Hittin' the Books

After spending all day training with Bennie and going to class, the football players typically hit the books in the Marsha Sharp Student Studies Center. The lobby features a newly designed display case soon to honor Academic All-Americans, Academic All Big XII honorees, and Student Athlete of the Year recipients, placing a clear emphasis on performance in the classroom.

After spending all day training with Bennie and going to class, the football players typically hit the books in the Marsha Sharp Student Studies Center. The lobby features a newly designed display case soon to honor Academic All-Americans, Academic All Big XII honorees, and Student Athlete of the Year recipients, placing a clear emphasis on performance in the classroom.

Various computer labs and study rooms provide ample space to do schoolwork, and athletes check-in and check-out to verify the amount of time spent in the center. Apparently, time spent in the adjoining study lounge doesn't count.

Additionally, athletes can contact the tutoring program and arrange for a private tutoring session. A small wing beyond the computer lab contains various rooms for this purpose. The center employs approximately thirty tutors during the school year, and ten during the summer months.

I walked by a poster stating the actual percentage of NCAA athletes that go on to have professional sports careers. The low number is a blunt reminder of the value of a college education in preparing students for life after sports.

The football team is highly monitored when it comes to academics. Coach Simmons said that the staff is aware within a matter of minutes if a player skips class. Staff members from the academic center are responsible for keeping tabs on daily attendance. As a fellow student, all I can say is "bummer." Despite the seemingly rigid policies, Simmons pointed out that the academic plight of a player affects the entire team, not just themselves.

Each athlete has two advisors- an academic center advisor as well as their college advisor. The center advisors ensure that all athletes' schedules are NCAA and Big XII compliant.

All incoming freshman athletes on scholarship are required to take a fall class entitled, "Life Skills." The class was developed approximately five years ago and focuses on five major components: academic development, career development, community service, personal development, and athletic development.

"The biggest part of what we try to focus on is their transition into college as freshman student athletes- how to manage time and how to make educated decisions over the next few years," said Life Skills Coordinator Jimmy Henderson.

The first program component is academic development. Students learn how to balance school and sports with an emphasis on proper study skills and basic research fundamentals.

In terms of career development, the program assists student in choosing an appropriate major for their interests and abilities, which will lead them into their desired career. A skills assessment test called "Strengths Quest," recently added to the Texas Tech Career Center program, is also a part of the class. The test reveals the areas where each student excels, and helps point the athlete toward a major that coincides with those strengths.

The third component is community service. Students are required to actively participate in community service on a regular basis throughout the semester. Service activities include hospital visits, the Ronald McDonald House, school literacy programs and youth speaking engagements.

Students spend a significant amount of time focusing on personal development in the class. The subject covers a wide spectrum of topics including time management, personal responsibilities, leadership, and substance abuse.

"Decisions are going to come up either this year or in the coming years and we try to give them the information needed to make educated decisions," added Henderson.

Role-playing will also be added to the class this fall. The instructor introduces situations that athletes could encounter and students discuss correct decisions, as well as the consequences after making the wrong ones.

Media Relations Director Chris Cook is a guest speaker during the media section of the course. Cook instructs athletes how to communicate effectively with the media, and explains the "do's and don'ts" of interviewing. The students also have the opportunity to participate in mock interviews critiqued by fellow classmates.

Cook provides the class with an information packet that includes reminders about punctuality, types of inappropriate questions, and patience if the media asks the same question repetitively. Sorry guys!

From a reporter's point of view, Cook and his department are doing a great job as I've been impressed with all of my interviewees thus far.

"The fifth component is athletic development. We educate them on Big XII NCAA rules and also incorporate sports psychology to include the mental aspect of sport," said Henderson.

An increasing number of coaches are beginning to capitalize on the benefits of visualization and other various methods of improving an athlete's mental game.

The two credit class meets twice a week throughout the fall semester and is a great example of the sharp program Tech has put together to encourage excellence in their student athletes. No pun intended.

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