Competing on and off the field


Maiah Woodring/The Lion’s Roar

Nadine Maher, a junior kinesiology major, left, and Sofia Olsson, a senior business administration major, right, earned the President’s List distinction despite their busy schedules as student-athletes on the Lady Lions soccer team.

Breaking the “dumb jock” stereotype requires motivation and commitment for three student-athletes who prove that maintaining a high GPA can be a reality.

Noah Vance, a sophomore defensive lineman for the football team, has a 3.0 cumulative GPA. He shared how he maintains his grades.

“My whole life has been an emphasis on education and getting a degree,” shared Vance. “So, while sports and athletics takes a lotta time, and demands a lotta time and physical and mental labor for you to perform well in it, the grades are another important thing because if you don’t perform in the classroom, they’re not going to let you perform on the field.”

Corey Gaconi, senior pitcher on the baseball team, maintains a 3.9 cumulative GPA. He shared that his competitive nature helped him achieve academic success.

“It’s really just the competitive nature of me,” said Gaconi. “I mean, I don’t like getting anything less than an ‘A’ just ‘cause who I am. It’s not even so much that I study so hard just to do good. It’s really, I expect to get an ‘A’ in every class.”

Time management played a vital role for these athletes to excel in their activities.

“I’ve had to definitely put reminders in my phone, make sure I don’t forget when assignments are due,” shared Vance. “Just study habits—10, 15 minutes of reading and take a little break, and then do it again a couple more times until I feel comfortable with the knowledge.”

Jordan Tate, a sophomore offensive lineman, has a 3.4 GPA. He focuses on his studies whenever he is not practicing for his games.

Tate shared, “Whenever I’m not doing football, or I’m not doing school, I make sure that I’m getting something done even if it’s something small, even if it’s just one tiny assignment or one little task that’s gonna make it easier on me, like packing up my stuff the day before so I’m not rushing in the morning.”

Vance discussed the benefits of having a high GPA.

Vance explained, “When you have a higher GPA and you’re a solid performer in the classroom, your coaches are going to notice that, and once you graduate, you can put your coach as a reference, and they’re always going to be honest with the people asking.”

Being stereotyped as unintelligent is something that Vance, Gaconi and Tate have all experienced.

Gaconi shared, “I’ve definitely been around those people where you’re in a group project in one of the classes, and you kind of have your baseball sweatshirt on, and they think, ‘Oh, an athlete’s in my group,’ and I kind of just see it on their face.”

Gaconi explained what he does when he encounters people feeling this way.

“I usually kind of make it a point the first day to let them know that I’m not just gonna cruise by and let them do all the work,” said Gaconi. “I kind of like to take charge. That’s just the natural leader instincts that I have.”

Athletes can break existing stereotypes by presenting themselves appropriately.

“It’s not even so much as you get the best grades in class, or you’re really the 4.0 student, it’s really just how you carry yourself,” said Gaconi. “If you carry yourself like you’re trying and you’re actually putting forth your best effort, I think that’ll help break the stereotype a lot.”