Collegiate Athletics, A Director’s Point of View

Student athletes all over the country are bettering themselves by taking on the responsibilities of school and sport at the same time.

Though they struggle to balance more than the average student, athletes at the Division-1 level are averaging higher graduation rates.  Also, collegiate athletes gain important skills to apply to life after school.

“I admire our student athletes,” Athletic Director Laing Kennedy said.  “They just do a phenomenal job at Kent State University.” 

Nationally in the year 2000, student athletes averaged a one percent higher graduation rate than the non-athletic student body.  At Kent State, this gap is much more significant.

“We’re about 28 percent higher,” Kennedy said.  “(Student athletes are) at 78 percent and the student graduation rate is around 50 percent.  Our student athletes who exhaust their eligibility are graduating at 92 percent.

This success rate is likely due to the regimented behavior that participating in a sport causes.  Managing time and abiding by university regulations force students to be as responsible as possible with the free time they have.

At Kent State, athletes must obey to a code of expected behavior.

“It simply states to fulfill the requirements of going to class, fulfilling expectations that they have to their sport and to always represent Kent State University in an exemplary fashion,” Kennedy said.

Along with the code, many teams have additional rules.  Mostly these apply to academic situations, but can extend to legal issues as well.

“A head coach can have team rules that are more restricted than the department rules,” Kennedy said.  “We backstop that with a disciplinary situation.  If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will miss the next game.  If you are charged with a felony then you are suspended indefinitely until your felony is resolved.”

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As a student athlete one is always under a microscope, if you will.  By wearing his or her school’s name on their chest, they are representing the entire university.  Therefore, legal and academic issues are handled very seriously in most cases to ensure the credibility of the department and the university.

On top of that, an athlete has an extreme time dedication to endure.

“The toughest part of being a student athlete is that you have such a demand on your time,” Kennedy said.  “You’re probably going to have close to 20 hours of class a week, 20 more hours of work associated with class and then you have 20 hours of team work.  You’re looking at a 60 to 70 hour week.

“The challenge is, in my opinion, you have to balance that,” Kennedy added.  “You have to take care of your academic responsibilities first, or you have no athletic responsibilities.”

As athletes get older and become upperclassmen and leaders on their respective teams, they then take on another responsibility: teaching.  Without team leadership, the team will likely not succeed.

When first arriving as freshmen, athletes are in the learning role.  They learn from the juniors and seniors on the team at the time.  Upperclassmen are responsible for leaving a mark of experience and discipline.

This teaching role is another factor to help athletes achieve greatness in the classroom.

These benefits that students acquire rarely are sought for from incoming freshmen.  Rather, they become realized as time goes on in their careers.  Starting off, athletes come for the love of their sport.

“A burning desire,” Kennedy described. “Also, that desire to excel.  Whatever they do in their life, they’re going to be successful.  Part of our business is to get that done.”

Such business is being carried out in an effective manner at Kent State.  Golden Flash student athletes are continually proving themselves on and off the field of play as capable athletes and students.

“Sure you’ve got the two or three percent who do bad things once in a while,” Kennedy said.  “But by in large our student athletes are the finest men and women I’ve ever been around.” 

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