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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A juggling act: Athletes and Academics

    UA womens basketball player Joy Hollingsworth poses with her book at practice Feb. 6 in McKale Center. Like all UA athletes, Hollingsworth must juggle a schedule that includes academics and athletics.
    UA women’s basketball player Joy Hollingsworth poses with her book at practice Feb. 6 in McKale Center. Like all UA athletes, Hollingsworth must juggle a schedule that includes academics and athletics.

    It’s midnight, they’re 35,000 feet in the air, and only a few lights shine overhead throughout the plane. They’ve got a laptop or maybe a book in their laps. Some are studying for a test that they have to take in eight hours.

    They are NCAA Division I athletes headed home from a road trip.

    This is a common scene of traveling for competition, said Arizona soccer player Analisa Marquez.

    “”You have to get your work done whenever you can,”” said Marquez, a freshman. “”We spent a lot of time on the plane and in the airport doing homework. There was definitely a lack of sleep during the season.””

    But it’s not just the soccer team. It could be any team of Division I players trying to catch up on schoolwork any time they can, all while the general public labels athletes as pampered stars who have it easy.

    If they only knew.

    “”As much as you tell yourself you’re going to board yourself up in your hotel room and do a bunch of homework, it’s not really going to happen.””
    – Brad Mills, senior pitcher

    “”It’s pretty tough as far as meeting the criteria the teacher wants, getting your assignment turned in on time,”” said Fendi Onobun, a forward on the Arizona men’s basketball team. “”If you have to leave for road games, most teachers will want it before other students have to turn it in because you can’t turn it in when it’s due. It kind of puts a barrier on us and makes us work a lot harder.””

    While missing two to three days of class per road trip, there’s only so much time to get work done.

    The teams have practice while away, they have to watch game films, and of course – the whole reason why they travel – they compete against other schools.

    “”There’s not a lot of time to do the work when you’re away,”” said Onobun, a sophomore. “”It’s really tough to be a student-athlete.””

    Each team takes an academic adviser along on road trips to help the student-athletes with schoolwork.

    Although study halls on the road are optional for some Arizona teams and mandatory for others, several measures have been taken to make sure that the athletes stay on top of their academics and maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average.

    “”On the road sometimes we’ll have study hall in our rooms,”” said women’s basketball player Joy Hollingsworth. “”They’ll make us leave the latched doors open, and they’ll come and check on us. Sometimes they’ll rent out rooms for us in hotels.””

    The women’s basketball team will sometimes hold study hall sessions on the plane or bus, said Hollingsworth, a redshirt senior.

    “”I was sitting in the back of the bus one time, and I was holding the book upside down, and I fell asleep,”” she said with a laugh. “”They came back to check on me, and I was like, ‘Look, I got my book,’ and it was upside down.””

    You can’t expect to get all of your homework done on the road, baseball’s Brad Mills said.

    “”As much as you tell yourself you’re going to board yourself up in your hotel room and do a bunch of homework, it’s not really going to happen,”” said Mills, a civil engineering senior. “”You can read at night, you can write some stuff up, but as far as diving into heavy stuff, it’s not the best timing because you’re with the team and friends and stuff.””

    Card games, DVD players and iPods are easier to cope with than homework on the road sometimes, Mills said.

    Most athletes tend to befriend classmates to help them out when they are away. They rely on these buddies to lend them lecture notes if the professors do not post them on Arizona’s Desire 2 Learn Web site.

    Buddies can’t help with missed tests, though.

    Hollingsworth had to have a Spanish final proctored on the road once. Mills has had a couple of his finals re-weighted to amount to half of his final grade. The test-retaking process is all based on student-professor agreement.

    The C.A.T.S program

    The Commitment to an Athlete’s Total Success program is designed to aid the athletes with their scholastic responsibilities.

    The C.A.T.S program contains a writing center, computer lab and tutors. It is geared toward helping athletes with time management and organizational skills, as well as general skills to succeed in the classroom.

    “”We try to encourage athletes to do their best,”” said Michelle Garfunkle, a tutor of Spanish, biology and chemistry. “”We want to be there for them to increase their confidence in school … and to learn to like school as a whole.””

    While in Tucson, each Wildcat athlete is required to spend a certain amount of time per week in the C.A.T.S. study hall in McKale Center based on his or her GPA the previous semester. The higher the athlete’s GPA, the less amount of time he or she must spend in the study hall that week. Freshmen must dedicate eight to 10 hours per week, depending on each sport’s policies.

    “”We sit down and tell them our grades in all of our classes, all of our assignments and give them a copy of all our syllabi. It’s really pressuring because if you get a bad grade, your coach is going to look at you like, ‘What happened?””
    – – Joy Hollingsworth,
    redshirt senior guard

    Still, it is not uncommon to see athletes with higher GPAs spending more time than mandatory in study halls. For some, it is the only place to get work done.

    “”I got a pretty decent GPA, so I’m only required to have two hours of study hall,”” Onobun said. “”But I use it a lot because they got tutors, people that can help you with assignments. I spend about six to eight hours a week there just to get work done. I won’t do work at home.””

    Onobun is just one of the “”familiar faces of dedicated student-athletes”” that Garfunkle and other tutors see.

    Once a week, each athlete has an academic meeting with his or her coaches.

    “”We sit down and tell them our grades in all of our classes, all of our assignments and give them a copy of all our syllabi,”” Hollingsworth said. “”It’s really pressuring because if you get a bad grade, your coach is going to look at you like, ‘What happened?'””

    Working around the athletic schedule

    Athletes receive priority registration so that their classes do not conflict with practices and they can minimize missed class time due to travel commitments.

    “”All of the classes are pretty much open when athletes sign up no matter what year you are or what your major is,”” Mills said.

    They must be registered as full-time students unless they are in their final semester or quarter and are taking the courses needed to graduate.

    The dual commitment of school and play limits athletes’ social lives but brings them closer to their teammates, Marquez said.

    Being a student-athlete also gives people an opportunity to get a higher education that they may not have gotten otherwise.

    If it wasn’t for the opportunity he’s received to play basketball at Arizona, men’s basketball freshman Jordan Hill said at a media gathering Jan. 29, he’d “”probably be at home right now laying down.””

    It is not just a free degree either; the students must work to stay academically eligible to play.

    “”It’s nonstop,”” Hollingsworth said. “”It’s really intense.””

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