There is a trend at many universities that shows that, counter to what some may think, student-athletes maintain a higher average GPA than regular students do.
The most important things that seem to facilitate athletes’ high grades are structure, time-management, drive and a very strong support network.
Head coach of baseball at Western, Buzz Verduzco, has witnessed regular students coming into the student-athlete world and explains how the changes in work ethic and time-management manifests in the students.
“Sometimes you will have students who will come in and they are in the library. The first few times, they may not get a whole lot done because they are not used to setting aside time,” Verduzco said. “Then, it just becomes a habit for them that they are there for that reason [studying], and it starts to work its way out where, you know, I’m in the library so I might as well get my work done; then the habit starts to change, and once the habits change, the grades change.”
Missouri Western sophomore, and volleyball player, Sarah Faubel explains how important solid time-management skills are for her.
“Being an athlete, I feel like you have to work on being organized and you have to be prepared in a lot of different aspects,” Faubel said. “Your time management is just…I don’t know how to pin-point it, you just are really focused and you notice your time.”
Athletes work year-round to stay fit and play the best that they can and so the pressure to work hard both in and out of the classroom is pretty steady, even in the off-season.
“For volleyball, we have workouts at 7:30 a.m. until close to 9,” she said. “Then we’ll have individuals [workouts] for right now, but yeah, it seems just as busy.”
Adopting the work ethic that is a must in college-level sports and then applying it to their studies is another possible explanation for athlete’s academic strength.
“Being an athlete, I think that you have to work hard at things in life,” Faubel said. “So I think from there your work-ethic from the court carries into the classroom.”
Missouri Western’s Director of Athletics Kurt McGuffin says that a lot of the sports programs at Western compete for highest over-all GPA that it contributes to the student-athlete’s drive to succeed in academics.
“I think we had a volley ball program that averaged a 3.5, you know, I think that’s pretty good for 14 people,” McGuffin said. “I think we had another program that was right under them that was a 3.48. So there are some battles going on there; we have kind of made it a big thing internally.”
The word “time-management” comes up often when talking about why student-athletes do so well academically.
Verduzco explains why he feels it is a critical skill for students who are in athletics and want to do well in classes.
“If you have solid time-management as a student athlete, I think that you have a better chance of being able to stay organized and busy and on top of things,” he said. “Maybe more so than the common student who sometimes might have a tendency to procrastinate maybe because they have a little more time on their hands.”
Equally as important as management is having a strong network of people around them that can make sure that athletes are living up to their potential and staying on track with their classes and grades.
The coaches at Western work very closely with the athletes, providing them with a lot of chances to study and also providing structure and guidance.
“Well, we have mandatory study tables for the baseball team throughout the course of the fall for sure, anywhere from two to three times a week,” Verduzco said. “The biggest thing that we are concerned with, especially when you might have a student who comes in with poor study habits or study habits that you have to improve, those are the things that we want to be able to change right away.”
Another reason that athletes exceed over non-athletes could be related to scholarships. Even among athlete groups this group of students stands out academically.
Eric Kramer, Western’s NCAA compliance officer, explains how he thinks scholarships may affect athletes who have them, in the classroom.
“As someone who is on scholarship, you feel that, okay, you know the school thinks enough of me not only as an athlete but also as a student,” Kramer said. “To bring me in here, to put me on scholarship, it’s kind of that added level of responsibility that hey, I need to make sure that I am taking care of business in the classroom to show that I deserve to have that scholarship.”