Melissa Koch and Crystal Oravis
UW-L athletes are attempting to keep a streak going about more than just winning games.
For thirteen years now, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has held the highest GPA in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The success of the student athlete population can be credited in part to the coaches at UW-L.
A women’s track and field athlete says, “My coaches are very supportive of the idea that school is first priority. If I were to talk to my coaches and ask to do a workout early or at another time because I needed to meet with a teacher, study group, or tutor, they would be very accommodating. I think that’s a huge help to know I can balance everything.”
The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse holds more athletic national championship titles than any in the WIAC conference. UW-L student athletes also consistently rank higher than all WIAC schools. In the 2011-2012 school year, the student athlete population averaged a grade point average of 3.186. For the past ten years, the student athlete grade point average has been higher than that of UW-L’s student body grade point average.
Basketball and baseball students at UW-L all say the same thing of their coaches; if ever an academic concern came up, their coaches would be quick to help out. Kevin Johnson, a student athlete who graduated in May, was a pitcher on the baseball team for four years and finished schooling in that time with a degree in Mathematics and a concentration in Actuarial Science. “I realized that my academic ability would have a greater impact on my life than my baseball ability. The biggest difficulty was allocating an appropriate amount of time towards each.”
According to UW-L’s Athletic Director, Josh Whitman, “the same attributes that make students successful academically make them successful athletically.” These qualities include time management, focus, understanding of responsibilities, and leadership.
Asked if being a student athlete has hurt or helped the GPA, all of the athletes spoken to for this story had the same response. A senior on the women’s basketball team says, “I have noticed that out of season my time management gets so much worse, which reflects onto my GPA. I can definitely say that being an athlete has helped to motivate me to work harder in school.”
Many UW-L sports teams are also required to do mid-semester and end of semester signed check off sheets for each class. Having teachers sign off on each athlete and how they are doing is a way for coaches to stay involved.
Whitman believes that the 2013-2014 year will be another strong academic performance for student athletes. “Over the years, athletically our teams go up and down, but I think academically we stay pretty consistent. We have students coming here for the right reasons.”
The WIAC is made up of nine different schools. It has been around for 100 years, and in that time the teams playing for the WIAC have won 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III national championships.
Contrary to the usual stereotype of a student athlete, D-III athletes have to work harder for their own benefit. Division one athletes have the fear of losing scholarships to help motivate them through their studies. Division three athletes have to fight for their spot on the team, but also in the classroom, all for personal satisfaction.
The report for the 2013-2014 year won’t come out until around mid-July next year, but the will for student athletes to perform well is there now. In a meeting with student athletes earlier this Fall, this year’s motto was revealed: “The ceiling of our past must become the floor of our future.”