Books and balls. Student-athletes may want to slam both down the stretch, trying their hardest until the final sounds.
This is life for NCAA student-athletes. With the demands of practice, travel and games, time is at a premium and can easily jeopardize a student-athlete’s ability to succeed in the classroom.
Temple has avoided many of the problems
often associated with student-athletes, namely finding a successful balance between athletics and academics. Atlantic Ten Conference Commissioner Linda Bruno recently honored 69 Temple athletes for posting a grade point average of 3.5 or higher.
Earning good grades is not an easy task for most students, and Temple athletes understand that finding the time for their daily requirements can be a struggle.
“The biggest thing for me is getting down time,” said Mary Catherine Kinneman, a junior field hockey player. After a day of classes, practice, gym time and work at a part-time job, Kinneman cools down with a stack of homework. In order to ensure productivity with her schoolwork, Kinneman attempts to stay free of distractions.
“I try to make sure my room is a place where I can study,” the business major said.For some, the pressure of maintaining their grades is a motivation in itself.
“I like to have a busy schedule to keep me structured,” said Liz Watto, a member of the field hockey team. “I know I have limited time, so for me it’s all about organization.”
Athletes usually find their most difficult contests on the road, but traveling also poses a challenge to student-athletes who are forced to miss class time. Temple’s “Student-Athlete Handbook” requires athletes to provide their professors with a team-travel schedule at the beginning of each semester.
Sociology professor Mary Stricker said students are generally good at giving this information, but receives forms less often because she doesn’t take attendance. Still, she has not found that athletes’ travel requirements get in the way of academic performance.
“If anything, athletes are more likely to seek help than regular students,” Stricker said.
Watto said her experience with traveling has been positive.
“Most teachers are pretty flexible with things,” the junior elementary education major said. “I try to get stuff done before we go on the road.”
The academic picture for Temple athletics
has not always been so sunny. In 2005, seven players on the football team were declared academically ineligible, calling into question the team’s work ethic under
former coach Bobby Wallace.
First-year coach Al Golden’s first initiatives was to address and bolster the team’s all-around academic performance. In May 2006, Golden hired Jaison Freeman as the team’s personal academic coordinator.
Since then, Freeman says he has extensive
contact with the team members and is available to them every day.
Freeman said structure has been an important aspect of keeping the team grades high.
“We have their days scheduled out for them, and we try to get them as much help as possible,” he said.
Practice times, class sessions, tutoring and even meal times are scheduled for players.
Junior football player and journalism major
Travis Manger said the team’s attitude toward academics has completely changed with Golden’s “books-and-ball” philosophy.
“He put the onus on us to get our academics
in order,” Manger said. He said that, during his sophomore year, some of the older players would boast that they had not attended class in weeks. He said that the team’s mentality has changed under the new coaching staff.
During last year’s second summer session,
Freeman said the team GPA was over 3.0, representing what Golden and Freeman have brought to the program. “Over the summer, guys were literally sleeping in the football complex,” Manger said of days filled with both game preparation and schoolwork.
Stricker said a support network, like the system in place for athletes, might benefit all students.
“Most students’ lives are chaotic and are filled with obligations and responsibilities not related to coursework,” she said. “It would be nice for all students to get the same support.”
Kinneman agreed that most students face challenges in their academic pursuits. “The time it takes to be an athlete is not a lot different from people with a full-time job,” she said.
Manger had a similar view, but noted that “the only real difference is that they get paid.”
Jordan Steelman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.