Academic excellence is not a far-off concept to John Brown University’s sports teams.
The Golden Eagles lead the Sooner Athletic Conference with the most athletes on the fall semester Academic All-Conference team . The list, released on Jan. 21, showed that the Golden Eagles either led or tied for most recipients in the conference in three of their five fall semester sports.
The SAC grants places on the team to student-athletes within the conference that post a GPA of 3.25 or higher while playing a sport for their college. The University’s total number of recipients is 11.8 places higher than the SAC average of 21.2.
“[This] shows that JBU is more of an academically-focused school in terms of our athletic programs,” Annie Brown, junior cross country runner, said. “We strive for excellence in athletics and academics.”
Striving for both athletic and academic excellence that Brown spoke of sometimes comes at a cost. Melissa Bakke, outside hitter for the University’s volleyball team, described excelling both in a sport and in the classroom as comparable to having two full-time jobs.
“When you’re not in class, you’re in practice. When you’re not in practice, you’re on a bus heading to someplace in Texas for nine hours,” Bakke said. “You just have to learn how to manage your time and figure out what’s really important.”
Athletes must learn how to take full advantage of their free time and use it for studying. Brown pointed out that she has to use certain times of the day so that practices can be fully dedicated to improving in her sport.
“I know that from four to six, I’m not going to do homework, so I’ll try to work on homework outside of practice, during free time and in between classes,” Brown said. “I dedicate practice time to practice. [It’s about] budgeting time and trying to do it wisely.”
While the athletes described their experience with managing sports and schoolwork as trying, they also mentioned that they find encouragement in their teammates and coaches. Audrey Dearien, outside hitter for the volleyball team, mentioned that their encouragement ultimately helps them represent the school well.
“With encouragement from our teammates and our coaches, we’re able to have the desire to stay on top of our work and know that we’re held to a high standard,” Dearien said. “Being athletes, we represent the school, so we want to be well-rounded in everything that we do, including academics.”
Within some of the sports teams are academic support networks. Zeke Zumbro, forward for the men’s soccer team, pointed out that his coach has encouraged a unique system within his team that pushes the athletes to help each other with their schoolwork.
“[Our coach] wants the upperclassmen to help out the lowerclassmen,” Zumbro said. “If there’s a freshman struggling with an engineering or math course, the [older] engineering majors will help out.”
The University’s athletes are proud of their academic achievements. Zumbro said they represent what their school is about.
“It reflects both the institution and the athletic program,” he said. “Both of them go hand-inhand. It’s a really good reflection of the overall presence of JBU.”