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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Brains and Brawn

Brains and Brawn

Student-athletes must juggle sports and academics

Being a student-athlete is about more than athletic ability. These students must also be strong in the classroom to play.

But for some, it goes beyond meeting the minimum GPA to remain on the field. In spring 2011, there were 11 football players who made a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Five of them made a solid 4.0.

“We have hard-working students who happen to be athletes, and that’s a good thing for the school,” said Colin Howlett, associate athletics director of academic services. “It’s one thing to want to be successful in one part of your life. But it’s another thing to want to be successful in all parts of your life. They want to be the best they can be.”

It’s not an easy thing to do. In season, student-athletes can work up to 20 hours a week in their sport. That’s the same as a part-time job. But, unlike most jobs, it’s physically grueling. Even the offseason is demanding.

“Lots of students have to work even full time while going to school to make ends meet,” Howlett said. “[With our student-athletes], there’s a time management issue, there’s a travel issue. But I think the biggest thing to me, you have to have the energy to stay in your sport. The unique things they face are the incredibly physical demands. So it’s a time management issue but also an energy management issue.”

For football players, the hours can be exhausting. A typical day might include two hours of lifting weights, immediately followed by a quick shower and then three classes back to back. Then there’s team practice later in the day, which can last between two or three hours, and team meetings to plan out the strategy for the next game.

“That can really put people through the wringer,” Howlett said. “It’s about focus. You have to have the right amount of rest to be a student. You have to live a certain way to be this kind of student physically.”

But it is possible, and UTSA’s student-athlete stats are impressive, he said. Having almost a dozen football players who have been recognized academically means the coaches are recruiting the right students, he added.

“We’re recruiting people who have the right attitude about academics,” he said. “Hopefully we will be able to maintain the level of accomplishment that we have right now.”

The entire athletics department is something to be proud of, said Lynn Hickey, athletics director.

“This past school year was an outstanding one for our athletic teams,” she said. “Overall our 17 sports averaged a 3.0 GPA and we are graduating more student-athletes in a timely manner each year. I am proud of our coaching staff and the quality of students they are recruiting. I am proud of our academic staff for the outstanding programming and resources they support our students with. And I am very proud of the dedication and responsibility our student-athletes show in handling their academics.”

—Lety Laurel


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