Student-Athlete: Balancing books with sports
Part Two: Coaching prioritize, monitor grades to ensure success
December 5, 2017
When looking for student-athletes during the recruiting process, coaches also have to be mindful of the past academic success of the potential recruit.
At Point Park, the criteria to play a sport include maintaining at least a 2.0 grade point average, participating in the team and school’s mandatory study hours and subjecting academic progress to being monitored throughout their time as a student-athlete.
“We focus on the academics,” athletic director Dan Swalga said. “We emphasize it, we watch it, we monitor it and 97 percent of the athletes embrace what we say.”
As the ones in charge of tracking the academic progress of those student-athletes, administrators such as coaches and the athletic director have a unique perspective on what it is like for students to balance their schedules between academics and athletics.
“I’m very fortunate that I am surrounded by great young ladies,” women’s soccer head coach Maggie Kuhn said. “They work hard on the field and that definitely carries over into the classroom and into their extracurriculars as well.”
Several student-athletes are also actively involved on campus outside of athletics. Junior Kaitlyn Smith is a member of the women’s basketball team and also serves as the executive director of the Campus Activities Board (CAB).
“She fits that mold of having a great work ethic,” women’s basketball head coach Tony Grenek said. “Someday, she is going to be successful doing something that she loves because she has a passion for it. You can see it just by watching her from a coach’s perspective that she has it all figured out.”
There are also stories of unsuccessful academic years plaguing teams’ seasons throughout Point Park’s history. The most recent example came last year with the men’s basketball team.
The team started off conference play with two wins, but soon lost a few players, including its top scorer at the time, to academic suspension.
The games that followed the losses of those players resulted in an 8-20 overall record at the end of the season with a record of 5-12 in conference play.
“The emphasis that we place is that they are first a student and second an athlete,” Swalga said. “Ultimately, they are here to get a degree. The most important thing that they are doing here is their academics.
To prevent a similar situation, some coaches have individual academic plans that pertain to their team specifically that they implement in addition to the school’s rules.
These plans are usually a little stricter than the school’s rules to ensure no serious measures have to be taken if a student’s grades happen to fall.
Kuhn is one of those coaches.
“Their grades are extremely important to me,” Kuhn said. “I want them to leave Point Park with high expectations of themselves so they can carry that into getting a job. We have mandatory study hours, and I do weekly grade checks for anyone whose grade point average is below a 3.0.”
Other stipulations include check-ins with professors if an athlete has missed a lot of classes or their grade has dropped significantly, midterm grade reports and missing games or practices for class if an athlete’s grade has suffered because of their commitment to the sport.
Grenek takes precautionary measures when recruiting to guarantee that his athletes will be successful both on and off the court when they reach the collegiate level.
“I try to recruit players that I know will get it done in college,” Grenek said. “It all starts with the recruiting aspect. I’m very lucky to find and work with mature young women who want to be successful.”
From recruitment to graduation, academic success is monitored and encouraged every step of the way.
Ultimately, the way that the athletic administration at Point Park implements academic tools for the athletes to utilize helps them have an easier time balancing all aspects of their collegiate career.
“The habits and expectations that we place within our athletic program really does help them,” Kuhn said. “The structure that playing a collegiate sport provides definitely helps with time management and multitasking. Overall, it just really helps them become a better professional and I think that is something that gets overlooked a lot when talking about collegiate athletes.”
This is the second and final installment of a two-part series on the academics of student-athletes.