By, Carolyn Linck, '11
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Student-athletes at Santa Clara University have a reputation for excellence on and off the playing field, but one group in particular has truly raised the bar in academics: the Bronco women's basketball team.
With a collective GPA over 3.3, it's clear that the women of SCU basketball are focused and determined in their academic pursuits and with finals in full swing this week, we wanted to know just how they do it.
"We really try to focus on academics throughout the recruiting process," explained third-year SCU women's basketball head coach Jennifer Mountain. "Santa Clara, as an institution, has such high academic standards that it requires us to recruit a certain type of kid. It's definitely nice that we don't have to worry about GPA issues because we have naturally gifted students who take the classroom, and their responsibilities as students seriously."
Indeed, for many members of the women's basketball team, academics played a large role in their decision to come to SCU.
"Academics were a huge part of my decision," said junior Alyssa Shoji, who was named to the West Coast Conference All-Academic Team last season. "I love basketball, but I needed to make sure the school was a good fit for me as well. That's a big reason why I chose Santa Clara. It was obvious I couldn't pass up the opportunity of having an SCU education."
The emphasis on education doesn't end with the recruitment process, however. Santa Clara athletics fosters academic achievement for all of their student-athletes in a variety of ways.
"Our student-athletes have a lot of great resources available to them," explained Jason Stock, Academic Support Manager for men's and women's basketball. "Academic support could range anywhere from advising, to helping set them up with tutors, advocating for them with professors, or helping them make that transition to being a Division I student-athlete freshman year.
"We provide them with the necessary tools to succeed off the court, and both men's and women's basketball have performed very well in the classroom."
Sophomore Ashley Armstrong, who has a 3.98 GPA, is a member of the University Honors Program, and is hoping to one day receive a Rhodes Scholarship. She credits the coaching staff and athletic department for creating an environment that promotes academic excellence.
"Our coaches really push to be the best we can be on the court, in school, and in the community," said Armstrong. "The mentality of our team to put our all into everything we do definitely correlates to our academic success."
Coach Mountain acknowledges the difficulties associated with being a student-athlete: "We ask a lot of these girls. Traveling, class, and practice take up the majority of their time. They don't get to have a normal college life, but we encourage them to do as well as possible with the promise that it will pay off for them once they graduate."
Indeed, balancing basketball and school is not always easy. The players will tell you that time management and self discipline are the keys.
"It can be stressful," said Armstrong. "But we help each other out, especially when we're on the road. Our team is very willing to look over papers and quiz each other for an upcoming test. We are especially proactive when someone has a group project. We've all participated in numerous videos, surveys, and interviews for one another."
Stock identifies the SCU professors as another key to the team's outstanding academic accomplishments.
"We have great faculty here who are very understanding of the demands of student-athletes. They are always willing to work with our students to ensure that they can balance their schoolwork during the season – whether this means checking in via email, getting assignments done ahead of time, having a classmate take notes, or meeting individually."
Shoji echoed Stock's comments, saying, "Luckily here at Santa Clara we have amazing professors who understand our schedules and don't allow us to fall behind. It can be a lot of work, but it's worth it when you get to play the sport you love."
Indeed, with sacrifice and dedication, the women's basketball team has been able to take full advantage of their opportunities at Santa Clara as both students and athletes.
"Yeah, it's stressful and time consuming," said Armstrong. "But I think being a D-I student-athlete at SCU is one of the most rewarding experiences ever."
Women's Basketball Shines During Academic Finals
By, Carolyn Linck, '11