In baseball, time is counted in innings. In volleyball, it spans across sets, and in basketball, it is split into 20-minute halves. But no matter how it is measured or in what sport, all athletes know its importance, and how using it wisely can be the difference between a loss and a win.
A group of Springfield College student-athletes representing 15 sports and 14 majors were recently recognized for the time they spent outside of their respective arenas and inside the classroom. Each of the 35 students in what is known as the “Pride Perfection” earned a 4.0 GPA in the fall 2013 semester.
Overall, Springfield’s 711 student-athletes achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.351. According to Athletic Director Cathie Schweitzer, part of the reason for this is the dedicated staff who work with students on a daily basis.
“It’s one of our goals as an athletic department to achieve a 3.2 or better,” Schweitzer said. “Our coaches are teacher-coaches, so they get it. They’re involved in everyday academic life, and I think the fact that they are teacher-coaches helps to keep bringing in higher qualities of students year after year.”
Six coaches have been at the college for 30 years or more, according to Schweitzer. An additional five have returned for 20 years, and only four have been here for fewer than 10 years.
Although women’s volleyball head coach Moira Long is only in her third year at Springfield, her team has continued a strong academic tradition, and boasts a GPA of 3.54. Long said this success from her players starts with letting them know what is expected of them.
“You have to set an expectation,” Long said. “We expect [players] to be successful on the court, and we expect them to be successful in the classroom. We want to know that you’re going to work hard.”
Senior Tessa Smolinski of women’s volleyball is one player who Long calls, “the gold standard of the student-athlete.” Though this is the first semester she was not a part of the “Pride Perfection,” Smolinski has a cumulative GPA of 3.991, and was named the CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-American of the Year.
“It’s definitely all internal motivation for me,” the Communication Sciences and Disorders major said about her accomplishments. “I strive to do the best, to be the best I can be. If I don’t think I did as well, I’m hard on myself.”
Last semester, Smolinski led her team to a NEWMAC Championship and deep into the NCAA Tournament while juggling classes and a pre-practicum. While she admitted that balancing commitments is challenging at times, reaching out is one of the best things a struggling student can do.
“You have to ask for help,” Smolinski said. “There are so many resources on campus between coaches and teammates and the Academic Success Center. Asking for help when you need it is not a sign of weakness. Everyone will be there for you.”
Schweitzer agreed that it is important for athletes to rely on their peers.
“There is something to be said about the team environment,” Schweitzer said.
“You have that relationship with other student-athletes who are going to help push you in all avenues of your life to a better standard.”
Senior baseball player Sean Smith said it is just as important to work with professors as it is to work with teammates.
“On your own,” Smith said, “it’s about staying ahead and staying organized. With baseball, for instance, we play six games a week. I have to miss two or three classes a week. You have to speak with those professors and make sure you have all homework necessary to turn in.”
In the fall, the Sport Management major had an internship in Florida where he worked on the Franklin Templeton PGA Tour event and was in charge of recruiting and registering over 200 volunteers. Smith has also taken on leadership roles at Springfield in the Sport Management club and PAAC.
It’s this increased on-campus involvement that Long says makes Springfield students so different from athletes at other schools.
“If you’re an athlete,” Long said, “typically you go to classes and practice and that’s it. That’s just not the way things go here.”
Junior basketball player Nick Sienkiewicz said that finding time to take a break in the day is also key, and allows him to concentrate better on the court.
“When I have time to relax,” said the Physical Therapy major, “I use that time to take my mind off everything so when I need to focus, like at practice, I can focus.”
Sienkiewicz, who also received CoSIDA honors, also noted that working hard early on pays off in the long run.
“Have fun when you can and get your work done early,” said Sienkiewicz. “If you put stuff off, you’re going to be cramming and be more stressed out.”
Whether that fun means hanging out with friends on weekends or just having the chance to compete in the sport they love, Schweitzer said she is constantly reminded of the students-athletes’ professionalism and good sportsmanship.
“I think I can sum it up best by saying they are some of the college’s best ambassadors,” Schweitzer said. “When they put that uniform on and it says ‘Pride,’ they represent that.”