Students balance academics with athletics

UNA student althetes are taking notes and putting effort to their classes. Not only they perform well on the field but in the classrooms also.

Many students stress about the days they are burdened with schoolwork and their job, leaving little time for a social life. For many of UNA’s student athletes, it is an everyday occurrence.

Between practices, meetings and classes, managing time can become tough for a student athlete. Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance Todd Vardaman helps UNA’s student athletes balance their busy lifestyles and manage their schedules.

“We make sure students are taking courses that go toward their degree,” Vardaman said. “That is for eligibility purposes.”

Contrary to popular belief, student athletes are not allowed to take a lot of “easy” classes to make good grades so they can play.

Vardaman said he advises students how to manage their time involving their specific sport and academics. A lot of campus sports require study hall hours for the players.

As student athletes attempt balancing school and sports, it can become hard for them to enjoy the typical college experience, Vardaman said.

“Student athletes are committed at least 20 hours a week, and many of them do more,” he said. “They will often condition and work out on their own. Those 20 hours could easily turn into 30 or 40.”

Diamond Simmons, a senior running back for the football team, said pleasing his coaches and professors takes plenty of exertion.

“I am expected to give every effort, or even more, in the classroom that I do on the field,” Simmons said. “So much more is expected from student athletes, since most of us are on scholarship.”

Simmons said many of the high standards from his coaches and professors are expected to carry over into every aspect of life.

“They expect us to be good in the classroom, they expect us to be good on the field and they expect us to be good at everything in life,” he said.

Junior cheerleader Halley Porter said between classes, practices and cheering, a typical day may give her two hours of free time, leaving her little time to waste.

Porter said the standards are high for the cheerleading squad, as well as many athletes, pertaining to classroom rules.

“We have to sit in the first three rows (of class),” Porter said. “We cannot miss more than three days of class and (our coach and administrators) will be checking our GPA.”

While many student athletes lead busy lives, many of them would not trade it for anything.

Simmons and Porter said they appreciate being a student athlete and when asked if it was worth the hectic lifestyle, they answered with an astounding “definitely.”

Senior Eli Williams, a former football player at UNA, decided to give up the sport he loves to focus on his accounting degree.

“I looked at the time I was putting into football compared to the time I was putting in my school and football outweighed it,” Williams said. “I feel like school has always been more important than football.”

Williams said college sports will only last four years for most people, but a college degree will last a lot longer.

“You’re only an injury away from never playing again, but you can never be stripped of the knowledge you have,” he said.

Williams, who plans to attend graduate school at UAB next fall to get his CPA license, said he has no regrets giving up sports for academics.

“I’ll always have love for the game,” Williams said. “I played for 16 years. If I could go back and change my decision, I wouldn’t. I’ve had nothing but success since I stopped.”