Being a student-athlete in the NCAA has its perks. You get to travel to a different state every weekend competing in the sport you love. You get treated like a professional athlete, with free access to training rooms, weight rooms, and doctors. You also get decked out in the latest athletic training gear every season from your university sponsors. One aspect that does not make this experience a vacation is the academic requirements of being a student-athlete.
Being a student-athlete requires you not only perform well on the field, but also in the classroom. This is daunting for some student-athletes who may underestimate the hard work needed to consistently perform well in both sport and school. It is no secret that the first year of higher education is the most difficult adjustment period for most freshman students who may not be ready for the academic workload that awaits them. For student-athletes adding the athletic requirements and social events to this academic workload may be too much to handle.
One skill I needed to develop very quickly if I was going to make it in the NCAA as a student-athlete was being able to study on the road while traveling to sporting events. Competing in cross-country and track and field almost every weekend, I was required to either fly to meets as far away as Florida or California (from Oklahoma), or spend 8-10 hours driving on a bus to meets. At the time, the University of Tulsa required all its student-athletes to achieve at least a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA) to be athletically eligible to compete in the NCAA for the institution. Keeping grades high was just as important as performing well on the field. If you could not keep your grades above a 2.0 GPA, you were deemed athletically ineligible and could not compete. You ran the risk of losing your scholarship, which was a frightening thought. At the University of Tulsa, to help student-athletes from becoming ineligible, those earning a GPA below a 2.3 were required to attend study hall sessions. These sessions lasted for 1 hour 2-3 times a week. During study hall, you would be assigned an academic advisor who would oversee and monitor your grades offering tips to help you raise your marks. Not all universities apply the same strategy to aid their student-athletes. At the University of Tulsa, this is how it was assured their athletes were performing well in the classroom and on the playing field, while staying academically eligible.
As a student-athlete already in a crunch to find enough hours in a day to get all that was required done, it made the most sense to keep the grades high and avoid any extra study sessions. As a result, it is in your best interest while traveling to competitions to study for upcoming exams, complete weekly school projects, and review coursework for the coming week. Learning to focus in airports, at track meets, and on buses became one of my most valued skills throughout my four years as a student-athlete. It also kept me eligible to keep competing in the NCAA during my time as a student-athlete.
In my next blog post, I will write more about my athletic-academic journey and how in five easy steps you can become a faster runner as I continue my series – An Athletically Inspired Educational Journey.