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W&L Student-Athletes Perform Better Academically While In-Season

By Stefanie Chiguluri

February 17, 2022

LEXINGTON – It’s still dark outside. Silence fills the Washington and Lee University hallways and sidewalks as student-athletes make their way to an early morning lift as the rest of campus continues to sleep. Next thing you know, they are sitting next to you at your 8:30 a.m. class.

“When they tell you that they’re tired, and worn out, and they don’t know how to get through, you’re just looking at them like ‘did you just wake up at six a.m. and have lift, or did you just run those 110’s on the field? Did you do all that?’” football player Jalen Todd, class of 2025, said about his friends who are not athletes like himself.

Student-athletes at W&L must find a way to balance a rigorous athletic schedule with challenging academic work. But at the Division III level teams prioritize academics over sports because students come for an education first, particularly at a school that takes pride in its academic rigor ranked at number 11 for Best National Liberal Arts schools by US News and World Report.

 

“I feel like academics is definitely a top priority for our team and for our coach. Just cause it’s an academically rigorous school and we all try to do well,” said golfer Laetitia Roegner, class of 2025.

 

“It’s definitely at the top. We’re focused on being students before athletes” agreed volleyball player Maddie Weller, class of 2025.

 

Academic prioritization contributes to student-athletes overall performing better in season rather than off season at W&L. Being in-season is when athletes are competing for their sport. Student-athletes said they are forced to use their time more wisely when they are in season.

 

“I have more of my day scheduled so that I have to do certain things, and I can’t put them off,” said swimmer Mason Davis, class of 2024. 

Most teams at W&L do show better academic performance while in-season according to the following data (click graphic to enlarge). 

 

Student-athletes at W&L are treated as equals to non-student-athletes according to themselves and their peers. This motivates them to do well beyond their athletic performance especially during their season when they must prove they can handle both.

“We’re treated the same. Exactly the same as everyone else is,” football player Todd said. “In some cases, it’s actually a lot harder to maintain a good GPA as an athlete, just in my opinion and talking to other athletes, and knowing that some of them are majoring in those really hard majors.”

 

Non-student athletes also recognize that student-athletes here don’t ultimately see their sport as their end goal.

“When you’re here you’re just really playing for the love of the sport. You just want to keep going with something you’ve done your entire life. Whereas D-I it’s like ‘this is my entire life. I feel like here you’re not just an athlete,” said Douglas Heebe, class of 2025.

 

Student-athletes at W&L agree with Heebe. They recognize that playing at the Division III level gives them a unique opportunity to pursue any major. 

“I do think that D-III is still a lot of work which I don’t think I fully appreciated beforehand, but I think D-I is a little but more limiting in the fact that I probably couldn’t do biochemistry. I probably couldn’t do every major I wanted to do," said field hockey player Jennifer Lerner, class of 2024.

University of Virginia swimmer and Olympian Alex Walsh said that pursuing a computer science major is bizarre at the Division I level.

“People know I’m an athlete, but I’m happy people can see me in these more notoriously difficult classes at UVA,” said Walsh, “I feel happy knowing that I’m breaking the stereotype and that not all athletes aren’t applying themselves at school.”

Student athletes at W&L effectively manage both athletics and academics, and their peers respect them for it. Non-student-athletes understand that student-athletes are managing the same workload with more limited time. 

“I’m shocked that they can keep up with all of it,” said Charlene Nsengimana, class of 2024.

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