Athletes at Northern Kentucky University have a lot to juggle: their different sports, including practices and games; their social life and academics. Athletes are held to a standard by not only their professors and university as a whole but also their coaches, because they are required to have a certain grade point average to play.
Freshman and transfer students have to attend study tables, which is where athletes get together a required eight hours a week and study at the Bank of Kentucky Center. Student athletes also use this tool if they are under a certain GPA required by their particular coach.
“When we travel we have study tables on the road during the school week, I think overall it sets a bar of what they have to do,” Dawn Plitzuweit, head women’s basketball coach, said. “I certainly think anything you do together as a unit helps build team chemistry and a sort of camaraderie, them all studying together as a unit helps.”
Certain teams on campus have won academic awards as a whole, or have individuals who have won them in the context of their sport.
“It’s a really big honor, every year I’ve been here our team has gotten the team academic award from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America or an award based on our GPA,” Elise Schmuelling, women’s soccer team defender and senior nursing major, said. “Previously we had a lot of success at the D-II level and to have those grades on top of that. It’s great to have something like that to show for your efforts.”
Athletes have to have discipline in their lives to balance their school work and their sports. They are aware that if they do not perform to a certain standard on the academic side, they will not be able to participate in their sport.
“It feels awesome to get the honor of an Academic All-Conference team member, I was a little worried before the season that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my grades,” Michael Bartlett, men’s soccer team center midfielder, senior marketing major, said. “I’m less stressed now, I feel successful.”
Even if a student no longer attends study tables, there are still grade checks performed on the student athletes. Professors fill out forms on their grades through academic support services at NKU. Many professors at NKU work with student athletes and quickly establish a relationship.
“We talk to them if they do badly on a test or assignment, we like them to give us a heads up so we can help guide them on how to fix it,” Plitzuweit said. “My biggest piece of advice is that the person who is the expert in the field is the professor. I’ve been very impressed with the professors at NKU, many of them are willing to sit down with them outside of class and meet around practices.”
NKU’s Women’s Cross Country team has had the best success out of any team on campus for keeping their grades up. For the past three years, they have had the highest GPA out of any other sports team on campus.
“Sometimes finding a balance between athletics and school can be difficult, but I’ve learned the importance of prioritization and focusing on what truly matters,” Kayla Justice, women’s cross country team captain, senior criminal justice major, said. “I’ve already set high academic goals for myself and to be on a team and have a coach that has the same values is something I’ve always appreciated.”
Overall, students who are athletes at NKU have had a good amount of success juggling their academics and their sport. Athletes who are struggling can utilize their coaches, teammates and the learning assistance programs on campus.