Finding the balance between academics and athletics

By Paige Falk

Finding a healthy balance of the student athlete life can be difficult in college, especially when bringing traveling into the mix.

The University of Findlay graduation rate of student athletes indicates a successful pattern and healthy balance between athletics and academics.

Kyle Niermann Assistant Athletic Director for External Affairs at UF points to the most recent report from the NCAA on graduation rates and academic success rates.

“As the report shows, our athletes in that (2015-16) cohort graduated at a rate of 76%, 13% higher than Findlay’s regular student population,” Niermann said in an email.

“They all have mandatory study tables of some kind but it varies between the sports as to required time, who has to attend, what the criteria are for being able to not do study tables anymore, etc,” Niermann said.

However, it can still be a challenge for UF’s 757 student athletes to excel in both athletics and academics.

Angela Ramsey, is a junior animal science major at UF and lacrosse player.

“You’re a student first, your GPA is priority,” Ramsey said. “If you don’t have good grades, you literally can’t play on the field”.

Athletic trips can range from a quick day trip, up to a week. Staying on top of schoolwork while traveling on these trips can be difficult. From taking quizzes on bus rides, to missing classes and information, student-athletes face all sorts of challenge.

Nick McCracken, a junior Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability Major plays soccer at UF and says away trips definitely make it a bit more difficult staying on top of school.

“Whether that means bringing all my homework to the hotel, on the bus, or grinding it all out before the trip,” McCracken said. “It really is a full-time job being a student athlete”.

And timing is everything.

“Another struggle is when I have exams due while I’m away on a trip,” McCracken said. “I have to complete them earlier than needed which can put me at a disadvantage for studying time”.

Liz Sabel, Associate Vice President for Student Success, works at the Oiler Success Center. She states that Starfish, the student support software used by the University, is used by faculty and notifies coaches when a student is slipping behind in classes to help hold them accountable.

“Students can also meet with faculty academic coaches weekly to discuss their academia which is really helpful for athletes who travel to have an accountability partner,” Sabel said.

Ramsey said her coach always says being a student comes first, then comes being an athlete.

“Even when class conflicts with practice time, going to class always takes precedence” Ramsey said.

Ramsey, who averages a 3.96 GPA, states that it is difficult to find the balance between athletics and academics, but it is possible, if you’re proactive.

“I try to get ahead of it as much as possible,” Ramsey said. “Not just the day before but three to four days before. If it’s smaller stuff I know I can do it on the trip, but if it’s bigger stuff like projects or exams, I have to think about what I’m going to bring with me to work on it, and make sure I can accomplish it on time”.

Ramsey also says that it’s important to have good communication with your professors.

“Even if it’s the beginning of the semester, talk to your professor and tell them that you’re an athlete,” Ramsey said. “Let them know that you might have a few weeks that are crunched”.

This way, if a problem were to occur they might be more understanding of it.

“It’s better to communicate ahead of time rather than under communicate,” Ramsey said.

Sabel also says to look ahead at what is coming up in classes.

“Not even just on canvas, but talk to your professors, let them know your schedule and ask what assignments or lectures you may be missing.”

McCracken also says that being organized really helps.

“Set time aside before your trip to finish as many assignments before they’re due. I always have a to-do list,” McCracken said. “Having the dates of your games, and the due dates of your homework and tests really helps me.”