Student-Athletes – putting sports and academics in balance

It’s no secret that the pressure of balancing academics and athletics can be a burden on student-athletes, a struggle that UVa-Wise Athletics Director Kendall Rainey knows well.

According to the UVa-Wise Cavaliers website, Rainey played volleyball and softball for the Highland Cavaliers more than a decade ago and was inducted into UVa-Wise’s Hall of Fame in 2014 for her athletic accomplishments. She also managed to graduate summa cum laude.

Despite the difficulties that come with balancing school and athletics, Rainey is convinced student-athletes are able to step up to the plate and excel academically.

“I think education is what you make it, and I think every team and every student, whether they’re an athlete or not, has the opportunity to do their best, and hopefully that would land them on the Dean’s List or receive academic honors,” Rainey said. “When we recruit students, we recruit students.”

UVa-Wise student-athletes are required to maintain a cumulative 2.0 GPA in order to participate in a sport, due to both NCAA Division II standards and college policy, Rainey said. She believes UVa-Wise is home to some student-athletes who are not only well above this mark, but consistently excel academically.

Conversely, any student-athletes struggling to balance their athletic and academic commitments may be able to find the help they need.

Academically struggling athletes can find help in some of UVa-Wise’s academic services, according to Rainey. “The athletic department works in conjunction with Tutor Connection and Student Support Services to ensure that anyone that needs academic support receives it,” she said.

While UVa-Wise does not offer academic assistance geared specifically toward athletes, Rainey said, the Athletic Department’s Coordinator of Academic Services works with professors to ensure that student-athletes are not academically struggling.

Rainey believes students playing some sports will face greater academic difficulty than students playing other sports. She cited basketball as an example, a sport which is played in both semesters. Through careful planning and good time management skills, she said, athletes are still able to meet high academic standards.

Notably, half of UVa-Wise’s women’s volleyball team received honors for their academic performance in the 2018 fall semester. However, according to Rainey, impressive academic feats are not confined simply to the women’s volleyball team.

“We have some high academic-achieving students across all sports, and we’re proud of them,” she said.

Recalling her own experiences, Rainey said that she believes student-athletes can academically excel by finding balance between their athletic and academic commitments, as well as by working with faculty.

“It sounds real cliché, but managing your time and planning ahead and communicating with your faculty members and coaches is paramount,” she said.

Rainey also encourages student-athletes to attend class whenever possible, as athletes are often forced to miss classes due to their athletic commitments.

“If you’re already missing courses that are excused, then attending all the ones you are able would be in your best interest,” Rainey said.

Ultimately, Rainey believes that every student, whether an athlete or not, should do their best. She feels that while athletics can certainly complicate academics, it is possible to perform well in both.

“I think it’s challenging, but I think that’s part of the experience,” she said.

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