Student athletes perform balancing act

By Harrison Slaughter – [email protected] – Sports Editor | Feb. 25, 2015 |
UNC Asheville athletes said they face rigorous schedules in order to compete athletically while remaining focused on academics.
“We have breakfast with one of our coaches every day, Monday through Friday, between 7:30 and 8:30. We’ve been doing that since I got here,” said Corey Littlejohn, senior guard for the Bulldogs. “It’s really helpful because if you have any extra studying to do, you can do it before class. We normally have weights sometime throughout the day and then practice between 4 and 6 p.m. We get done with that and go home and do some homework. It’s rigorous, but time management is key in order to be successful.”
Practice is typically held in the evening after class. Sometimes players have to miss practice because of class, but they never skip class to go to practice, according to Jaleel Roberts, senior center for the Bulldogs. Occasionally, practice runs late, but they have to fit it into their schedule.
“We make sure that we have the right materials before we go on the road. A lot of times we have study hall, especially if it’s a road trip where we know we are going to be sitting around in the hotel room,” Roberts said. “The only real downside is Internet, which is key for any work we need to do. Sometimes it’s not the best, especially on long bus rides, but we figure out how to get it done.”
Roberts said communication with teachers and professors is a must when traveling for road games in order to remain in good academic standing.
“Each of us have an academic coach, but it’s really a lot on yourself. You need grades in order to be eligible to play so it’s not like you can just slack off and play basketball,” Roberts said. “You really have to maintain and buckle down and make sure all your grades are in shape. When you’re leaving for road trips, emailing your professors and making sure they know what’s going on is a must.”
As soon as the players get something back from a professor, like a test or a quiz, they hand it in to their academic coach, according to Roberts. This is so the coaches can keep up with how the players are doing in certain classes as the semester progresses in case they need a tutor.
“We break our team up into smaller academic teams where each coach is in charge of three or four different players on our team. They monitor the players’ grades and tests throughout the semester,” said Nick McDevitt, head coach of the Bulldogs. “In addition to that, Rebecca Kyle does a terrific job for all of our student-athletes in keeping an eye on the classes they need so they are on pace for graduation.”
One of the challenges the players face is traveling long distances, sometimes four or five hours away, for road games, according to McDevitt. He said if a game ends at 10 p.m., they might not return to campus until 2 or 3 a.m. This can make for a rough morning for players who have to get up and go to 8 a.m. classes.
Littlejohn said waking up at 7:30 every morning is the biggest obstacle he faces trying to juggle classes, practice, tests and games. He said when he doesn’t have a class until 1:45 p.m., it gives him an extra five or six hours of free time.
“I don’t think people should use basketball as an excuse to not do well in school,” Roberts said. “You know what you’re signing up for, so you just have to get it done.”