Balancing the act of being a student athlete


Being a college athlete can be perceived as taking an easy road to success with luxurious amenities and fame. But some college athletes say it’s a tough act balancing athletics and keeping good grades.

“The difference between a student athlete and a regular student is that student athletes are held to a higher standard,” Senior Associate Athletics Director Gretchen Bouton said.

Bouton said that their class schedules are set around their designated workout practice times. Typically, all student athletes’ workout individually in the morning’s prior to class and have team practice at 2 p.m.

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For some student athletes the amount of practices, team meetings and traveling during the week for competition can be difficult to balance with academics.

“It was hard trying to balance all practices, meetings and traveling because you have to pass your classes to play sports, but in sports you have to know the playbook to get in the game,” former TCU football player Tekkerein Cuba said.

On the other hand, Assistant Athletic Director for Athletics Academic Services and former football player Shawn Worthen said that the athletic department tries to facilitate their academics so the amount of studying doesn’t seem too difficult.

“When you are also practicing, lifting weights and traveling to go to competition, where do you find time for that 40 hours a week of studying?” Worthen said. “So what we do is compress that time down but make it high quality studying so we get more things done in that timeframe that a student would get 40 hours a week, but we would try to squeeze it in for 20.”

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Even though their athletic schedule is demanding, the athletic department does not prevent any student athlete from studying a particular major. All student athletes have the option to select from any variety of majors from criminal justice to engineering.

“TCU students are here for a quality education,” Worthen said.

Professor of Survey of Entrepreneurial, Ted Legatski, said he doesn’t see a difference between student athletes and non-student athlete’s performance in the classroom, but understands their demanding schedule.

“In my experience, student athletes do a pretty good job of prioritizing, at least by the time I encounter them as juniors and seniors,” Legatski said.

TCU leads the Big 12 in the highest graduation rate for a third year in a row for all sports. Worthen said that he’s very happy about the academic accomplishments TCU athletes have made in the classroom to make the university marketable.

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“I don’t think we should just grow as a facility. We should also grow into our services and TCU does a great job balancing that,” Worthen said. “We don’t compromise, both sides win”

TCU student athletes are required to maintain a 2.0 grade point average with the assistance of the athletic department. It provides a study area and private tutors to help athletes achieve their academic goals.

“That sounds simple but for a lot of student athletes, they are first generation college kids so they never had to balance true academic schedule with athletic or be from another country,” Bouton said. “They may stumble at first so the NCAA gives them a little leeway.”

For some student athletes the lifestyle can be quite different from the non-student athletes. Many student athletes say that biggest myths about being a student athlete are that life of a student athlete is easy.

Former football player Tekerrein Cuba said that many students do not understand what student athletes go through.

“The biggest difference is that a student who is not an athlete does not have to get up early to go work out, then go to class. After class go watch film. After practice go to study hall,” Cuba said.

Another struggle that some student athletes are said to face is the amount of attention they receive compared to non-athletes by being under a microscope for the public.

“You will get scrutinize for any mishaps, but you have to accept it because you chose to be different,” former TCU football player Johnny Fobbs said.

Student athletes also have more problems obtaining internships because of their schedules.

“The big trend is focusing more on the day after graduation,” Bouton said.

Bouton said that the athletic department is working on trying to improve the numbers of students having a better experience of transitioning from college to the real world.

“We graduated our student athletes, but it’s not good enough because we hear 10 years down the line, they didn’t know what to do with their degrees,” Bouton said.

Former track and field athlete Michael Ashton understands that many former athletes feel lost after their sport has ended.

“A lot of times the athletes don’t know they need those life skills until it’s to late,” Ashton said.

The TCU athletic department provides resources such as life skills courses, mock interviews and resume builders. The department is now making the life skills courses mandatory for the student athletes to attend the life skill programs at least twice a semester.

“We ask them to come to college so we feel like its part of our obligation and duty to give them some opportunities or all the tools,” Bouton said.

Bouton said that about 80 percent of the athletes have taken advantage of the course offeriengs, but there is still that 20 percent that they are focused on reaching.

Former track and field athlete Veronica Jones said that she was able to achieve an online internship based on her schedule.

“When people look at my resume, I didn’t want employers to look at it like I was an athlete. I wanted get out of that strereotype of having an athlete stamp on my resume,” Jones said.

The concern of some student athletes is that the amount of work they invest in their sport and academic assignments leaves little time to obtain an internship after graduation.

Ashton said that being a student athlete can work as an advantage.

“People like to hire a lot of student athletes because of their work ethic,” Ashton said.

Jones said that she received her first job offer after graduation as a first grade teacher through her experience of volunteering and staying involved.

“Its good that we have the athletic administration because they are doing their part but we have to do our part. Sports will only take you so far,” Jones said.

Regardless of their time-consuming daily lives, the biggest lessons that many of them say they have learned is how to stay organized and prioritize. They said that this has helped them after graduation.

Some college athletes said that their experience outweighs hardships because of the amount of exposure.

“It’s the camaraderie and accountability of a lifetime of friendships you build that you carry on as you put on your jersey for the last time,” said Ashton.

Ashton said that one of the things he regrets is not being more mature in college, but wants the current athletes to take advantage of their time in school.

“Make some time to intern if possible and have an idea to what you want to do outside of being a professional athlete,” Ashton said.