Appreciating Student Athletes

Chrissy Lewis, a recent college graduate, understands both the sacrifices and rewards of being a student-athlete.

Playing both field hockey and rugby while at Vassar College, Lewis remembers vividly the hours spent on the bus traveling, on the field practicing for games, in the locker room recovering, and finally in the classroom studying.

Lewis only planned to play one sport in college. Her love for the game swayed her to play two, which meant twice as much travel and twice as much practice.

“The average student-athlete has roughly six hours free time a week,” Lewis said. “That forces you to become a master multi-tasker and use the time you have more efficiently.”

Students like Lewis who thrive athletically and academically should be recognized for their commitment and dedication to their sports and the academics, said Dr. Roger Caves, professor and director of the graduate city planning program at San Diego State during a seminar session Thursday at the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s national conference.

During the session, a panel of athletic administrators, students and faculty discussed strategies for recognizing student athletes.

“Walk a mile in their shoes. See them get up at 5 a.m. and go to the track or the pool, shower, eat breakfast, meet with their academic advisers, tutors, attend classes and so on,” said Caves, playfully noting that he would walk a mile in the shoes of a student-athlete if he could begin at 10 a.m. instead of 5 a.m.

Acknowledging the tremendous dedication of student-athletes who endure severe time constraints and, in some case, tremendous pressure to perform, is a practice administrators and faculty should be engaged in year-round, said Becky Ahlgren-Bedics, associate director of education services for the NCAA.

Small tokens of appreciation and recognition illustrate a type of support that is not always felt or verbalized by faculty, student-athletes participating on the panel noted.

Over the years, collegiate institutions have found creative ways to motivate and celebrate students, panelists agreed.

Some institutions engage in athlete-of-the-week campaigns, where athletes who performed well in a particular endeavor are featured on the school’s Web site or in institution-wide email blasts. Other institutions feature the community service efforts or academic achievements of student athletes on the jumbotron or scoreboard during the games or in local newspaper advertisements.

Scott Krapf, a cross-country runner at Illinois State University, spoke approvingly about the “Walk of Champions” annual event at his school.

“Each August all of the student-athletes take a torch-guided tour of the campus and its historic landmarks,” Krapf said. “The event was started to learn about both the athletic and academic heritage of Illinois State University.”

To administrators looking for ways to celebrate their student-athletes, Krapf recommended they cultivate memorable events.

“At the beginning of the year, each freshman student-athlete is presented with a half token,” Krapft said in reference to his school. “Your senior year, the other half of the token is reunited with the one you received as a freshman.”

The panel also recommended that institutions celebrate the achievements that student-athletes produce inside of the classroom and in their communities.

“We know that these students are more than just bodies in motion,” said Ahlgren-Bedics.



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