Division III athletes put academics first

As a Division III school, athletes are not awarded athletic scholarships. Most are here on academic scholarships, showing off skills in the classroom as well as on the court, in the field or wherever they play their sport.

For some, academics and athletics actually have a lot in common.

“You have to have strength, but you also have to have good mental technique,” said sophomore Kylee Crook, a setter for the volleyball team. “If you shank a pass or you lose two or three points in a row, the only thing that’s going to get you out of that is mentally being like, okay, we’re going to do this. We got this. So it’s definitely more mental than physical.”

For others, being part of a team have influenced their academics in a positive way.

“It’s definitely made me a happier student,” said junior Sommer Fanney, who runs both track and cross country. “It just makes you more efficient in everything else. I would probably be less successful in the other things that I did if I wasn’t an athlete.”

Students like sophomore Caleb Amstuz, a track and cross country runner, say that the rigorous athletic schedule contributed to their ability to concentrate on their schoolwork.

“It’s definitely made me more focused in my studies,” said Amstuz. “Being on a sports team is great (because) it forces me to be more studious in the evening and more committed to all my classes because I don’t have that extra time.”

In some sports, this mentality is influenced by the coaches. Volleyball head coach Emily Gaan meets with her students to encourage them in their academics.

“Coach definitely has the mentality that if you’re not performing academically, you’re not going to be performing athletically,” said Crook. “She holds meetings every week to talk about grades, how you’re doing socially, how you are mentally and emotionally and then we talk about volleyball.”

Outside of athletics, students enjoy the various aspects of Guilford academically.

“I like discussions a lot, particular classes in which the teacher is not (lecturing),” said senior Evandro Cassoma, a thrower for track and field. “I like when (professors) say something and then it’s open to the class and then you say something and then someone else says something.”

Senior Houston Parks, a pitcher for the baseball team, has found refuge in his art major.

“At first I really feel out of place, but then I realized the art department is one of the most congealed places on Guilford’s campus,” said Parks. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It doesn’t matter (who) you are, if you play sports or if you don’t play sports. You can talk about art.”

Others appreciate the benefits that a small, liberal arts college has to offer.

“My favorite thing about academics at Guilford is the faculty student relationships,” said Amstuz. “I love being able just to go to one of my advisor’s offices or my professor’s office and just talk and not feel pressure of the need for them to push you out and move on to the next person.”

This includes activities outside of the classroom, like speakers and seminars.

“The Bryan Series has been really cool,” said Fanney. “I haven’t gone to the Bryan Series that much, but the times that I have, I’ve really enjoyed it. The Cape Fear River Basin seminar, that’s been really important.

“At this school, there are many people that have supported my wanting to coalesce all my different interests into one thing so that I can focus on all of them.”

Many student athletes are also involved in other areas on campus.

“My favorite thing outside of being a student athlete is the community,” said sophomore Alston Thompson, a forward for the basketball team. “I’m also a Bonner scholar, so I’m connected with the community through the service that I do. I love the people and how friendly they are to new people.”

Guilford also offers club sports, like rugby.

“Women’s rugby was tabling in founders and their pitch was enough to get me interested in checking it out,” said senior Taryn McFadden, who plays rugby for the women’s rugby team. “I’ve been hooked every since.”

Senior Erin Ogden, a catcher for the softball team, thinks that being on a sports team has given her a support system during her time at Guilford.

“Just walking around campus and seeing people that I know,” said Ogden. “I probably wouldn’t know those people if I wasn’t on the team. You have a family outside of academics.”

Across sports, every athlete appears grateful for the opportunity to play a sport at Guilford.

“You’ll have to learn to balance your schedule and have to schedule time for practice, travel, school work, games, etc., but if you really want to play there’s no harm in trying and the experience is very rewarding,” said junior Devon Winbush, a midfielder for the lacrosse team.

“Reach out to the coach, if you’d like to walk on, or if you were recruited, and just be ready to play.”