Student-athletes juggle grades, sports

Between hours of film, daily practices, road trips, team meetings and games, student-athletes have to find the time and the energy to be students. Head football coach Gary Patterson said he knows how difficult the life of collegiate athletes can be.

He said there are NCAA restrictions intended to limit the amount of time a student athlete has devote to sports during the week, but players often go the extra mile to ensure that they are ready to compete.

“It’s hard to be an athlete,” Patterson said. “You’re only allowed 20 hours a week as far as coaches with them, but if a guy wants to study and really learn the game and know the team, you know, he’s in extra – watching extra film himself – on a day-in and day-out basis.”

Lauren Pope, a sophomore soccer player, said she sometimes finds it difficult to meet the many demands placed on the student-athlete.

“(My schedule) is definitely very busy,” Pope said. “I definitely have to prioritize.”

In addition to her responsibilities to the soccer team, Pope is required to spend at least eight hours a week at the Davis Academic Learning Center, a service of Athletic Academic Services.

Chris Uchacz, director of Athletic Academic Services, said his department has two goals for what it aims to accomplish with TCU student athletes.

“Our primary goal is to make sure that all of our student-athletes graduate,” Uchacz said. “Certainly some are recruited to come here because of their athletic prowess, but we want to foster their academic prowess.”

Uchacz said Athletic Academic Services also works to help athletes comply with NCAA and university academic requirements so they can stay eligible for competition.

Uchacz said students are required to be advised by their departments at least twice a semester to ensure that they are making appropriate academic progress per NCAA rules.

TCU athletes are required to spend up to 10 hours a week at the Davis Center, Uchacz said. Freshmen, transfers and athletes with GPAs close to the NCAA minimum are required to meet with weekly advisers and spend the most time at the center, he said.

New students can have trouble adjusting to TCU, and it is his department’s job to ease the transition, Uchacz said.

“We want them under our guidance, under our watchful eye, for that first semester; just to make sure that if they hit any bumps in the road, that we’ve got an opportunity to help them make the transition,” Uchacz said.

Student athletes that have shown they can handle balancing athletics and academics do not have to spend regular time at the Davis Center, he said.

Junior football player Brent Hecht said he is not required to spend any time at the center because he has a 3.4 GPA.

“For me, I just put my schoolwork first, Hecht said.

Head women’s tennis coach Dave Borelli’s team was recently recognized by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association for outstanding academic achievement.

Borelli said he was particularly proud of the honor because his program is one of only four teams ranked in the top 20 to receive the ITA All-Academic Team award.

Borelli said he values academics over athletics, but said a tennis player who does well in one often does well in the other.

“I want to have the total package,” Borelli said. “I want to offer an environment to an athlete that says we have kids that really work hard in school, and we have kids that really work hard on a tennis court.”

Five players from last year’s squad collected individual praise from the ITA for their work in the classroom.

One of those players, senior team captain Gloriann Lopez, said she makes straight A’s despite devoting 20 hours a week to team practice and leaving room for individual lessons.

She said she talks to her professors so they can reach an understanding about her athletic obligations, and also said she gets her work done early.

She said she has always enjoyed school, and that she learned the importance of hard work early in life.

“You just have work habits that you develop when you’re young,” Lopez said. “I think most of the girls on the team have developed those.”

Borelli said his players, many on scholarship, recognize the value of what they are getting from TCU.

“It all comes down to just being responsible individuals – understanding and appreciate the opportunity they have,” he said. “A lot of the kids are getting free education, and it’s a great, great education, and I think they’re the type of kids that can really appreciate what they’re doing out there and what they’re getting in return.