Soccer player Michael Brown began playing for the Rams after serving in the Navy, and says that being able to play at the college level is a dream come true.
But part of being able to do that is keeping up his grades, which can be challenging, because during the season, the team practices five or six days a week and plays anywhere from one to three games per week.
Brown said he has been able to maintain his GPA by planning ahead and communicating with his teachers, most of whom have been understanding and flexible about class deadlines.
“It helps also if you do quality work in class and they know you’re capable of it then they’re going to be a little more willing to work with you because of a school obligation,” Brown said.
By maintaining at least a 3.25 GPA, Brown has become one of Wesleyan’s scholar athletes. The Sooner Athletic Conference announced the list of 2016 academic all-conference athletes on Feb. 1, and Wesleyan had 22 of the conference’s total of 199.
SAC scholar athletes must maintain a 3.25 GPA in the previous two semesters and be regulars, or letter winners, on their team, according to ramsports.net.
“It really was a great opportunity to play at the college level and at the same time earn good enough grades to receive this reward is an honor,” Brown said.
Athletic Director Steve Trachier said he is “awfully proud” of Wesleyan’s scholar athletes; the department’s goal is to have athletes do well in the classroom, create competitive professionals and earn a degree, and part of being competitive is keeping a high GPA.
“If you go back and look at the history of the athletic department over the last several years, you’ll see the number of scholar athletes that we have increasing, you’ll see the number of scholar teams we have increasing, you’ll see the athletic department GPA increasing,” Trachier said. “We are an institution of learning.”
Wesleyan’s scholar athletes for fall 2016 included nine from women’s soccer, five from men’s soccer, two from men’s cross country, one from women’s cross country, and five from volleyball, according to ramsports.net. Every scholar athlete has to balance schoolwork with practice and games, and doing so often means sacrificing sleep and free time.
Men’s soccer midfielder Kian Hosseinpour maintains his GPA because getting a work visa is very competitive and any kind of edge can help.
“I knew that playing soccer, playing a sport and a high GPA would help me in getting a visa and finding work later on,” said Hosseinpour, a sophomore finance major from New Zealand.
In season practices involve a lot of skill work and working as a team, Hosseinpour said.
“In the fall [balancing grades and soccer can be] a bit trickier because we travel so much and we’re away in Oklahoma or west Texas a lot,” he said.
Hosseinpour tries to be proactive and get his schoolwork done ahead of time in order to keep his GPA up.
“I try to do everything before I leave for trips so I can have a free mind and obviously sometimes that means staying up a bit later and you don’t have as much time to do other things,” Hosseinpour said.
Volleyball practices are two hours every day and the team plays between two and three games a week during their season, said Kiersten Mebane.
“Currently, we have fitness at 5:30 a.m. and fitness is basically just lifting weights and running,” Mebane, a criminal justice major, said. “Following fitness at 6:30 am we have volleyball practice like usually from 6:30 am to 8:00 am sometimes 6:30 to 8:40. So you’re already tired before your day even begins.”
Mebane uses whatever time she can find to get her homework done.
“When we travel is just like homework time,” Mebane said. “Homework on the bus, in the hotel room, at the game. I have written so many papers on charter busses.”
Mebane strives to make good grades because it makes her feel that she has accomplished something, and because it will make it easier to get into a reputable graduate program.
Junior accounting major and volleyball player Shelby Stinnett said that she will just grab a book for her classes during any free time she has.
Stinnett, an outside hitter, makes an effort to keep her GPA as high as possible because of the competitiveness of graduate school.
“My dad has always held me to a high standard. It does feel good to get a better grade because it makes you feel like you actually know the stuff,” Stinnett said. “[Our coach] does grade checks, so we’ll have to have our teachers sign off [on things] like ‘do we pay attention?’, ‘are we doing good in the class?’ and ‘what’s our progress?’ so she keeps us accountable for it but it’s ultimately our responsibility.”
Katie Baugh, a sophomore athletic training major and soccer player, said her dyslexia means she has to work harder to keep up her grades; being on the soccer team — which practices five times a week and plays two or three games a week — takes a lot of time.
“It’s really somewhat tough to be a college athlete and balance school,” Baugh said.
Maintaining grades is a team goal for the women’s soccer team because if one player fails it affects the whole team, Baugh said.
“It’s tough. But you do what you can for the game that you love to play basically,” Baugh said.
In order to keep good grades, the team communicates with their teachers and plans ahead so they can keep up with classwork, Baugh said.
“I study a lot on the bus. I like to sleep a lot on the bus too but I always have my computer with me,” Baugh said. “You do whatever you can, like if I have an essay due I’d type it [then] wait until we get to the hotel and then send it.”