There is a reason that the term “student-athlete”
places school over athletics.
Student-athletes at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens
Point have taken this mantra to heart. 340 athletes from the Pointers made the
Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Scholastic Honor Role last year,
and the accolades didn’t stop there.
This past season, the Pointers women’s hockey team had
five players on the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association All-Academic Team.
Four on the men’s team garnered the same honor.
Within the past week, the Pointers wrestling team was
honored by the National Wrestling Coaches Association for finishing in the top
25 of team grade point averages.
Academic excellence for athletes at UWSP has been a
trend for years and reached a peak in the 2010-2011 academic year, when the
Pointers were honored with the top student-athlete GPA in the WIAC.
How has UWSP continued this focus on academic
achievement for athletes? It starts from the top of the athletic department and
goes all the way down to the players.
Athletic Director Daron Montgomery understands that the
first objective for the athletes that play at UWSP is to get their degrees.
“I’m a competitive person, and I want to win just as
much as our coaches and student-athletes do, but as an Athletic Director, we’re
not going to compromise our academic integrity in our efforts to hoist a
trophy,” Montgomery said.
The importance that Montgomery has instilled on
academics goes down to the coaches, who place academics as the top priority of
“I think that our athletic department places a
significant emphasis on the academic development and professional enhancement
of our student-athletes,” said head baseball coach Pat Bloom.
“As a program we talk about the importance of having
three facets of equal importance; academics, athletics and social,” said men’s
hockey coach, Chris Brooks. “If any of the three take more importance than the other two,
there is an issue. All three go hand-in-hand.”
Coach Brooks also explained that being on his team and
not attending class, is inexcusable. “If they are caught not attending a class,
they lose the privilege of playing on our team.”
Head women’s hockey coach, Ann Ninnemann, plans
practices around students’ schedules and even lets athletes leave during
practice sessions to go to study groups or tutoring.
“Also, we have a study tables requirement for all new
freshmen entering UWSP to do two hours of study tables per week,” Ninnemann
said. “In addition, anyone else on the team who has under a 3.0 cumulative GPA
is required to do two hours of study tables per week.”
Coach Bloom and the baseball team go even further to
ensure that student-athletes know exactly why they are attending this school.
“We meet with all of our incoming recruits and
transfers the summer before they set foot on campus, helping to inform the
young men and their parents about the expectations, responsibilities and
resources available here at UWSP,” Bloom said.
However, none of this talk matters unless the athletes
understand that they are a student first. The message from the coaches has
definitely reached the players.
“It is very important to our coaches that we are great
on the court, but it’s ten times more important that we are doing great in the
classroom because that’s truly what we are here for,” said senior guard, Sam
The players, coaches, and athletic director are on
board, but what brings them together with the rest of the faculty on campus are
two employees known as the Faculty Athletics Representatives.
Dr. Nate Bowling, an associate professor of chemistry,
and Dr. Annie Wetter, an associate professor in the health promotion and human
development department, serve as the men’s and women’s Faculty Athletics
“The biggest thing we do is help develop conference and
university rules to assure that the academic interests of the student-athletes
are protected,” Bowling said.
Both Bowling and Wetter ensure that no conflicts occur,
schedule-wise, between athlete and professor. According to Bowling, this
usually isn’t an issue.
“These instances are surprisingly rare—about an average
of one occurrence per year for all of athletics,” Bowling said.
Wetter explained that there is a reason that UWSP has
some of the best academic standards in the WIAC.
“The academic standards for acceptance to UWSP are
higher than at other UW institutions in our conference, so sometimes
prospective students who want to play sports at UWSP can’t get in,” Wetter
In the end, it is all about preparing student-athletes
for life after their sport. Very few athletes from Division III eventually go
on to professional sports, so preparing them for the real world is the genuine
focus of everyone in the athletic department.
“Of course all of us want our teams and athletes to be
successful within our sports, but we also are in unanimous agreement that the
most important victories come from seeing our Pointers graduate and become
successful young professionals in their chosen field,” Bloom said. “Those are
proud moments that make every coach, faculty and staff member feel like a