Who says jocks are dumb? At Eastern Michigan University, just like at many universities across the country, student-athletes get a bad reputation for not taking academics seriously. The student athletes at EMU, however, are diminishing that stereotype one grade-point average at a time. What’s the secret? Going to class and using spare time wisely.
EMU’s student athletes have posted their highest overall term GPA during the 2010 winter semester, a 3.066. It’s the highest overall term GPA of the 21 teams in school history. The old record was set in the fall of 2005 when the GPA reached 3.059. For the winter 2010 semester, the women’s golf team recorded the highest team GPA of the entire year with a 3.599, and the baseball team recorded a 3.284 as highest GPA out of the nine men’s teams.
The lady Eagles outsmarted the men by having nine out of the top 10 GPA’s when ranked by team for the year. The top three women’s teams were gymnastics, volleyball and golf. The top three men’s teams were baseball, cross country and golf.
Kendall Lewis, first-team All-Mid American Conference pitcher said: “You have to set time aside every day for school. I spend a lot of time in the library after practice.”
Lewis said when he needs to miss a practice, his coaches understand studies come first and will allow him to leave for an important assignment or test.
Baseball coach Jay Alexander said he monitors his players’ grades and assesses any dangers that might arise. He said his players don’t take advantage of the limits they are given for their academics. He also encourages them to come to his office to talk if there are any problems.
“We constantly pound academics,” Alexander said. “It’s emphasized tremendously. We try to get our players to succeed.”
Alexander makes sure his players know the importance of a backup plan.
“We look at every situation and do what’s best for the kids, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “We might be a little overactive.”
According to Peter Linn, coach of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, the first three rules for becoming a successful student athlete are: go to class, go to class and go to class, “in all seriousness.”
“We don’t miss a lot of class but when we do we get excellent cooperation from the professors and the departments,” Linn said.
He said his teams do a good job of watching out for each other. The upper class keeps a good watch over the under class.
Sarah Kowalski, a third-year swimmer, said athletes get a poor reputation for being slackers in the classroom.
“To do well academically is a way to show other students we are more than just athletes — we are also good students,” Kowalski said. “Making time to study after class and practice is really difficult, but it’s just about prioritizing and giving up certain things, like going out with friends.”
Nick Carbary, academic All-American and junior on the golf team, offers some advice for underclassmen.
“Going to class is the main thing,” Carbary said. “It’s so easy to miss one class, go to every class and you are ahead. If you do that it is hard to fail. Grades are always important, make them a priority.”
Success for student athletes comes down to two basic principles — going to class and making good use of free time.
And as Sarah Kowalski is constantly reminded by her coaches – “We are student athletes, students first, athletes second.”