Student athletes give advice on academics: Part I

Most of those who read my column work: Paid employment, volunteer work, tasks around the house and yardwork, if left undone, would create serious problems. Some of us juggle all three types of work.

By Dr. Vivian Blevins

Columnist

Community and junior colleges occupy a special place in American higher education, and I’d like to share with my readers the stories of basketball players who played for Edison State Community College in the 2018-2019 season, the best season the college has had to date.

These young men have earned their grades and their right to call themselves team members of a nationally-ranked team and number two seed in the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference that, sadly, lost in the final game of the tournament: Cameron Arnold, Caleb Maggard, and Jaedyn Carter

These student athletes have advice for high school students who plan to play college ball in the 2019-2020 season. They know that there is a good reason they are called student-athletes and that the logo of the conference in which they play is “Outstanding in the Classroom, Community and Competition.”

Those athletes who believe that being tall and a whiz on the hardwood are all that matter will find themselves off the team once fall semester grades are released. Know that coaches at colleges and universities are reluctant to pin their hopes for a winning season on players who don’t realize the importance of academic performance (And you can take that to the bank in spite of the corruption that exists in some locales).

Cameron Arnold played point guard for Houston High School and at graduation was unsure initially where he wanted to attend college. He finally chose Edison State because it was close to home, it was inexpensive, and he wanted to actually get in playing time. He has another year of eligibility at Edison and then he plans to attend the University of Cincinnati, Bowling Green State University, or Ball State University and major in architecture.

He understands the academic component of being a student athlete and has the following advice:

• Don’t get behind. Turn in every little assignment on time. As a team member, he says, “We spend lots of time doing homework together, most nights after practice.”

• An example is his class in ENG 122: “We examine the work of other teammates and give opinions: What’s going good? What needs to be reworked, the thesis, the conclusion? What might be added that would fit well?”

• He adds, “As leaders the coaches expect us to lead, so we ask other players questions such as the following: What do you need help with? What can you do to boost your grade? And we know that getting to know the other students in our classes can be helpful because we can ask them questions.”

• Acknowledging that all colleges have libraries and learning centers, Cam says, “Everybody is going to need help at some time and these places are free and always available. If I think I’m not going to get a good grade, I go to the learning center, and they get me going down the right path.”

• Organization is crucial to academic success, and Cam has boxes in his closet where he organizes everything from school work to videos.

With a job in the lumber department of Lowe’s in Sidney, Cam loves “design and good basic structure” and understands the job at Lowe’s is related to his career choice of architecture.

In concluding the interview, Cam says, “All decisions come from deep thought, what’s coming in the future. It’s all about time management and work ethic. You’ve got to want to do it: it won’t do itself.”

Another Edison State student athlete Caleb Maggard didn’t know what he wanted after graduating from Oak Hill High School in Marion, Ind., and was considering the U.S. Air Force or a four-year school when he met Edison State’s head coach, Kyle Vanover, at an all-star game and later at a basketball camp. The decision was soon made.

To Caleb, “Basketball is like a brotherhood. We face obstacles and adversities as we have hard conditioning, exhausting practices, and tough games. The result is life-long memories.”

His advice on academics just makes good sense with the challenges of, as he words it, “20-plus hours a week for basketball, two or three games a week, three-hour bus rides, barely any sleep, and an 8 a.m. class the day after a game.”

• He “establishes/sets priorities, tries to get the college work done three days into the week by following the syllabi closely.”

• Caleb adds, “Procrastination will do you in every time, so I carry a paper calendar in a folder of what’s due and when. I don’t use my phone to manage my school work because you can lose so much doing that, and you can get caught up in social media with the phone.”

• If ball players, “Live lazy, sloppy, they fall behind. Stay neat, stay focused, get stuff done,” Caleb admonishes.

• Caleb shares an apartment with Cam and stresses the importance of like-minded people, “Who you surround yourself with is important. Choose to be with people who are like you – especially with what some kids are getting into these days.”

• When Caleb has issues with a class, he advises, “Talk to your professor. Find out the reasons for your problems, and use counselors if you need to.”

• When a team member is slacking off, Caleb says, “I’ve tried to help some by asking them if they need help and then setting up a study session. They don’t show and it’s frustrating to be nagging them. They seem to believe that things are given rather than earned.”

• Caleb is transferring to Purdue University at Fort Wayne, Ind., fall semester where his major is structural engineering. With his study skills firmly in hand and his can-do attitude, he will succeed.

This will be a two-part series with the second part detailing Jaedyn’s advice on academics as well as the advice of coaches.

Dr. Vivian Blevins is a Harlan County native. She has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teaches communication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College in Ohio. Reach her at vbblevins@woh.rr.com.