Saturday, August 30, 2014

Athletes display academic strength

Rigorous studies and high GPAs prove that Liberty athletes are successful on more than just the court and field

Practice, classes, study, condition, repeat. This is the typical schedule for Liberty University’s student athletes.

While Liberty University’s athletic teams’ success can clearly be seen on the field and court, with the Flames and Lady Flames bringing home four conference titles in the most recently completed season, the players are also triumphing in their respective academic fields.

Brains and brawn — Student athletes receive private tutoring. Photo credit: Hannah Lipscomb

Brains and brawn — Student athletes receive private tutoring. Photo credit: Hannah Lipscomb

Although most NCAA athletes are recognized first based on the wins, losses, plays and statistics, Liberty, through Academic Affairs for Athletics, also pays close attention to how the student athletes fare in the classroom.

According to Associate Director for Academics Matt Anthony, his department is committed to ensuring the success of Liberty’s 600 NCAA student athletes in the classroom.
The department provides academic tutoring, mentoring and advising services, among other things.

“Our program assists student athletes in finding and maintaining a balance between the demands of athletics and academics while preparing them as socially responsible individuals for life after athletics,” Senior Associate Athletics Director for Academic Affairs Kristie Beitz said on the department’s website.

Liberty’s Academic Affairs for Athletics is one of only approximately 20 departments in the country to be accredited by the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A), Anthony said, and all eight full-time staff members are individually certified by the N4A. According to Anthony, the fully accredited status was awarded in April of 2011, and Liberty was the 13th school to be awarded certification at the time. Additionally, the Liberty department was the first school in the Football Championship Subdivision to receive the certification.

Anthony explained the support role Academic Affairs for Athletics takes and said the entire staff is committed to producing academically strong players.

“Outside of the coaching staff and their teammates, our staff is probably who the student athletes see most on campus,” Anthony said. “… We’re very passionate about what we do. We love meeting with the students. We love seeing them succeed.”

According to Anthony, in addition to the hours student athletes put in at practices and in competition, all 600 Liberty student athletes are required by the NCAA to take a course load of at least 12 credit hours and must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA — a standard that Liberty athletes easily exceed.

According to Liberty’s athletics website, liberty.edu/flames, in the fall 2013 season, Liberty’s 600 student athletes posted a combined 3.04 GPA. All 11 of the women’s programs had a team GPA of 3.0 or higher during the season, including field hockey, which finished with a 3.5 GPA, according to Anthony. Additionally, five of Liberty’s nine male squads hit the 3.0 team GPA mark during the fall.

While a number of athletes are named to the Big South Conference Presidential Honor Roll based on their GPAs, several Liberty athletes, such as track and field redshirt sophomore David Scouten and volleyball senior Becca Haraf, have been awarded higher honors for their excellence in the classroom, as well.

Scouten, who is double majoring in criminal justice and accounting, recognized the importance of doing well in school while he is an athlete.

“This is a means to an end,” Scouten said. “This is a way to get an education and just to help ourselves out down the road.”

Scouten was named to the Big South Conference All-Academic Teamin the 2013-2014 indoor season. In addition to his top performances during the season, Scouten has managed to maintain a 3.96 GPA and is in the honors program.

“God’s blessed me with a lot of abilities, and so, in order for me to use those right way, I have to put effort into that and just work as hard as I can to develop those skills and those attributes and work hard in the classroom and on the track,” he said.

Scouten explained that trying to balance practicing for more than three hours a day on non-competition days and competing in meets nearly every weekend can be somewhat overwhelming.

“(I) just (do) a lot of planning,” Scouten said. “My roommate, he makes fun of me sometimes, (because) I’ll plan out my whole semester and every single week. … Staying organized helps me stay on top of things. Last semester, when I took 18 credit hours, there wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t doing something.”

After completing her final season with the Lady Flames volleyball team, senior Becca Haraf, a biology/pre-med major, was named to the Capital One Academic All-America Division I Volleyball second team. Haraf became the 19th Liberty athlete to earn the title of Academic All-American and was one of only 19 student athletes across the country to make the Academic All-American team from the sport.

In her four years at Liberty, Haraf held a 4.0 GPA and is now headed for medical school at the University of Toledo.

The defensive specialist explained that while her schedule was packed and schoolwork was difficult at times, she remained dedicated to doing well in school.

“I came home, came back from practice, came back from classes and had to study,” Haraf said. “I get up the next day. Go to weights. Go to class. Go to practice. Come back, and I had to study.”

According to Haraf, she believes the support that Liberty staff offers its student athletes is instrumental in helping them to succeed academically.

Haraf held a 4.0 GPA and is now headed for medical school at the University of Toledo.

The defensive specialist explained that while her schedule was packed and schoolwork was difficult at times, she remained dedicated to doing well in school.

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