Athletes know their hard work pays off in the final moments of the game when last-second plays treat sports fans to a thrilling victory. But when it’s time to crack open the books, the work of student athletes is not as glamorous.
Many students complain about not having enough time to study, but for the University’s about 700 student athletes, time is even more scarce.
Engineering senior and varsity track team member Terrence Rindler said most students do not realize how much time athletes devote to their sport. “I just think about the amount of work I could get done from 3:00 to 7:00 if I wasn’t in practice. Maybe then I wouldn’t be up so late at night.”
Academic aids, such as study table – a time for student athletes to work on homework and receive tutoring – are available to help athletes with their schoolwork. Freshman athletes are required to attend study table for a minimum of six hours each week.
LSA freshman and varsity soccer player Stephanie Boyles said coming to the University was a big adjustment from high school, and being required to attend study table has been very helpful.
Larry Harrison, a kinesiology freshman and football player, said study table is a good place to do schoolwork. Even in the off-season, the team practices about three hours each weekday, he said.
Study table is only one of the ways the athletic program teaches students the importance of academics. LSA junior and varsity swimmer Tim Wera said his coach encourages team members to make schoolwork their top priority. “He understands that we’re here as students first and swimmers second,” he said.
Some students may not think that athletes make academics a priority. “I study a lot,” Harrison said. “Maybe people see us as being nonchalant or not as stressed as everyone else. But school is pretty stressful.”
Men’s tennis head coach Mark Mees said an academic background will be critical for athletes in the future. “We have a real good group of guys who all realize the importance of getting a degree,” Mees said. Although he would like to see his players aim to play tennis professionally, he said, it is very difficult to make it as a professional athlete.
Non-athletes can often push assignments and studying to the weekend – a luxury athletes do not have. Studying, when it takes place, occurs on the road and whenever athletes can fit it in. Rindler said studying on the weekends is difficult when the team is competing out of town. “Not much studying gets done on the road. It’s pretty hard to crack open your books, so everything just gets pushed back to later in the evening.”
When student athletes miss tests due to away games or tournaments, they often can take them on the road under the supervision of their coaches. Kinesiology junior and varsity softball player Amy Prichard said she once took a Physics 140 exam sitting on the floor of a bus and with her coach as a proctor.
Making up tests is not an unfamiliar situation for many student athletes who travel on the weekends. Mees said he works hard to maintain good communication with students’ professors and inform them of conflicts well in advance. “We stress not surprising professors,” he said.
Student athletes are required by the University to maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average and carry a minimum of 12 credit hours. Assuming that on top of this, the average student athlete trains for 15 hours a week during the regular season, the amount of time available for studying is already greatly reduced.
Mees said it is also important to consider physical exhaustion as a factor. Spending several hours a day in practice can tire out athletes even before they tackle studying.
Most student athletes have to schedule classes around practice times, which often means they take an 8 a.m. class rather than the same one at 3 p.m. Mees said he allows players – especially juniors and seniors who have fewer options in their schedules – to let tennis fit into their academic program and not the other way around.
Wera said a typical day consists of morning practice, breakfast, class, lunch, practice, dinner and then homework. “I’ve had this type of schedule since high school,” he said.
But what is normal for an athlete may not be normal for the average student. “I definitely don’t have the college experience,” Wera said, adding that in spite of his schedule, being a student athlete is worth it.
Prichard echoed the same sentiment, saying “We complain about it, but we know we love what we do.”