by PETE JANNY, Asst. Sports Editor
Being a Manhattan College student athlete comes with an immense amount of pressure and expectations to succeed on the playing field.
It takes a genuine love for a sport and an unquenchable drive to succeed to earn the privilege to be a Division 1 athlete. Generally speaking, not only does this opportunity to compete on the collegiate level represent the pinnacle of their athletic careers, but it also officially marks the start of the four year countdown to the extinction of their playing careers. If there was ever a time to soak up every second of the exhilaration of being an athlete, this would seem like the most enticing time to do so.
A majority of the student athletes at Manhattan seem to be living in moderation nowadays. Most seem to be able to effectively disentangle their co-existing roles as athletes and students by striking a good balance between academic workload and athletic training. Needless to say, we already knew what these individuals were capable of as athletes. Now we are witnessing their dominance in the classroom.
Manhattan College’s athletic department hosted the third annual Breakfast for the Stars on the morning of Sunday, February 10th to commemorate the academic achievements of the school’s student-athletes. The honorees were joined by their coaches and members of the college’s administration for this unique opportunity for everyone to share their appreciation for all the hard work being done by one another to enhance the academic status of Manhattan student-athletes.
The contingent of student-athletes in attendance consisted of the top academic performers on each varsity sports team, as well as the 237 student-athletes who produced a 3.2 GPA or higher this past fall semester. The celebratory gathering featured a buffet-style breakfast, short videos containing academic statistics about the Jaspers’ intercollegiate teams, and inspirational remarks from a few members of the Manhattan family.
This year’s keynote speaker for the event was a man who is no stranger to Manhattan College. Lawrence Grassi ‘93, a former Manhattan soccer standout and current sales trader at Goldman Sachs, had the privilege of addressing the honorees. Grassi, a former assistant coach for the women’s soccer team, shared some memories of his college days and how Manhattan helped jumpstart his professional career after college.
Grassi devoted a good portion of his speech to hammering home the importance for student-athletes to focus their attention on building a network of connections to expand their career options. As someone who adores Manhattan College, Grassi acknowledged how honored he was to speak in front of a group of promising student-athletes from his alma mater.
The analytical side of the academic efforts of Manhattan’s student-athletes serves as an index of just how productive they’ve been in the classroom. For the Fall 2018 semester, 11 of the 19 varsity sports teams averaged a 3.2 GPA or better, with 17 teams in total finishing with at least a 3.0 GPA. From an individual standpoint, 237 student-athletes secured a 3.2 GPA or better last semester. To put that number into context, these 237 individuals account for nearly 60 percent of the student body. Of those 237 student-athletes, 189 of them placed on the Dean’s List, which recognizes those who attained a 3.4 GPA or better this past term. In addition, 33 of those 189 student athletes amassed an immaculate 4.0 GPA.
The most exclusive collection of honorees were those who currently carry the highest cumulative GPA on their respective teams. These 19 individuals make up the category called “top team performers.” These student-athletes have set the bar high for their peers by illustrating a consistent level of success in the classroom that is hard to come by.
Among the 19 student-athletes who received this prestigious honor were junior Jesse Boyce (men’s basketball), junior Tuuli Menna (women’s basketball), and senior Ryan Shields (men’s soccer). For all three, the honor of being recognized by the Manhattan College community for their academic stature was equal parts gratifying and humbling. Their ability to produce results both on the field and in the classroom admittedly stems from a strong emphasis on organization and time management.
“The main thing is just time management,” said Boyce. “Obviously it’s a crazy busy schedule but you just got to plan out your time in the right way.”
“I just try to stay as organized as I can and make sure I’m plotting weeks out,” said Shields.
These sentiments especially ring true when the calendar flips to one’s respective sport.
“The toughest part is trying to get everything done when we are in season,” said Menna. “Once you are done with practice you need to get started with homework.”
Being a student-athlete at Manhattan College has a different meaning for everyone. Some understandably revel in the attention they receive from fellow classmates, while others particularly relish the close-knit nature of the community.
“The students on campus look up to the student-athletes and it makes you feel good,” said Boyce. “It’s cool to have an important role on campus.”
“Because the community here is small you can make meaningful connections with people and get that mentorship that you need,” said Shields.
Menna, a native of Finland and former Richmond Spider, is grateful to be able to play the game she loves while working her way towards a degree in finance.
“Wearing a Manhattan College jersey is a true privilege and getting an education is huge,” said Menna.
As upperclassmen, Menna, Shields, and Boyce serve as mentors for their younger teammates by dishing out tips on how to excel in the classroom.
“They look up to me in a way when it comes to school,” said Boyce. “They ask for tips here and there and it definitely feels good to help them out.”
“The advice I give my teammates is to be prepared to go to class by getting all your homework and readings done,” said Menna.
Mentors don’t only teach through direct verbal instruction. The way they comport themselves on a day to day basis can also have a positive impact on their peers.
“I try to lead by example and just by doing the best I can,” said Shields. “As long I know that I’m putting 100 percent time and effort into what I’m doing then that’s all that really matters to me.”
As student-athletes inch closer and closer to graduation, thoughts about career possibilities start to intensify. Grassi’s motivational remarks reminded the student-athletes of how crucial it is to make the most of the opportunities Manhattan has to offer.
“Larry is an example of the connections you can have through sports and by being at Manhattan College,” said Menna.