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Full-Time Student, Full-Time Athlete

September 25, 2013
Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)


Aggie student-athletes utilize top-notch academic services
to stay on top of game off (and on) the field

by Rebekah Schehrer '14
12th Man Productions

Texas A&M's almost 650 student-athletes span 20 varsity sports, all competing at the highest level, the NCAA's Southeastern Conference.

These players are not just athletes. More importantly, they are student-athletes.

Student-athletes have strictly outlined class attendance policies and have degree progress requirements set by the NCAA that must be adhered to in order to maintain eligibility.

What all this means is that while a non-athlete student may be undecided on their major, spend his or her first few semesters as a General Studies major or change majors several times along the way, student-athletes don’t necessarily have those options. They have to make a choice early on, because there is less room for flexibility in their rigid athletic and academic schedules.

"(Our jobs are) about working with them and helping them develop those skills that are going to make them successful in every walk of life that they are going to go into."

- Chris Barttelbort, senior academic supervisor

Many Aggie athletes when in season have their days fully scheduled, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., every day of the week—about 16 hours. And that's not including games played on the weekends.

In addition, athletes, like all students, have to meet the GPA requirements that come with their respective major—and Texas A&M athletes cover a wide range of majors, from engineering to business to communications.

Players have to push themselves every day to tackle all the challenges they face, whether those are getting past a defensive tackle on a running play or putting together a presentation for class. It takes a lot of sacrifice, both physically and mentally, to be good time managers as their team commitments and school obligations keep them extremely busy.

“It’s not easy to get back up and roll out of bed on that Sunday morning after you’ve had a game against Alabama or LSU the night before,” says Chris Barttelbort, senior academic supervisor for the Athletics Department. “When you have to get up and get to study hall, or get up here and go to the academic center and do the work, your body may not cooperate with it.”

While the University may offer supplemental instruction, professor’s office hours, review sessions or tutoring opportunities, most of these are scheduled during times when players are in practice.

Of course, other students may also struggle with fitting these opportunities into their schedules as well, but from an athletic standpoint it is also important that supervisors such as Barttelbort can monitor student-athletes’ work.

"We want to make sure that what is going on is compliant with NCAA rules, meets the academic integrity of Texas A&M and that it adheres to the Aggie Honor Code and the things that we try to maintain as an institution,” Barttelbort said.

Aware of these added challenges and in an effort to help ensure academic success, the Center for Student-Athlete Services provides student-athletes access to the Alice and Erle Nye ’59 Academic Center.

The Nye Center is a 24,550-square foot facility located inside the Bright Football Complex, overlooking the south end zone of Kyle Field. It provides student-athletes with tools for academic success including seven full-time academic supervisors, learning specialists and assistants, a career coordinator, five walk-in labs for subjects ranging from science to business, learning labs and over 50 subject tutors.

Every student-athlete has access to these resources, including those who have exhausted their eligibility and those who may have had to discontinue their athletic career due to an injury or a medical condition.

The main focus of the learning center is to help the athletes develop consistent study patterns by providing them with a structured setting in which to work, helping each student to reach their academic goals. The location of the facilities in the Bright Complex also helps the student-athletes make the most of the time they do have, when work-outs and practice take place right next door inside Netum Steed, the Davis Center or the McFerrin Athletic Center.

To Barttlebort and the Student-Athlete Services staff, working with student-athletes is about teaching them the tools they’ll need to be successful in the workplace once they have earned their degree.

“It's about learning personal responsibility and how to manage your time and yourself and control your own destiny for success,” Barttlebort said. “So it's not about handing them things, it's about working with them and helping them develop those skills that are going to make them successful in every walk of life that they are going to go into."

Many of the programs already feature these success stories. Two-time Super Bowl winner Ty Warren is an outspoken proponent of the education he received at A&M and how proud he is of his Aggie Ring, which is more important to him than both of his Super Bowl rings.

The Texas A&M athlete’s commitment to his or her academic career shines through, especially with the many that have gotten drafted and later chose to come back to walk across that stage and finish what they started here.

While juggling two full-time occupations, traits such as dedication, perseverance and a whole lot of time-management skills are ones all Texas A&M student-athletes learn while making their way through their time here in Aggieland. And they are traits all student-athletes get to take with them when they leave, whether they go on to star in the professional ranks, manage a large corporation, or even earn their PhD.

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