UNA student-athletes keeping up with classwork while on the road

The disadvantages of playing games or matches away from home are well-documented.

Long bus or plane rides can be draining and exhausting, opposing crowds can be loud and intimidating, and staying in an unfamiliar place can cause of a lack of sleep for some players.

Needless to say, it can be difficult for some student-athletes to focus and work on other responsibilities and priorities such as homework and studying while on the road.

“While traveling, it is sometimes hard to read and stay focused, especially while on the bus,” said sophomore volleyball player Sarah Ann Tillery. “The limited Wi-Fi sometimes hinders any online assignments.”

Student-athletes need to come up with their own methods for staying focused on their classwork on the road, said freshman soccer player Morgan Brown.

“I would say my study habit would be listening to music,” she said. “I will usually listen to some chilling music like Bon Iver. I know some people can’t focus with music, but with me I feel like it helps me concentrate and get my work done faster.”

At UNA, all student-athletes are required to participate in study hall hours, either as a team or individually — even on the road. They take advantage of these hours and accomplish homework then.

“We have to do six hours of mandatory study hall but depending on how much homework I have for the week, I can do anywhere from six to 10 hours of studying — sometimes even more than that,” Brown said. “Usually, I use study hall to do homework and do studying for tests on my own time.”

Along with study hall hours, UNA has other ways to help student-athletes keep their grades up.

“Right now we do three grade checks or progress reports during the semester,” said Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance Todd Vardaman. “We try to identify kids that would be at risk, whether it be them putting themselves in a bad position academically, not just from an eligibility standpoint but also to remain on track to graduate.”

Vardaman said the student-athletes take advantage of the resources available to them such as the Student Success Center.

“I have used the writing center several times for various classes,” Tillery said. “I have found it to be very beneficial. I would highly recommend them to everyone.”

Many sports teams spend several days on road trips causing student-athletes to miss valuable class time.

“The hardest part about balancing volleyball with school work is the makeup work,” Tillery said. “With our tedious schedules, we miss several classes, and it is easy to fall behind.

“Also, getting back from late road trips sometimes makes for a long night of studying.”

Brown said because school comes first, she sometimes has to sacrifice sleep and not going to social events due to the school work.

Student-athletes missing classes can also mean them missing tests or exams, but the faculty has been very cooperative with athletes in terms of making up assignments, said junior football player Lee Mayhall.

“Every teacher I have had is easy to work with,” he said. “They all allow me to make up assignments and tests if I have to miss them for games.

“It is very helpful when the teachers understand because it allows me to stay with the class instead of getting behind.”

The end of the semester is also when most teams are competing for championships and it conflicts with their final exams, Vadarman said.

“Thankfully, our academic community has been supportive of working with our students athletes,” he said.