By Alex Stradford – Contributing Writer
Students and faculty agree collegiate athletes at UNC Asheville enjoy perks unavailable to the typical student.
“Sports can be a great microcosm for life,” said Joey Sasvari, UNCA Women’s assistant soccer coach. “I think that if you had to choose who was getting a better overall experience in college, in a level of growth, I think athletes are at a huge advantage.”
Student-athletes with athletic scholarships and play all four years have a 99 percent graduation rate, whereas the typical student has a 33 percent graduation rate, according to university statistics and The Princeton Review.
“It’s harder to be a student-athlete than to be a regular student,” said Mary Beale, former UNCA athlete and former president of UNCA’s Student Athletic Advisory Committee.
It’s a mental and physical challenge, and UNCA does a phenomenal job at preparing our student-athletes to succeed in life, Beale said.
According to UNCA figures, student-athletes have one of the highest graduation rates in the NCAA.
“(Teachers) understand that we are representing the school, and we are student-athletes,” said Beale. “First we are students, but then we are also athletes.”
Beale said faculty helps accommodate athletes by providing various educational elements such as study hall and tutors, which benefit the students tremendously.
Not only do the faculty of athletics, but the players and coaches on the sports teams also provide great mentors for incoming freshman, Beale said. She also said being apart of a team gives an athlete someone to look up to and to provide the freshman leadership.
The SAAC president said athletes enjoy the advantage of being a part of a sports team because they already have a group of connections.
UNCA has 15 Division I athletic programs that give student-athletes a number of other students to look to for support.
“You are already included into a fellowship of experienced people that can help you through your freshman year,” Sasvari said. “Non-athletes don’t have that, they have to find their own way. I think that they don’t know where to go to find that type of mentorship because it is an awkward thing to just go seek it out.”
Beale said Rebecca Keil, UNCA’s director of Student-Athlete Services and Affairs, greatly influences incoming freshman because she gives them tips for succeeding in school. She also helps mentor students about classes or anything non-related to sports.
“One of the things you have to recognize is the huge transition from high school to college, and a big piece of that is time management. That’s particularly important for student athletes,” Keil said.
Helping provide resources for student-athletes by bringing in speakers to focus on specific subjects like time management is especially important; however, it’s mostly trying to connect the students with the resources already here on campus, Kiel said.
Sasvari said Keil doesn’t coddle the student-athletes. She only helps relieve unnecessary stress that many athletes face.
UNCA figures show the school offers students more than 60 clubs and organizations, ranging from honor societies to intramural sports. Advising and Learning Support also offers students tutoring, peer mentoring programs, as well as academic recovery programs.
As a freshman, athletes access more than the regular student, but it is less noticeable as the regular student ages because they figure out how to acquire those connections, Sasvari said.
Of the 3,600 students on campus, only a small portion of 6 percent makes up the student athlete population, according to UNCA figures.
“We will give you a support structure, but there are some things that you will have to go out and solve on your own, Sasvari said about UNCA’s athletic faculty.