Coaches, athletes work to minimize absences
By Katy Sutcliffe
For sophomore volleyball player Gretta Reed, competing in her sport of choice required missing about three days of class during fall term in each of her courses. However, Reed’s grades were never docked as a direct result of those absences.
“The policy is that participation in intercollegiate athletics are an excused absence,” Dean of the College Lawrence Breitborde said.
The number of excused absences, however, is not set arbitrarily. Rather, the college’s Athletic Committee, composed of faculty, staff and student representatives, reviews the proposed schedule for each sport and how many absences it would lead to as a result. The committee must then vote on the final schedule.
According to Assistant Professor of Biology and chair of the committee Matthew Jones-Rhoades, the committee’s main goal is to avoid a situation where a student would miss any more than 10 percent of any class period, something that can occasionally pose a problem.
“There are some sports where it’s just not possible to meet that,” Jones-Rhoades said. “There’s no way to have a reasonable number of competitions.”
Regardless of the number of days missed, instructor in Gender and Women’s Studies Kelly Shaw has little problem with students missing class for athletic events.
“Athletes have been really conscious of making up missed work and not missing any other classes,” Shaw said. “When they do that, it minimizes the impact. They really try to approach it in a responsible manner.”
Breitborde described this effort as part of the student athlete’s responsibility. Other professors, including Professor of Mathematics Dennis Schneider, also saw it in their classroom.
“I’ve been very pleased in general with athletes informing me [of missing class],” Schneider said. “If we’re going to have an athletic team, it’s unavoidable students will have to miss some classes for games.”
Rob Purlee, head coach for the men’s golf and basketball teams, emphasized the priority the athletic department places on reducing the impact of missing class.
“The people in this office have to do a good job of recruiting people who can handle missing class time,” Purlee said. He said that coaches make it a priority to be accessible to student athletes in order to ensure open communication if they need to miss practice or a game for academic reasons.
Purlee also noted the need for coaches to emphasize academics with their athletes.
“We have to do a great job of staying on top of our guys,” he said. “We’re trying to fix the problem before it becomes a problem. If a basketball player is to miss a game … he would let down the entire team.”
The athletic department’s attitude towards academics worked for Reed, who made the dean’s list every term she competed.
“It makes you have better time management when you play sports,” she said.
Reed wasn’t affected so much by the number of absences as their timing.
“How many classes you miss isn’t as important as when in the term you’re missing them,” she said. “That can have more of an effect. I’ve had to make up tests before and that kind of sucked.”
Jones-Rhoades agreed, noting also that certain types of courses were less forgiving of absences.
“Where it gets trickier is something such as a lab section,” he said. He also noted that having multiple absences in succession could be more harmful than the same number spread out across a term.
Overall, however, Reed was not incredibly inconvenienced by having to miss class. She did not run into problems with professors.
“I’ve had professors be like, it was kind of inconvenient, but they were supportive,” Reed said. “I also tried to be proactive and they appreciated that.”
Purlee agreed, describing the effort student athletes put into balancing their workloads with practice and games.
“I’m not sure that the student athletes get enough credit sometimes,” he said.