Cheering On a Winning Team
Mixing Academics and Athletics at
by Anthony Martinez
From its earliest days,
Now, 25 years later, athletics has made a comeback at
"We needed to create opportunities for [students] on campus; we needed to create something for them to get behind," said Tommy Connor, director of athletic programs at
Connor believes that without these programs a valuable part of college life would be missing. "You would lose student life, you lose student excitement, you lose an extracurricular activity that's really important in terms of coming to a game with friends or a group of people--that's part of the college experience," he said.
Dean of Students Carolyn Perkins agreed with Connor's assessment and went just a little further. "It gets [students] away from the living situation...it helps reduce stress and anxiety because you can yell and scream and have a good time, and it's all done within the whole umbrella of 'it's okay because you're in the gymnasium.'"
In addition to the entertainment and stress relief that athletics provide, Perkins added that there are practical applications too. "I think it brings such an important aspect that we don't look at sometimes with athletics, and that is what the students learn from athletics: how to play as a team member and how to deal with confrontation, but also how to lead at different points in time."
In another way, Perkins sees athletics as similar to any other organization on campus. "Whether it's a club or organization, whatever it is, there's a nice camaraderie that develops from being a part of a team, whether it's athletic or some type of academic team." She said the benefits of camaraderie and teamwork come as the result of sharing common struggles or challenges with other members, or in the case of athletics, simply knowing someone on the team who represents you.
Of course there are always critics when it comes to collegiate athletics. Every year stories pop up in the media about inequities in academic standards for student athletes versus the everyday student. But according to Connor, that's precisely where
According to statistics, it seems he may be right. Student athletes at
In addition to a cumulative GPA of 3.4 for student athletes at Westminster, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which governs athletic programs at educational institutions like Westminster, has recognized more than 32 Westminster student athletes as Academic All-Americans--a distinction reserved for student athletes who maintain a 3.5 GPA, serve in leadership roles on campus, and take part in volunteer programs while still participating in an athletic program.
Perkins and Connor both suggested that some of the reasons for the academic success among student athletes at
And while the numbers say
"Doing it the right way, bringing the right kind of people on campus, that kind of success has brought tremendous positive recognition to the college," said Connor. And it is just that kind of success and recognition that has brought another once-missing tradition back to campus. If you listen closely on game night, you can hear the echoes of the cheering crowd filter through the windows of Payne Gymnasium.