Kellie’s Korner: Rising to the occasion?

By Kellie Lagoy

What exactly does it mean to be a student-athlete at Virginia Wesleyan? Athletes know what it takes to compete on the field, but what is expected of them academically? Before the fall season began no one really had a clue what needed to happen in the classroom. Now there are new standards in place for the entire athletic department listed in the Student-Athlete Handbook.

Before the start of the fall season it was up to the discretion of the coaches to determine the academic standards they wanted for their players. Now every team has to meet the not so rigorous standards put in place by athletic director, Joanne Renn, and a board of other school officials and coaches.

The minimum GPA requirement of an athlete his or her first two semesters is a 1.8, and after that all that is required for the remainder of a student’s eligibility is a very low 2.0. The low standards shows a lack of faith in the athlete’s academic abilities and motivation.

Having such low standards makes it look like the athletic department is scared of losing too many star athletes because they don’t excel in the classroom. This obviously isn’t true for all student-athletes, because teams like field hockey have higher academic standards than the set 2.0. Field hockey head coach, Christina Restivo, expects a 2.5 average.

The athletic department should have a mindset like Restivo and her coaching staff. The higher the coaches raise the bar, the harder the athletes will be forced to work. No athletic department wants to have students that aren’t striving for the best they can academically. Setting a low standard means that athletes aren’t being forced to strive to do better than just the bare minimum.

The one redeeming quality about this new system is the credit hour count that every athlete has to follow. By the end of an athlete’s first semester they need to have a minimum of twelve credit hours, and that number jumps to 28 by the end of his or hers second semester. This system keeps athletes on track to graduate on time.

The standards may be lower than they should be, but at least the athletic department is finally enforcing an overall standard on the athletes. Having an enforceable standard helps remind athletes that they are here to get an education above playing their respective sport. Being a part of the athletic department is a privilege, and it’s important for the athletes to understand that they must earn the right to wear a uniform.

Even with low standards, Renn plans on enforcing the rules no matter who the player is or how important they are to their team. “Academic responsibility comes first,” said Renn. The athletes will be suspended from their team if they fall even a grade point below what is expected of them. Though it will be surprising if they can’t keep up with the bottom of the barrel standards. The same goes for falling below the credit hour requirement. If the athletes can stay up to par with the expectations then they will be temporarily suspended from participating.

Academic success should be the most important part of any athlete’s life because of two reasons. The first being that they came to Virginia Wesleyan with the purpose of obtaining a degree. The second reason is that they will more than likely not move past the collegiate level for their sport. At any Division III institution no player is paid to participate in athletics, and that means that playing a sport is an extracurricular event.