The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student side of student athlete

Athletes who play football get check-ins from assistant coaches to see how they are doing academically. (File)

The student portion of student athletes tends to be left aside by fans as college sports become more and more of a spectacle. 

The reasoning behind this is valid. Our brains are not wired to think a 6’7” basketball player who stole the ball and raced down the court for a game-winning dunk also has a chemistry lab due in a few days. 

Student athletes are in a unique situation among their peers in university. They must devote hours of their time not only to their athletic abilities but also their studies. Managing the stress of classes and sports can be difficult.  

It turns out, coaches and faculty at Eastern do their best to smooth the bumps along the road for these athletes. 

Head football coach Chris Wilkerson dove into how he and his coaching staff ensure the team keeps their grades high. 

“The coaches meet weekly with each of their positional players individually to check in and see how they are doing academically,” Wilkerson said. “We see every grade and any notes from professors. We have supervised study hall for the players to make sure they continue to progress academically.” 

The coaching staff tries to make it as difficult as possible for athletes’ grades to slip with these factors, ensuring a player maintains good grades. 

It makes sense for Wilkerson to care so much about grades. Academic success is a core feature of his coaching ideology, and he makes it clear that his athletes’ focus should be on education first and foremost. 

“The number one reason any student athlete is here at EIU is to get their education and obtain a degree,” Wilkerson said. “Their academic development and growth are priority number one.” 

Wilkerson believes his philosophy will help the team on and off the field, adding that he notices players who strive to do their best academically often excel on the field. 

“There is a correlation that the more productive players are, the better they are in everything [they do],” Wilkerson said. “Usually more competitive, driven people compete and do well in everything they attempt do.” 

This school of thought is held by most coaches in the athletic world. James Gilson, director of track and field, also believes students who succeed in class succeed on the track. 

“Everyone’s a student first, so academics is the priority,” Gildon said. “We believe that how you do anything is how you do everything, so we really encourage, again, intensity and effort in the classroom.” 

Intensity and effort in the classroom are achieved by the track and field and cross country teams. Women’s track and field led all sports in GPA last semester with an average of 3.63. This was closely followed by the Women’s cross country with an average GPA of 3.60. Men’s cross country wasn’t far behind with a 3.28. 

Both women’s and men’s cross country teams won the OVC this year. 

Women’s golf placed in the top 15 in every meet and had an average 3.52 GPA. 

Another case to be made can be found with the Eastern volleyball team. This historically great squad took volleyball to the first NCAA tournament appearance since. Their GPA was the third highest among all sports at 3.57. 

It appears there may be some correlation between academic success and athletic success. Whether it be cross country, track and field, volleyball or golf, this success may certainly be credited to the coaches and faculty that endorsed them so heavily. 

 

Aidan Cusack can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]. 

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