family, take care of horses and instead of spending time at public schools, enter an homeschooling environment.
Now a freshman equestrian rider at OSU, Bell adjusts from homeschool to becoming a college student-athlete — an easier transition than it seemed.
“Homeschooling really prepared me to come to college and manage my own schedule,” Bell said. “Before coming to college I had multiple jobs and helped my family run a ranch, so it was a lot of moving things around. It helped me in the long haul.”
A major reason Bell did not have a difficult transition to student-athlete was because she did not experience the traditional homeschooling process. Throughout high school, Bell joined the Central Oklahoma Association of Christian Homeschoolers (COACH), a place where tutors taught once a week, then students worked at their own pace.
Bell’s original plan was to attend a community college, but after the opportunity arose to join OSU’s equestrian team, she quickly changed her mind. There was only one issue — the NCAA.
“The hardest thing was getting the courses I took approved by the NCAA,” Bell said. “Not many people had transitioned from homeschool. They just wanted to make sure that you actually did your classes. I actually took really hard classes.”
Bell’s upbringing taught her independence and time-management, useful skills for a student-athlete, who must balance practice, competitions, classwork and a social life.
The change of scenery is not a lone encounter for Bell, as fellow OSU equestrian freshman Lauren Pursley is also from a homeschooling environment. For Pursley, the switch is almost not even a difference.
“It hasn’t been as difficult as you would imagine,” Pursley said. “I was homeschooled so I would have more time to ride horses. Now that I’m a member of the equestrian team, all I do is school and ride horses.”
Pursley was not always homeschooled, but when her family moved and she changed school districts, she decided to focus on primarily riding horses and alter her academics to online.
One aspect of college life Pursley did not consider before becoming a student athlete was group projects, but being a part of a team helped the unforeseen predicament.
“It’s all about teamwork and picking up others’ slack,” Pursley said.
The athlete side of student-athlete came easier than being a student for both. Bell connected with other members of the equestrian team at the National Reining Horse Association prior to her attendance at OSU, and Pursley met fellow freshman Peyton Baxter with team USA’s American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup organization.
“There’s a large equestrian community,” Pursley said. “So I knew a lot of these girls before I came to OSU. It made the transition easier since I wasn’t a complete stranger.”
Despite their unique backgrounds as student-athletes, Bell and Pursley don’t think homeschool affected their ability to be successful. In fact, both are thankful for the way they approached managing school and horses.
“I love talking about stuff I’m passionate about,” Bell said. “I love hanging out with friends and just being social. Homeschooling didn’t change me in any way."
“It was easier than public school,” Pursley said.