Student athletes work hard, play harder
Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 09:10
Student-athletes are expected to excel both in the classroom and on the field, which can often cause a balancing act of workouts, study time and travel time.
“The hardest thing is when you have two or three exams in one week and you have two games, especially if one of those games is on the road, so you’re gone a couple days,” Bobby Horodyski said. “You have to mix your study time while you’re on the road, you’re watching film, you’re preparing for a game, you’re playing a game and you might be missing class.”
Horodyski plays guard on UCF’s men’s basketball team. As a senior finance major, he has gone through college as a successful student-athlete even with all of the regulations, guidelines and pressure he has been under.
According to the NCAA, after an athlete’s freshman year they need to have a 1.8 GPA, after their second year, they need a 1.9, and then a 2.0 from that year on. However, the minimum required GPA set by UCF for athletes to maintain is a 2.0. Athletes have to follow whichever rule is more strict, so they’re mandated to always maintain at least a 2.0.
For admission into UCF, athletes have to meet the same requirements as the rest of the student population. Once they’re enrolled they need to maintain a full class schedule of 12 hours per semester and maintain the GPA set out for them by the university. Kimya Massey, director of Academic Services for Student-Athletes, said there is a three-tier set of rules that every student has to meet in order to practice and compete: UCF rules, Conference USA rules and NCAA rules.
“We have to meet the institutional rules, so, like, probation for students on campus, our students are under those same exact rules,” Massey said.
If the minimum requirements aren’t met, then the athlete faces being ineligible to compete. He or she can be ineligible for a semester or even an entire year, Massey said. However, these rules have not deterred the graduation success rate of student-athletes, which is at its highest at 83 percent.
Along with a GPA requirement, there are regulations about how many hours a week athletes are allowed to work out. Every week, they’re designated 20 hours of team workouts with their coach, and they’re allowed to work out individually on their own time. Horodyski said that he spends about five hours a day working out with his team and on his own.
To help student-athletes maintain a 2.0 while maintaining their workout schedule, the ASSA is available. Sarah Hill, academic director for women’s basketball, soccer and softball said that athletes and non-athletes have access to the same help and support, but it’s mandatory for athletes and voluntary for non-athletes.
“Our student-athletes do have some different requirements that they’re mandated to have,” Hill said. “We don’t give any tutoring or any extra things that a non-student-athlete doesn’t have the access to, so we’re doing the same thing, we just have it in-house.”
To prevent their students from falling behind and potentially failing, Massey said that they do a lot to be proactive and help students. All incoming students and freshmen are required to have six to 10 study hours per week. Academic director for football, Darrick Brown, said once an athlete is a sophomore or junior, his or her mandatory study hall hours will vary based on need and the coach’s preferences.
“Football, right now, we have 12 hours a week of mandatory study hall, so it’s a little above the norm,” Brown said. “And that’s because coach O’Leary is strict on academics and he wants the kids to do well and he wants them to be successful.”
However, not all rules set for athletes are set by officials. There are a lot of little things that their academic advisers tell them to do that aren’t required but are vital to their success.
“We would like our athletes to sit in the first three rows of class,” Brown said. “For them to pay attention, to be visible, to speak to their professor before class and introduce themselves.”
If an athlete has a bad game or a bad day of practice it can affect grades, and vice versa. That’s why this academic program is necessary and extremely helpful for the athletes.
“You’ll find that most of our best student-athletes, our athletes on the field, are typically our best students,” Massey said. “They’re accountable, they’re responsible, they work hard.”
Horodyski has kept his grades up by going to class and taking thorough notes. He reads through his notes weekly and spends a few hours studying for exams when they come up.
“If you go to class and you take good notes, there’s no reason for you not to do OK,” Horodyski said. “And then if you put in extra time on your own you should be alright.”
Many students on campus will only meet with their adviser maybe once or twice a year. It’s hard to build a personal and helpful relationship. The support that athletic academic advisers provide is more than just about school and can really help student-athletes succeed.
“I do think that having a personal relationship with the advisers here and some of the ways we can help them throughout their career does enhance their experience to give them opportunities, not necessarily in professional sports but graduate assistantships or internships or going to grad school or jobs,” Massey said.
Horodyski is going to take advantage of his new connections after college to stay in the basketball world, but not as a player. He is applying to graduate schools for either a master’s in sports management or an MBA in business and hopes to one day coach a Division I basketball team.