By Kathryn Gambill
To walk in Jeffrey WilcoxIn ‘s office, the first things that catch your eye are several basketballs, UNC Asheville athletics posters plastered on the walls, and two small cheerleading uniforms his daughters once wore. At first glance, one could easily forget that this office resides in the Department of Environmental Studies.
While most students may recognize Wilcox as a professor of environmental studies, he is involved in student athletics, serving as the university’s faculty athletic representative. The FAR position is an NCAA requirement.
As FAR, Wilcox has a responsibility to provide an outside perspective of what’s going on inside the athletics department. He is also chairman of the intercollegiate athletics committee.
“I am reviewing the budget. I check the students’ grades. I review the eligibility sheets,” Wilcox said. “If students have problems with the professors or with the courses, they are generally referred to me and I try to find a solution to the problem with the professors and the students.”
With 16 NCAA Division 1 teams, Wilcox says UNCA student-athletes are good people and good students. However, to be part of a team and to be successful, student-athletes must show up on time and be reliable.
“They do community service with their team,” Wilcox said. “They obviously train, but then they have workouts, but that’s different from bodybuilding or one-on-one training with trainers.”
Being a student-athlete takes a lot of dedication, hard work, and time management. said Wilcox. Although student-athletes must balance all of their athletic commitments, they must also manage being full-time students.
Even with all the obligations that come with being on a team, student-athletes still have to maintain their grades. Wilcox said UNCA athletes have a higher collective GPA and graduation rate than the university as a whole, which he attributes to the athletes’ time management skills and the university’s coaches.
Wilcox said that when recruiting new student-athletes, a coach’s primary concern is selecting athletes who will be successful.
In order to excel in both academics and athletics, the environment teacher said a student must love his sport.
“I’ve definitely seen student-athletes who quit their teams because I think they probably realized, like, ‘I don’t like it enough to spend that much time on it’ and that’s okay,'” said Wilcox. .
Wilcox enjoys seeing student-athletes focus on both academic success and athletic performance. He said participating in athletics has multiple benefits, including teaching student-athletes about personal responsibility, being a good teammate and staying in good physical condition.
“I think the skills to be successful in sport and personal responsibility prepare you for life,” Wilcox said.
Assistant trainer in health and well-being promotion Stephanie Novak stated that being an athlete can cause a significant amount of stress in a student’s life.
“The performance pressure, not only in the classes, but they have the performance pressure in their sport. It directly affects their stress levels and trying to balance athletics and school I think is a real trick. says Novak. “Like time management skills, being able to have the organizational skills to keep their schedule straight and figure out when they can actually work on an assignment that may not be due for a week.”
Another factor that student-athletes have to balance is traveling for games, meets, or matches.
Novak said when athletes travel for their sport, they should have realistic expectations about the amount of school work they can accomplish on the road. Additionally, athletes may miss the opportunity to learn in a classroom setting.
“I think it’s a tricky situation,” Novak said, “because some are more dependent on being in class, hearing firsthand what the discussions are, the notes, the PowerPoints, instead of just getting a hard copy of the document they missed or even sent the PowerPoint in. It’s sort of the skeleton of what they need to keep. There’s more to it.
She said students learn from each other and traveling for a sport often causes athletes to miss the experience of interacting with their peers in the classroom. They are also responsible for providing teachers with a schedule of games, fixtures and matches to show which classes they will be missing.
“The protocol was established to really emphasize self-responsibility. Over the years it has become more like that. I think their coaches and their advisers say, “You know, it’s understandable that you have this extra commitment which is huge.” But they really have to stand up for themselves and talk to teachers and get caught up in talking to other students and really making sure they know what they missed,” Novak said.
Novak said practicing mindfulness and attending class can help student-athletes be productive and maintain their grades.
“I’m sure it’s tough because there’s pressure and we talk about the pressures of life and an athlete has even more and they’re trying to maintain their grades and they’re trying to keep their commitments and they don’t ‘have no control over the schedule,’” Novak said.
Former student athlete and senior engineering student Jacob Finck said that due to commitments with the UNCA track team, he decided to spend a fifth year completing his studies.
“It was hectic,” Fink said. “I did things to make sure I could do everything I needed to do and keep my grades high. I figured out in first year that I couldn’t take more than 12 or 13 hours per semester. C That’s why I had to go there for five years.
As an engineering student, Finks said his classes were set up to be taken on a four-year schedule. Since some courses are only available during the fall or spring semester and only one section of a course is offered, missing a single course can set a student back an entire year.
“I have a senior design class this year that lasts a year. It’s basically research, but for engineers. So I only have 12 hours of school left, but it will take me a whole year to finish it,” Fink said.
Along with taking an extra year, Fink also took summer classes to balance his schedule. While he could have graduated in four years, Fink said his grades would have suffered and he would have been miserable and stressed.
Even though the balance between studies and athletics was never really difficult for him, Fink still had to learn to plan and manage his time.
“When I was taking too many hours in freshman year, I was pretty stressed about the workload and the training schedule and all that,” Fink said. “But once I figured out that 12 or 1 p.m. was my sweet spot, where I needed to be, I had time to not be stressed and not worry about the grades, but to do the work I had to do.”
Fink’s coaches were understanding when working out his training schedule based on his class schedule. Fink said the flexibility of his training schedule made it easier to balance school and athletics.
In the end, it all comes down to time management.
Wilcox said when a student-athlete is successful in the classroom and on the field, on the court or in the pool, it says a lot about their ability to manage their time and be responsible.
While some students may use their time to watch TV or sleep, Wilcox said student-athletes just use their time more productively.
“There are so many benefits to sports that I don’t see it as competition with school, but more as how you choose to use your free time,” Wilcox said.