For the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott athletic program, the 2012-2013 season has been a phenomenal all around program. The women’s soccer team won the California Pacific (Cal-Pac) conference tournament and appeared in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes (NAIA) national tournament. The men’s soccer team had a similar season as the women’s team but also ranked 16th nationally in the NAIA. The women’s volleyball team welcomed in new head coach, Jill Balasczyk, and finished the season as runner-ups in the Cal-Pac conference tournament. The men’s wrestling team sent seven athletes to the NAIA National Wrestling Championship. The men’s and women’s golf team continues to strive towards their conference and national tournament in late April and mid-May respectively. The success for these teams does not stop here, though. In the classroom, ERAU-Prescott athletes have made an impact individually and as teams.
The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), for 2011-2012, has individually awarded the men’s and women’s ERAU-Prescott soccer teams NSCAA Team Academic Award. To receive this award a team must accumulate an average of a 3.0 GPA. The men’s team finished the year with a 3.10 GPA and the women’s team finished with a 3.48 GPA. “A 3.48 cumulative GPA is impressive, but what is even more impressive is the degree program these young ladies have chosen. We have several Space Physics and Engineer majors and it’s really impressive that they perform just as well on the field as they do in the classroom,” said head women’s soccer coach Todd Poitras. This is the seventh time for the Men’s team and the fourth time for the women’s team to receive this award from the NSCAA.
Individually in this athletic season so far, six student-athletes, all soccer players, have been recognized as NAIA All-American Scholar Athletes. To become a scholar-athlete in the NAIA the athlete must acquire a minimum of a 3.5 GPA and be junior status.
During the season, teams typically have two matches a week and daily practices for two hours a day. This may not sound like much when put that way, but those two matches could be in a different state, which would require travel days. The two hour practices are usually longer due to athletes needing treatment before and after practice to ensure they are healthy and ready to practice and play to the best of their ability. On top of that, in season the athletes are required to take 12 credits but the majority take between 15 and 18 credits. “Time management is key; there are 24 hours in the day, but how do you manage that 24 hours can determine success and failure,” said ERAU-Prescott Athlete Director, Ted Blake. As students at ERAU-Prescott know, there are no “easy” classes. “It can be hard, especially during season, to keep your grades up, but if you are serious about what you are doing both academically and athletically then the self-motivation allows you to succeed,” said Tristan Korras, men’s soccer player and NAIA Scholar-Athlete. With practices, matches and travel days, the student-athlete can become physically tired and the course work can become overwhelming and the student-athlete can become mentally tired, so one might wonder how ERAU-Prescott athletes maintain such high academic achievement. Fortunately, the student-athletes support each other no matter what the sport the other student-athlete is a part of or what degree they are pursuing. “Both soccer teams are not only motivation for on the field but academically as well. We’re so good at supporting each other especially when we travel and have more than one game to play and we are physically exhausted; we wanted to go to sleep at 8 but know we should study until 9:30 to finish studying or do homework, with the support of the team it is easier to accomplish,” said Ciarra Pederson, women’s soccer player and NAIA Scholar-Athlete.
“As an athlete, my coaches and professors always helped me to just be my best self, on the court, in the classroom, and just as a person,” said Liesl Hall, women’s volleyball player. Part of the academic success for student-athletes at ERAU-Prescott comes from the support of their fellow student-athletes, and another big part are their coaches, athlete director, faculty, and administration. “I hope they appreciate the support that we get from administration and academics. From which is Dr. [Frank] Ayres to the deans. Deans have been very supportive; they know what we are trying to achieve,” said Blake.
With the support from the faculty, student-athletes are able to strive to continue to be the best student and best athlete they can be. Overall, the athletic department goal is to give the student-athlete the opportunity to continue with the sport they love and obtaining a degree in something they are passionate about.
“As athletic director, I am proud how well they do in the classroom and the athletic venue. They have an opportunity to get a degree that is quite outstanding and be successful with it,” said Blake. The student-athletes are faced with the same course work and expectations every other student is, which can get very challenging and overwhelming with practices, matches and travel days but together, as a team and program, they get through the seasons and semesters. “At the end of the day we were on the team had the same purpose,” said Pederson.