OSU student athletes seek understanding as they balance time

Student life on “the other side of the railroad tracks” is “just as good if not better” than the rest of campus when it comes to real life skills.

That’s the message delivered by five student athletes and a coach to members of the Faculty Senate earlier this month. Consider it almost a plea for understanding, they said, despite the stereotype held

James Dockery, OSU Football

James Dockery, OSU Football

by some that “just dumb jocks” live and play on the south side of the tracks that cut through campus.

Participating in programs that leave them far from home and campus, practicing and training all year long, and constantly carrying close to a full load of academic classes, the five said they have become experts in time management and problem-solving skills.

“You’ve got to realize there’s no off-season,” said James Dockery, a junior in business administration and cornerback and safety on the Beavers football team. In season practices, games, travel, weight training, team meetings, physical therapy must be fit in with at least 12 hours of credit.

Throughout the rest of the year, with conditioning, additional weights, and rehabilitation from injuries, the course load is even greater, said Dockery, who came to OSU from Palm Desert, Calif.

Braden Wells, a senior in speech communications, credits his “theories of conflict and conflict management” class as being “most relevant to my life.”

Braden Wells, OSU Baseball

Braden Wells, OSU Baseball

Learning the skills to talk with professors, work out schedules for assignments and participate fully in classes is a balancing act he and the some 500 other student athletes must learn to not only stay eligible for their sports but also complete a successful college academic career, said Wells, who is wrapping up his baseball career as an undergraduate assistant. He is from Glendale, Ariz.

“Some people have the perception athletes are trying to get away from the responsibilities of class,” said Terry Liskevych, head volleyball coach and moderator of the Faculty Senate presentation.

Except for a very few, perhaps, all are balancing their time in the limelight of their sport, their academic studies, and the sometimes unyielding demands from their coaches. “It’s not a democracy out there,” Liskevych said. When a coach requires a practice session that overlaps several classes, it is the individual student who needs to work out the conflicts.

Strenuous schedules also rub emotions raw, he said. Student athletes have a deep drive for success in both arenas, the classroom and the playing venue, he said. “And when you’re playing in the Pac 10, these are the best athletes outside the pros.”

“That’s quite a burden on these 17- to 21-year-olds.”

High tech has helped 21st century student athletes, said Josh Tarver, a senior on the men’s basketball team. “The Internet has made things easier on the road since papers can be submitted electronically when we’re traveling,” the Jesuit High School of Portland graduate said.

Terry Liskevych, head OSU Volleyball coach

Terry Liskevych, OSU Volleyball coach

Blackboard programs that allow students to take part in online class discussions and YouTube videos that allow out-of-classroom access to classroom content “definitely help,” said Dockery.

Liskevych asks faculty and staff on campus to consider three points when dealing with student athletes:

 Listen. “That’s my main thing. Take the time to hear what an athlete might be asking. How can they make up an assignment? How can they get to the point where they can successfully complete a course.

 Understand the time commitment, during the season and throughout the rest of the year.

 Know that at least 95 percent of the athletes are not trying to get out of anything.

“Progress has been made; our graduation success rate is getting higher and higher each year” for both men’s and women’s sports, the volleyball coach said.

By problem-solving and communicating their needs to others, he said, “these students are becoming the functioning adults and citizens our country needs in the future.”

~ by Ed Curtin

A video interview with James Dockery and Braden Wells is available by clicking here: Student Athletes on Balancing Time

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