Making the grade

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 23, 2000

For many high school student-athletes, especially star athletes, it is sometimes difficult to draw the line where the student ends and the athlete begins.

&uot;I place more emphasis on academics than on athletics,&uot; said Lee Watts, who participates in baseball, football, track and basketball at Adams County Christian School.

Fellow ACCS student-athletes Warren Freeman, who participates in football, track and tennis, and Kittye Marks, who participates in basketball, track and cheerleading, also said academics were more important to them than their respective sports.

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However, they also said they spend more time after school at practice than at home doing their homework.

&uot;Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with your grades when you’re focused on sports,&uot; said junior Natchez High School football player Brandon Wright. &uot;But when you do keep up with your grades, it makes academics and athletics easier.&uot;

&uot;I don’t think you should play sports if you don’t have good grades,&uot; said senior Natchez softball player Kelly Fuller. &uot;They (academics and athletics) really go together.&uot;

Cathedral head football coach Ken Beesley agreed. &uot;If a college or university looks at two athletes who are equal in athletics, they will take the one with the better grades and the higher ACT score,&uot; he said.

Beesley said his school’s athletics program stresses academics.

&uot;At the beginning of the year, we check the kids’ grades out to see if they’re academically eligible to play,&uot; Beesley said.

In addition to keeping school work a priority, Beesley said students should the ACT early in case they score poorly on their first try.

&uot;The earlier they take the ACT, the better off they are,&uot; he said.

ACCS head football coach Bo Swilley said it is also important that student-athletes use the resourses of their guidance councelors.

&uot;Our guidance counselor, Micholyn Barnes, is real involved with our athletes,&uot; he said. &uot;She gets them ready for college.&uot;

Barnes said she understands how important academics is to the athletes.

&uot;We place a lot of emphasis on academics, no matter if someone is an athlete or a non-athlete. There is no special treatment,&uot; she said.

&uot;There’s never been any trouble with athletes owning up to their responsibilities,&uot; she added. &uot;The coaches and I try to work together and keep in close contact, so everyone knows what to do if a problem arises.&uot;

Penny Daggett, a guidance counselor at Cathedral, said the key for athletes in the classroom is communication.

&uot;The athletes and their teachers are able to communicate very easily, mostly because of the (small) size of the school,&uot; she said. &uot;My main duty when it comes to athletes and their schoolwork is if the coach and I see a problem in the classroom, we try to step in and talk to the players and help them prioritize.&uot;

And most local schools have no problem listing those priorities.

&uot;If you don’t have at least a C average, then you can’t play,&uot; Swilley said.