Jasper Student-Athletes Thriving In The Classroom

by Jamie Regan Contributor

The athlete who slacks off in class is seemingly unbeknownst to Manhattan College. Jaspers are doing the most they can to debunk the stigmas surrounding the college jock- and they’re doing a pretty good job. Despite the demanding commitments of being a Division I athlete, last spring provided the perfect illustration of how proficiently Manhattan’s student-athletes are excelling in the classroom.

Women’s soccer team set the bar high with a 3.54 team GPA. Women’s lacrosse and volleyball were right behind at 3.53, while men’s swimming was a laudable 3.47. Seventeen of 19 sports teams finished with a team GPA over 3.1.

In addition, 162 Jaspers earned inclusion to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Honor Roll last semester. Half, who achieved a GPA higher than 3.6, were named to the President’s Honor Roll, while the other 81 athletes celebrated being on the Academic honor roll with minimum GPAs of 3.2.

Women’s lacrosse placed seven on the IWLCA Academic honor roll, women’s volleyball earned the AVCA Team Academic Award, Samson Usilo of the basketball team was one of few engineers nationwide named to the 2017-2018 NABC Honors Court, and 215 athletes were included on the MAAC Academic Honor Roll (Minimum GPA of 3.2). Manhattan’s contribution to MAAC Academic Honor Roll comprised the second greatest total of athletes from a single school within the entire conference.

The seven women on the lacrosse team who made the IWLCA honor roll were recognized for having a cumulative GPA of 3.50 or higher. The seven were among 465 honorees from 105 schools; a distinction available to only Division 1 juniors, seniors or graduate students.

A single question remains. How are they doing it?

Maintaining the balance between sports and studies isn’t always easy for college athletes, and twenty-four hours can often be much less than it seems. However, having less free time may be the reason our athletes are so productive in the classroom. Seemingly defying common sense, at Manhattan College having less time seems to get more things done.

On days where teams have mid-day practice followed by late-afternoon lift (with no time in between to do anything besides eat lunch) athletes will spend their mornings either in class or in the library trying to get ahead on work instead of saving it for later after they’ve been worn down physically and mentally.

Caileigh Lampersberger, a junior defenseman on the women’s lacrosse team, was one of nine Jaspers from the team that was named to the 2018 MAAC All-Academic

team in the spring. For Lampersberger and the majority of athletes at Manhattan, the days are packed with practices, lifts, film sessions and study halls, often from sunrise to sunset.

“The biggest thing is time management because the days are so full of practices,” Lampersberger said when asked about her specific success with academics and how she manages her responsibilities and obligations as a Division I athlete.

Something that’s really helped her and her teammates has been mentally making a schedule. She’ll plan things like when she needs to do homework, study or take part in another extracurricular, so she already has an idea of what her days look like going into a week.

“It lets me know I can delegate four hours to this class this week and a couple hours for this assignment on this day,” Lampersberger said. “It all helps me not fall behind on anything. If I know I have three hours of lift and three hours to get a project done after that, I’m going to get right to work and waste less time.”

Making the most of her time and putting petal to the metal during crunch time is a quality that Lampersberger says many of her teammates also possess. For her and her teammates, being a student-athlete is all about having to make constant adjustments, which she mentioned got easier with time.

She admitted that her freshman year was shaky, but now as a junior she, like her teammates, has a very good understanding of what her work requires and has learned to plan accordingly. This may help explain why her team had seven upperclassmen awarded with inclusion to the aforementioned IWLCA Academic Honor roll.

While the student-athletes are the ones who make it happen and get the recognition for all they do, they are not doing it alone. Coaches, teachers, and good academic resources play a very big role in the successes that our athletes share. Despite the reality that most head coaching positions are far from secure and that coaches are under heavy fire to win championships each and every season; they seldom put the athlete in front of the student.

Coaches are fully aware and receptive to what their players are balancing on all levels, and structure their coaching accordingly. Women’s lacrosse Head Coach Katie McConnell noted that, “they are here to graduate, here to get a degree and then they are here to play lacrosse.”

Such words are indicative of the flexibility and consideration of Manhattan’s coaches that transcends all sports.

“If they have to come and go to class, if they have to go to a tutoring session and miss the end of lift, then that’s what is necessary, because at the end of the day none of my players are going to be playing lacrosse for the rest of their lives,” said Coach McConnell. “That degree is going to go a whole lot further.”

The coaching takes nothing away from the players, though. McConnell says that the student-athletes and the culture itself at Manhattan are at an entirely different level then what she experienced formerly coaching at Coastal Carolina University and Lockhaven College.

It’s not always about being faster and stronger than your opponent, sometimes the smarter team comes out on top and coach McConnell impressed the idea that she has a remarkably cerebral team here at Manhattan.

“I can see their thought process,” said Coach McConnell. “They want to know if point A happens then what will happen after it. They seek to see the game a few steps in advance at all times. In that way I can really see the kind of students they are on the field. It really is amazing”

Another trait distinctive to the successes Manhattan’s athletes share, is their willingness and determination not only to get good grades, but to go get extra help, and to help each other. Associate Director of Student-Athlete Academic Services, Rory Redmond, bore this belief fully.

“Take the volleyball team for example,” said Redmond. “They’re fantastic. They get all their study hall hours done in advance and in the rare instance that an issue arises they’re the first ones in my office. They take care of everything pretty much on their own, always helping one another along the way.”

Coach McConnell, Redmond and Lampersberger all stressed the pride Jaspers take in their academics.

“I would say we’re all very future driven,” said Lampersberger. “No one’s okay with bad grades.”

At Manhattan, the student-athletes have built more than just a reputation for academic success. They have built a culture of striving for academic excellence through hard work and support; and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

“One thing that I think is the difference here is that it’s cool to do well in school,” said Coach McConnell. “It’s cool to want to go to the library. It’s not something that is ever looked down on. It’s never ‘Oh you’re going to the library?’ It’s ‘Yeah I’m going to the library and you’re coming.’”

Academically speaking, big things happened in the spring for Jasper student-athletes. It’ll be interesting to see how they follow it up this semester.