Last Updated: December 21, 2017, 3:59 pm

What does it take to be a student athlete?


Many students aspire for a high GPA in college, but it can prove challenging to reach that goal while also competing on a collegiate athletic team.

There are various expectations and eligibility requirements student athletes must live up to. Between attending practices, competing in games and completing homework assignments, it is crucial to find the right balance between school and sports.

In order to compete in a sport, student athletes must remain in good academic standing, which is accomplished by maintaining a 2.0 cumulative GPA. They must also be registered for a minimum of 12 credits each semester and pass 24 credits per academic year, that apply to their degree, to continue competing. If they do not pass at least 9 credits towards their degree, they are ineligible to compete for the entire following semester.

The eligibility requirements are in place to ensure that athletes don’t neglect their studies, said Nathan Staheli, associate professor and faculty athletic representative.

Student athletes have the option to attend study hall if they are struggling. From there, they can be connected with tutors and other resources that can help them succeed. Senior associate athletic director of compliance, Maureen Eckroth, teaches a First Year Experience course that all first year DSU athletes are required to enroll in. She emphasizes time management. 

“A lot of our students work and also have families, so it’s really hard to juggle the whole thing,” Eckroth said. “But it’s really all about time management.”

Darian Murdock, a senior nursing major from Herriman, is a forward for the DSU women’s soccer team. For her, prioritizing is key to finding the right balance. Some students struggle with it because there are so many distractions in college. Murdock said she has to practice discipline and remind herself that homework is always at the top of her priority list, especially when traveling to away games.

“You have to be disciplined and take time [to do homework,]” Murdock said. “Communicating with my teachers has been huge.”

Center back for the men’s soccer team, Bryan Baugh, is a senior criminal justice major from Henderson, Nevada. He said it’s beneficial to start the semester off the right foot with professors.

“Our coach has us, on the first day of class, go in and introduce ourselves, sit in the front row, let them know that we’re going to try to get an ‘A’ and do our best,” Baugh said.

Most professors are more understanding when he communicates with them about when he’ll be missing class and what he can do to make up work, he said.

All athletes must approve their absences for away games with their professors. Faculty members and student athletes then work together to make sure the athletes are provided proper accommodations for excused absences, Staheli said. Sometimes they are offered makeup work, which could include an additional reading assignment, paper or other project, he said.

Baugh said he makes sure to manage his time and stay ahead of his assignments so he doesn’t fall behind when he needs to miss class for away games.

 The secret to managing upcoming assignments on top of current one is “a lot of late nights and a lot of hard work,” Baugh said.

Baugh has a 3.88 GPA and Murdock has a 3.98 GPA. He and Murdock were named 2016 to 2017 PacWest Male and Female Scholar Athlete of the Year. They each have earned multiple awards and recognition for their excellence in both academics and athletics.

“So many people told me before, ‘you can’t do nursing and soccer; they’re both too time demanding, and it’s too hard,’” Murdock said. “So to be able to do both and be recognized for success in both makes me proud, and [I want to] show others who are aspiring to be athletes and nurses that it’s possible.”

Staheli said some of DSU’s best academic performers are student athletes. Being an athlete gives students tools they need to be successful, Murdock said; it teaches them hard work and grit.

One piece of advice Murdock would give to fellow athletes is to remember what they are at DSU for. It’s fun to play a sport in college, but ultimately the purpose of being in college is to get a degree, she said.

“If I don’t get the grades in the classroom, I can’t be out on the field,” Murdock said. “And if I don’t get the grades in the classroom, all of this work I’ve put in at the university is not going to pay off.”