Sophomore volleyball player Loren Johnson working on homework in the James E. Shepard Memorial Library.

NCCU athletes shine in the game and the classroom

March 27, 2023

Some of the student-athletes at N.C. Central University are taking care of their responsibilities both in their respective sports and in the classroom.

“Our students are students first. We want them to understand we don’t take how they do academically lightly,” NCCU assistant athletic director Kwadjo Steele said.

According to Steele, the athletic department as a whole achieved a cumulative grade point average of 3.04 for the Fall semester. In all, 162 student-athletes earned a GPA of 3.0 or higher last semester, with 36 of them earning a 4.0.

Steele said the key to success for student-athletes is excellent time management skills, which is not always easy to master.

“You’re talking about people who may be the most tired folks on the planet. And then having to turn around and study, while also finding a social life,” Steele said. “It’s hard.”

For sophomore volleyball player Loren Johnson, a typical day in-season starts at 7 a.m. to get ready for practice from 8-11a.m.

After practice, she rushes to the cafeteria and hurries to eat a meal before class.

In between classes she has to return to the gym for team lift, and after that she walks across campus to attend her last class of the day.

Finally, she is able to fit in time to eat dinner and talk with her friends, but only for a little while because it’s now time to complete her homework.

At the end of the day she is exhausted. She showers, and hopefully gets enough sleep to repeat the same process another day.

“The life of a student-athlete is not for the weak,” Johnson said.

“You have to be sure you have great time management skills, and communicate with your coaches and professors because you’re going to have a lot of conflicts with traveling and practice times. You just gotta find what works for you.”

Athletics don’t just swallow up a student’s time, they can also wear students down mentally.

“I feel like the most challenging part of being a student-athlete is not only time management, but finding the motivation to keep going with your work and practices,” Johnson’s teammate Kennedy Clark added. “Personally, I get burned out mid-season, so I just find it hard to find motivation to keep doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

The transition from high school to collegiate athletics can be difficult, and many factors may go into an individual’s decision to continue playing in college.

“Senior year [of high school] I found people that were able to guide me through the process of going to the next step, and I felt that I was good enough to play in college,” freshman tennis player Naresh Bharathy said. “So I thought, why not just take the chance?”

According to Bharathy the biggest change when going from high school to college is the lack of adult supervision in college and how it can be difficult to maintain positive habits with so much freedom.

“There’s not really anyone looking after you,” Bharathy explained. “I think you kind of have to hold yourself accountable.”

Student-athletes with a GPA of 3.0 got some hard earned recognition at halftime in February at NCCU’s home basketball game against Coppin State University.

“It’s important to inform and celebrate,” Steele said. “We want our fans and the community to know what great people they are in the classroom and on the court or field.”

Steele said that he and his staff are “lucky” to have the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of talented students who also bring success to the university in their respective sports.

He added that it’s not always realistic to ask students to give 100 percent on the field and in the classroom, yet NCCU student-athletes are proving it can be done at an impressive rate.


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Sophomore volleyball player Loren Johnson working on homework in the James E. Shepard Memorial Library.
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