On and off the court, successful student-athletes have commitment that goes beyond the normBy Tim Stried
December 9, 2002
Special to: Bluffton Alumni Magazine, The Bluffton News, The Witmarsum
|Their time on the court is special and exciting, but becoming a successful student-athlete
requires dedication away from the fans, too.
The academic demands of college take commitment and dedication, and for the collegiate student-athlete, that's only the half of it.
The balancing act that student-athletes at Bluffton go through in order to be successful in both sports and in the classroom takes an effort that in itself prepares these young people for life after college.
Bluffton men's basketball coach Guy Neal has helped produce more than a few success stories from his program for the past 14 years.
"The two most important things to them [successful student-athletes] while they were here were their classes and their sport," said Neal, who has not only helped guide the paths of those success stories, but has collected 135 wins with them, as well. "Those two things were important to them and they wanted to funnel the majority of their time here into those two areas."
A normal day for BC student-athletes includes classes, homework, team meetings, practice, meals and study table, therefore time management is crucial for success.
"The student-athlete must understand and accept that their weekly schedule is different from the non-athlete," said Neal. "The student-athlete must do their school work when they are tired more often than the non-athlete and the student-athlete knows they cannot do everything socially that they might want. They have to be willing to devote the majority of their time to school and basketball, and that has to be OK with them. They can and will have a great time socially in college, but they have to understand that their time and schedule is different than the normal student."
And for those student-athletes that greatly excel in both areas, their effort doesn't go unrewarded. The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honors the top student-athletes at each member school every year and The Verizon Academic All-America Program does the same by recognizing worthy individuals from around the country.
At the NCAA Division III level, many first-year student-athletes never become second-year student-athletes because they've never had to dedicate themselves at the level needed to be successful in both sports and school.
"Too many of our young people are being pampered way too much in junior high and high school," said Neal. "When they experience something harder than what they have experienced in the past, they want to quit instead of work through it. If they have been allowed to quit something hard because they are not happy or having fun they will tend to quit more when we get them. This then becomes a way of life for too many of our young people that carries into their adult life."
According to Neal, there is a common characteristic that is found in each of his success stories.
"Players who have finished their careers with us all possess a high degree of mental and physical toughness. They were all competitive people. They were not soft young men. They had a good work ethic and they were able to try to work through some tough times when things weren't going their way. They had some perseverance and stayed with something."