Finding the Right Balance: Student-athletes have their heads in - and out - of the game - Spring 2006 Ivy Leaf Magazine

Ivy Leaf - Spring 2006

Finding the Right Balance

Student-athletes have their heads in - and out - of the game

Maintaining good grades while juggling the schedule of a student-athlete is no easy task. Spare time is a rarity, as many teams practice up to three hours each day, with another hour devoted to weight training and conditioning. An away game may involve a four-hour bus trip—one way—with the squad returning to campus as late as 2 a.m. Bus rides necessarily become a time to either catch up on needed sleep or prepare for the next day's exam. And while they do not miss class for practice, a number of classes are missed for competition. Student-athletes must always be on top of their game—and their schedule—and arrange in advance for missed assignments and exams.

Why would a student sacrifice so much of his or her time and energy to participate in varsity athletics? At Division III schools like Penn State Altoona, student-athletes receive no monetary incentives for playing their sport. No athletic scholarships or additional financial support is available for them, and it is estimated that more than 75 percent of all student-athletes hold down at least one job. The answer, then, must be that student-athletes are playing for the love of their sport and of their school.

At Penn State Altoona, many student-athletes are excelling academically. Forty-six student-athletes were named to the Dean's List for the fall 2005 semester. Ten have been or will be inducted into Chi Alpha Sigma, the National College Athlete Honor Society, carrying the requisite GPA of at least 3.4. Six posted perfect GPAs of 4.0 for the fall 2005 semester.

In 2006, mandatory study halls for student-athletes returned to Penn State Altoona. Athletes with a GPA below a designated number were required to attend these twice-a-week sessions. The study halls also were open to any interested athletes; men's basketball coach Alan Seretti, who oversaw the study halls, made them mandatory for his players. Explains Seretti, "We wanted to make sure we did not have any academic issues that would jeopardize the team. Many other student-athletes who were well above the 2.0 minimum GPA came and volunteered time to help their fellow athletes."

Brent Baird, the college's compliance officer, notes that his job becomes even more rewarding when the athletes excel academically. States Baird, "It definitely makes my job of checking eligibility easier and more enjoyable when I get to look at good records. And it's good to see that our students can handle the academic component along with the rigors of athletics. I think it shows their well-roundedness and dedication to excellence."