Student athletes strive for balance

After morning drills, afternoon practice and weekend meetings, student athletes have to devote time and energy to another important aspect of college – being a student.

Maintaining a standard grade point average while juggling the daily expectations of an athlete can be challenging. Just ask sophomore psychology student Sarah Brinkley.

Brinkley, 20, a full scholarship tennis player, said in order for her to excel on and off the court a lot has to be sacrificed.

“I don’t have a social life,” said the 4.0 student athlete from Indianapolis. “There are some nights I don’t even get a wink of sleep, literally.”

But for most student athletes the biggest struggle comes in the form of deciding what’s more important, athletics or academics. Former starting quarterback Albert Chester ended his football career last season to pursue what he said is his first priority – graduating from college.

Chester’s controversial resignation was quickly overlooked after he explained his reasons.

“I loved the sport but I came to college to major in pharmacy not in football,” reiterated the fifth-year pharmacy student. “In the long run my education was going to be the backbone, not sports.”

But for women’s basketball player Stephanie Foster, 21, an Ohio native, juggling a busy schedule and maintaining her starting position isn’t challenging at all. Foster is leading her team in academics by maintaining a solid 3.8 GPA.

The starting guard and forward, who is also the deputy secretary of athletic affairs in the student government association and a member of her church choir, said all this is possible because of her management skills.

“It’s all about time management,” said the junior broadcast journalism student. “If you don’t know how to prioritize and dedicate a lot of late nights the workload may become difficult.”

Athletic adviser Dwanna Jacobs said all incoming student athletes are enrolled in a compulsory tutorial program.

“For incoming freshmen and those below academic standing, it is mandatory,” Jacobs said. “It is also a minimum amount of hours expected from these students weekly. This is our way of helping them off to a good firm foundation.”

For transfer students the minimum is six hours, and for freshman students it is four hours more. Recently elected Mr. FAMU, Omari Crawford, 22, a native of Atlanta, said Rey Robinson, head coach of men’s track and field, makes it mandatory for all athletes below a 2.5 to use the tutoring service.

“Everyone has to go if you begin to fall behind,” Crawford said. “It’s a good way to keep us on our toes. No one wants to have to go to tutoring if you’re capable of doing the work, especially if you already have a busy schedule.”

Crawford is not only involved on the University track and field team but is a political science student and a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He said he devotes about an hour a day to studying but admits he puts in more time on the track.

“It’s hard to find time to study when you have your hands in everything,” Crawford said.

Crawford leads the men’s track team in academics with a 3.4 G.P.A. He said good communication between students and professors is essential.

“Because athletes have to do so much we have to communicate with our professors and stay at least two assignments ahead on the syllabus in order to stay on track with the class.”

According to he National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Web site the student athlete eligibility requirements are: good standard performance in the sport of choice and a C average or 2.0 academic requirement.

FAMU is required by the NCAA to enforce these requirements. Although the task of juggling both school and their academics may be exigent for student athletes, it’s the price athletes have to pay for the sport they love.

“I don’t have time to call my friends back home, and no time to make new friends here,” Brinkley said. “But this is a sacrifice I have to make if I want to accomplish my overall goal.”