Putting The "Student" in "Student-Athlete"
Taking a look at the other side of college athletics
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July 1, 2011

By Alexandra Ellis
Texas Tech Athletics Communications

The life of a college student-athlete can seem glamorous to outsiders. You are a role-model to kids, you have a God-given talent, and you get to perform in front of thousands of fans that want you to succeed.

But that's just the "athlete" part of the equation. There's a reason "student" comes first in the term "student-athlete."

"Being a student-athlete is like having a full-time job," said senior Robert Lewandowski, a senior forward on the Red Raider basketball team. "We just have to manage our time really well, which is one of the best things you learn here."

Being one of the few upperclassmen on the team, the 6-10 Lewandowski makes the point that he needs to lead by example.

"As an upperclassman, the biggest thing that you can do is just to go through and do everything you're asked to do, not just go through the motions," declared Lewandowski, or "Big Lew" "What kind of leader would I be, as a senior, by not going to class?"

"Big Lew has been helping all of the incoming freshman a lot," said freshman small forward Terran Petteway.

While the competitive lessons of being on the basketball team come from team workouts and practices, the helpful time-management skills come from the Marsha Sharp Center, the institution-within-an institution aimed at making the hectic life of the Texas Tech student-athlete not so hectic.

Rodney Lackey, in his third year as Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Academic Services at the Marsha Sharp Center, is just one of the many people there to help.

"The student-athletes have their primary advisor on campus that works strictly with them on their classes," Lackey stated. "We work as the student-athletes' secondary advisor. We work with the student-athletes and their primary advisors to make sure they're taking the classes they need to take for their major, as well as making sure their class load will not be overwhelming while they are in their sport's season."
 

 

Lackey said the MSC is there for the student-athletes from the beginning, starting with their time on campus at Red Raider Orientation.

"A lot of times, they will come over and see us after they've met with their advisors for the first time," Lackey said. "We'll work with them if their advisor sets up a schedule that we think may be a little rough for them on their first year, and base it on our past experiences on how previous student-athletes have done in those different classes."

Lackey echo's the goals of the Marsha Sharp Center, which center around the intent for the student-athletes to be as successful as possible in that crucial first semester that they are on campus. This is an important step in order for their careers at Texas Tech to start on the right foot.

While the transition from high school to college can be stressful at times, Petteway is grateful for the assistance provided by support at the MSC.

"If it wasn't for the Marsha Sharp Center, I don't think I'd be up to date with a lot of my work," said Petteway. "They definitely have the tools to help you with everything you're supposed to do. Each athlete has their own tutor, and they are ready for you when you get there."

Men's basketball head coach Billy Gillispie is pulling out all the stops when it comes to making sure his players take advantage of their educational opportunities at Texas Tech University. He is setting the bar high in his first year in Lubbock by telling the team that he wants to see only A's on their report cards - no exceptions.

"We don't want people that want to settle for an average grade," said Gillispie. "All we talk about is graduation, not eligibility. If you're on track to graduate, then you don't have to worry about being eligible."

If a player ends up not going to the next level in the NBA or elsewhere, Gillispie wants to make sure they are able to have a backup plan.

"We hope that we can bring in good enough players that they have the opportunity to be a professional basketball player," continued Gillispie. "But I can guarantee you that with a degree, they have a chance to be a professional in some field, so it's better to be prepared, no matter what the future may hold for these guys."

The coaches do not just pay attention to how the team is doing on the court during practice; they are also on top of the players' school work.

"It usually depends on the coaching staff, but we send the [basketball] coaches a daily report at the end of the day just updating them on how their players' days went, any new grades they've reported, and how their study sessions went, along with any information that could help the coaches," stated Lackey.

"Our coaches have an academic meeting with every single one of our players, every single day," Gillispie confirmed. "We know what's going on in class. We know every single paper they have to turn in, and every single test they have to take. If they were to miss a class, I would know five minutes later."

Gillispie is also grateful and impressed with the staff and the facilities provided by the Marsha Sharp Center, adding that it is nothing like any of the other institutions where he has previously coached.

"I've never seen a better facility than the Marsha Sharp Center," Gillispie added. "Based on everything I've been told, everything you need to be successful is provided here and, most important, it's all about the students. And we have the best people here that are more than willing to help. The willingness of the people to help means a lot."

It might be difficult to keep up a 4.0 GPA while competing in games around the country, but the team, coaches, and support staff know how to deal with missing classes.

"We leave after we are finished with classes and practice on Mondays, and miss all classes on Tuesdays, as that's when most road games are," says Lewandowski. "That's why building relationships with your teachers is so important. But you have to always stay on top of things before you leave so you won't be thinking about homework that's due the next day while you're in a game."

With the plentiful assistance from the Marsha Sharp Center, in addition to the support and goals set by the basketball coaching staff, the opportunities are endless for players like Lewandowski and Petteway both on and off the court.