“Student-athletes do everything non-athletes
do, plus more.”
LILY MOZAFARI, academic athletic counselor, West Los Angeles College.
College instituted a
2. 5 GPA requirement
observers say. Many are first-generation university
students coming from unstructured environments,
and often don't have the grades or financial backing
needed for a four-year college or university. But
athletes also encounter scheduling challenges their
traditional peers don't, necessitating careful deliberation in how they balance their academic and
personal lives with a heavy sports load.
"Student-athletes do everything non-athletes
do, plus more," says Lily Mozafari, academic
athletic counselor at West Los Angeles College.
"There's a pressure to succeed academically in a
more structured and limited time frame."
West has 250 students playing 11 sports,
assisted by an athletic counseling office that
stresses high classroom achievement beyond the
"The standard academic rules at the community college level are not going to be enough for
kids to move on to a four-year school," Mozafari
says. "So we've got to articulate to student-athletes
that while a 2.0 gets you to play here, you're going
to need a higher GPA to transfer."
West's athletic department shaped its student
education plan based on California Community
College Athletic Association guidelines as well as
NCAA and National Association of Intercollegiate
Athletics (NAIA) transfer rules. Mozafari tracks
performance via grade checks twice a semester,
implementing strategies to raise a struggling
student's marks or maintain their minimum
accumulation of credit hours. Performance
reports are sent to coaches and the college athletic director at the end of each semester, ideally
bolstered by mandatory study halls and other
programming designed to keep athletes on the
path to completion.
Constant dialogue between coaches and
academic staff is crucial. For example, Mozafari
recently had a student-athlete return to English
class after their professor reported a series of
unexcused absences to the athletic office.
"We're in a bubble here with sports, but you
need to have that bridge between the athletic
department and your instructors," Mozafari says.
"When I communicate with faculty and they
communicate with me, we'll be on the same page
to find out how we can help students."
THE 'STUDENT' IN STUDENT-ATHLETE
After a decade of training student-athletes at the
NCAA, NAIA and junior college level, PCC interim
athletic director and volleyball coach Jennifer
Mueller has a firm understanding of the pressures this population confronts each day.
"It's important for all students to have that time
management skill set, but more so with athletes,"
Mueller says. "They've got their course load, weight
training, competitions and injury treatments.
The time available for doing such things is much
different than for a general student."
In emphasizing the "student" in student-athlete,
Mueller and President Calvert aren't shy about
approaching athletes about their grades, although
upward academic progress will result in less
hand-holding from staff.