The Tommie’s women’s volleyball team received recognition for their team-wide academic excellence where all 13 players achieved over a 3.0 grade point average in the first semester of the academic year.
Mija MacDonald from Barrie, Ont. received a 3.5 GPA last semester despite her schedule.
She has been playing volleyball for 10 years and two at St. Thomas University.
“This year (when) I came into it, I had a big plate, and a lot of commitments,” said MacDonald. “I had two jobs, volleyball, fulltime school, and the Best Buddy Program.”
“Volleyball does take a big toll on athletes (such as) injuries and missed classes,” she said.
Last October MacDonald received a concussion lasting two weeks.
She said many of her professors show leniency when told that she may not be present due to a game, practice, or injury.
MacDonald said to keep a high GPA while playing a sport is all about scheduling your time.
“I schedule days, schedule classes, know when to eat, (yet) have very small amounts of time to do school work,” she said.
MacDonald believes someone who has to work hard for good grades has good work ethic and time management skills.
She also has faith that her team will produce the same high level in academics this semester.
“I truly believe they will, they are hard working girls,” said MacDonald. “When it comes down to it, if you push for it, you get the grades you want.”
Veronique McGrath from Caraquet, New Brunswick has played volleyball for five years. She holds a 3.2 GPA and contributes it to time management skills.
“I just show up to class, use up my time in between. I do work before classes and after classes,” said McGrath. “I try and take naps, take care of myself, eat healthy, (and) try to go to bed early.”
McGrath was not concerned with her grades when coming to STU to study and play volleyball because during her high-school-years she always kept good time management.
She said playing volleyball is harder than maintaining a high GPA.
“Playing volleyball is physical, you practice everyday and train on your own. You go to the gym, lift weights, and do cardio. Studies are just doing the books,” said McGrath.
Dominique Caravan from Beaver Dam, N.B. has played volleyball for seven years and holds a 3.74 GPA putting her on the Dean’s list.
At the beginning of each semester when Caravan receives her class syllabi she writes all her assignments, dates, and deadlines in her agenda.
“When I have free time I try to get a step ahead so it’s not so stressful,” said Caravan.
She enrolled at STU without planning on playing volleyball—her focus was on academics.
When she decided to do both, the difficulty was finding balance she said.
“At the beginning of the year, its like ‘oh crap can I handle this.’ I feel like you have to put more time and energy into academics,” said Caravan.
“Practices are an hour and a half. As for academics, it’s an 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. type deal. In practices we know what time to work each day, academics is unpredictable.”
Caravan also stresses time management is the biggest part. “It’s the individual (and) how you organize your time,” she said.
Head Coach Don McKay said for his players to keep their GPA above 3.0 is a matter of priorities, time management, organization, and setting goals.
“Is it difficult, yes at times. I’m sure there are things they give up that they would like to do, but academics comes first,” said McKay. “They go to the books rather than something else.”
McKay said it’s always going to be a challenge for the players to have high academics while attending five practices a week, play on the weekends, and go to all their classes.
McKay said when coming into exam period the player’s stress levels go up. He believes that if they have strong academic results they will be able to adapt and cope in real world situations.
McKay said that if a player gets below a 2.0 GPA they might have to take time off the sport to bring it up.
“2.0 is a warning sign where we must put a strategy in place to provide a tutor,” said McKay.
“But players get together on buses and road trips where they share information on courses,” he said. “They mentor one another in academics.”
“We tell them at the start of the year that academics is number one, family is two, and volleyball is three.”
“If you enjoy playing a sport, then the hard work is not an issue,” said McKay. “The same is with courses if your willing to put the time and effort in.”
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