Athletes juggle academics and athletics
Sam Tapper – Sports Writer
It is commonly said at colleges and universities across the country that student-athletes are students first, yet their athletics are so closely documented and almost no attention is paid to their efforts day-in and day-out in the classroom.
When the lights on the field or on the court are turned off, studentathletes revert back to their role as students, going to class each day and working the rigorous academic grind thousands of other students do each day—only, for the athletes, it is crucial that they are on top of everything they are assigned.
“It’s really about time management,” said men’s basketball forward Greg Jones, a junior. “With basketball, it’s definitely a lot harder than just going to class and being a regular student, but all my life I’ve just been more into books than ball so that helps me now.”
Jones is an athlete who is very outgoing when demonstrating his commitment in the classroom. Aside from being praised by his coaches for being a good student, Jones consistently says that for him, it is “Straight A season,” embracing his role as a student-athlete and being more than just a basketball player.
“As student-athletes, we’ve got two jobs: books, then your ball,” Jones said. “If it’s got to get done, it’s got to get done.”
Though not all athletes are as emphatic about their work in the classroom as Jones is, understanding priorities is something athletes of any sport need to adjust to in order to maintain success, as success in a sport cannot come without quality production in class.
For Owls’ softball infielder Sara Buscetto, a senior, the adjustment she was forced to make with balancing academics and sports coming out of high school was a serious one, as she had to account for travel and long road trips, something not many athletes have in high school.
“It’s a lot, when I first got here, I really didn’t realize how much exactly it was going to be,” Buscetto said. “But it’s a big commitment and it’s not easy. We have away games and we’re on the bus for a couple hours, and we’re doing homework on our laptops off the bus WiFi. So, it was challenging but you do get used to it and I think the Athletic Department and just Southern in general do a great job of trying to accommodate us.”
Though the 16-week grind of a college semester does not let up until it is over, Buscetto said that eventually it became less of an adjustment to balance school with softball at this level and it became more of a routine.
“I don’t really think that I noticed when it became routine. I think I kind of just eased my way into it,” Buscetto said. “But I would say my junior year [I got used to it]. Freshman and sophomore year were tough. I wasn’t even in my major classes until last year, but by that point I learned how to handle everything and my time management skills got better.”
One of the things other students may not realize is that student-athletes are forced to sometimes miss class. Though their class schedule is built around the training and practice regiment and home games are in the evenings on weekdays, athletes do have to miss class due to travel, as Buscetto said. In the NE10, Southern is just one of two schools located in Connecticut, three if you count Post University, which is only an affiliate in select sports.
Based on the layout and geography of the conference, every road game is a multi-hour road trip during the day.
Because of this, student-athletes must coordinate with their professors, so they are not penalized for absences while also figuring out other avenues of learning the material while not in class.
Though this can be tough, for the most part, athletes at Southern find that professors are helpful through that process.
“Usually in my freshman and sophomore years I had teachers who didn’t really understand the baseball — or any sport — schedule,” said baseball catcher Mike DiMartino, a senior. “They didn’t really mind. They adapted pretty quickly to it. If I had to miss a class or if I really needed extra time to get homework in, they would be very understanding about it.”
The experience can vary slightly, as winter sports like basketball take up a lot of winter break whereas baseball and softball occupy almost the entirety of the spring semester. Though no two athletes will have the same exact experience, the advice for all collegiate student athletes from women’s basketball guard Alexa Kellner is, “Do not procrastinate.”
“It’s really finding that gap of time to be able to do work. You’ve kind of got to make it for yourself,” Kellner, a freshman, said. “You’ve got to get into a routine. If practice ends at this time and I have class at this time, this is the time I really need to make sure I get all my work done.”
Photo Credit: http://www.southernctowls.com