Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Athletic Success

This past Tuesday evening, February 15,  was special for a number of reasons.  Hofstra played William & Mary in a great basketball game with a last second overtime victory by Hofstra.  For the last ten minutes of the game, all eyes were riveted on the court with great basketball, great drama; and (especially since I am a Hofstra person) a great conclusion.   But equal to the game, was the halftime happening.

Was it a halftime Superbowl type of show that captured my attention?  Not at all.  There was no show; instead this time was used to recognize the athletes who earned at least a B or better GPA in the previous year.  The group recognized included more than 50 % of our athletes with a significant presence by every team, and 10% of the athletes who were recognized had perfect 4.0 (A) grade point averages.  I was enormously proud of each and every athlete who earned GPAs between 3.0 and 4.0.

Being an athlete requires tremendous discipline.  Being a good student and a good athlete besides requires much more discipline.  Many of our students who are athletes, as well as many of our students who work at one or more part-time jobs or are active in volunteer and other co-curricular work, all demonstrate that discipline that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.  Time management is an enormous skill.  Without it, even the smartest person or the best athlete may not succeed; with time management it is far easier to fulfill your potential.

When I started in higher education, athletics and scholarship were often viewed as the oil and vinegar.  They simply didn’t mix; there was no intersection.  There were very few conversations. And no scholar athlete recognition event.  Many faculty viewed athletes in a less than positive light; and a significant number of coaches viewed academic s as a distraction to their top talent.  Thankfully, for the most part, the world has changed and continues to change.

Thanks to the efforts of the NCAA, thanks to a more student-centered philosophy of education, thanks to a new breed of coaches, thanks to a world where stereotyping is less the norm, we now find much greater collaboration and cooperation between academics and athletics.  And nothing could be better for the students involved.  Being on a team is a great experience but at the end of the day, very few college athletes enter the pros.  It is therefore especially important that they succeed as students so that they graduate and have more options available to them.  As faculty, administrators, and staff, we get great pleasure from our athletes and as faculty, administrators, and staff we have an obligation to our athletes and all our students, to see that they succeed and graduate.  There is still work to be done in this area but nights like last Tuesday convince me we continue to make great progress.  The goal is in sight and team work can get us there. 

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