Barry Athletics holds formula for successful student-athletes
For many student-athletes, success is measured by the number of layups, goals, shots under par and other game-related victories. For Barry University’s student-athletes, however, success is defined not just by accomplishments on the field, on the course, or on the court, but also by achievements made in the classroom and in the community.
Barry’s most accomplished student athletes are quick to credit Barry’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) for creating a culture that places an equal emphasis on athletics, academics and community service.
“Barry Athletics has created a unique environment that allows athletes to succeed both academically and athletically,” said Lucas Noboa, a master’s student at Barry who played for the men’s soccer team. “By placing an equal emphasis on academics, Barry Athletics provides support for a student-athlete’s intellectual life while emphasizing life-long learning, growth and development . . . From the moment you become part of Barry Athletics, you begin to recognize that you are part of something special.”
As part of Barry’s School of Human Performance and Leisure Sciences (HPLS), ICA “advances human potential through the integration of body, mind and spirit in pursuit of excellence,” said Dr. Darlene Kluka, dean of the School of HPLS.
Noboa, who is earning a master’s degree in organizational learning and leadership, is one of four standout Barry student-athletes who set academic records during the spring 2012 semester. Noboa finished out his first semester as a graduate student earning a 4.0 GPA, while two graduating seniors, Anne Fourdraine (women’s golf) and Allie Llaneras (women’s soccer), each earned their fifth President’s List award and a 4.0 GPA. A third graduating senior, Daniel Stapff (men’s golf), earned three President’s List awards with a 4.0 GPA and no semester GPA below a 3.85.
Like Noboa, Fourdraine agrees that Barry Athletics has created an environment that motivates its athletes to perform their best mentally and physically. “Since our first day at Barry, we’ve had meetings reminding us that performing in class is as important as performing on the field,” Fourdraine said.
Although young, Barry Athletics has made strides both athletically and academically during its 29 years of existence, earning nine NCAA Division II National Championships spanning five sports, crowning 243 All-Americans, and producing 272 Scholar All-Americans.
During the last two decades, the department, which comprises the university’s 12 intercollegiate programs, head and assistant coaches for each sport and about 200 student athletes, has earned its spot in the NCAA Division II arena, winning eight of its nine National Championships during this time period. For the last 17 years straight, the Bucs have advanced at least five of their 12 teams to NCAA post-season play, and for the past 19 years straight, the men’s and women’s tennis teams have both advanced to the NCAA Tournament, tying for the most sport appearances in Barry’s history.
During the last twenty years, Barry Athletics has also proved its excellence academically. The department has achieved prominence with more than 60 percent of its athletes earning GPAs of 3.0 or higher for the last eight semesters, and in 2012, 45 Barry student-athletes were recognized by the Division II Athletics Directors Association (D2ADA) as recipients of the association’s 2011-2012 Academic Achievement Awards, a program that recognizes the academic accomplishments of student-athletes at the NCAA Division II level.
During the 2011-2012 academic year, several individual teams were also recognized for their academic excellence: Barry’s volleyball team was selected to receive American Volleyball Coaches Association Academic Award honors; men’s golf earned Golf Coaches Association of America All-Academic honors; women’s golf posted the 17th highest cumulative grade point average in the nation, according to the National Golf Coaches Association’s Top 25 list, which included NCAA Division I, II and III schools; softball finished 12th in the NFCA All-Academic team rankings; women’s tennis earned a spot on the ITA Academic Honor Roll; and men’s and women’s soccer earned an NSCAA academic team award.
The 2011-2012 school year also marked important academic milestones for two Barry student athletes in particular. Barry alumna Grace Collins, a four-year starter for Barry’s women’s softball team who graduated in May of 2012, was selected to receive an NCAA Post-graduate Scholarship and also became first Buccaneer student athlete to win Barry’s President’s Award as the top graduating senior, and former men’s golf player Stapff earned Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholar honors for the second time. In addition, Stapff was named the men’s choice for the Professor Emerita Neill Miller Scholar Athlete of the Year for the third consecutive year, while Collins was selected for the first time for the women’s category. The annual award recognizes an undergraduate male and female student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average.
In September 2012, Collins was announced as one of three finalists in the NCAA Division II category for “Woman of the Year.” In October, she was invited to join the two other finalists from Division II and finalists from Divisions I and III at “Woman of the Year” festivities in Indianapolis.
Although her academic and athletic achievements have earned her recognition on and off Barry’s campus, Collins credits Barry Athletics, and the culture it creates for its student athletes, as the motivating force behind her successes.
“In my experience as a student-athlete, Barry created an environment in which I was called to be more than just an athlete or just a student…to be a leader, a voice, a volunteer, a tutor, and so much more,” Collins said. “Barry wants their student-athletes to have all the doors of opportunities open to them, no matter how impossible they may seem.”
In fact, the supportive and stimulating environment that student-athletes are exposed to through Barry Athletics is what originally attracted her to Barry during the college search, Collins said.
“I chose Barry not only for its excellence in the classroom and on the field, which is obvious by its tremendous accolades and success, but because of this culture and environment of being all that you can be—being more than you think you ever could be,” she said. “I wanted to make a difference and I wanted to be at a university where they would allow me to be a part of everything I put my mind to.”
Following the wave of academic achievements experienced by Barry Athletics in 2011 and 2012, there’s no question that the department’s balanced approach to academics and athletics is a successful strategy. The strong emphasis on academics was set into place in the 1990s, said Mike Covone, director of Barry Athletics. With the support of Barry coaches and School of HPLS administrators, Dr. Jean Cerra, former dean of the School of HPLS, and the late Professor Neill Miller, former HPLS assistant dean, implemented an academic monitoring model to track student athletes’ performances in the classroom, monitor absences, enforce mandatory study time, athletically suspend student athletes who violated class attendance policies, and institute a peer tutoring program.
Today, this model has evolved, although its basic tenets continue to guide the department, said Maritza Ryder, HPLS assistant dean. The “academics first - athletics second” mentality is evident in many aspects of the department, she said. Hierarchically, the department is housed within the University’s Division of Academic Affairs, under the School of HPLS, which weaves academics and athletics through policies and procedures that guide the department. In addition to housing athletic facilities, Barry’s Health and Sports Center is the home to the School of HPLS, including dean, faculty and staff offices, classrooms, and learning/research laboratories.
“A Barry student-athlete is immersed daily in a total university experience - not in a setting that is an isolated entity as in some other university organizational designs,” Ryder said.
The department’s emphasis on academics is impressed upon student-athletes as early as recruiting stages, Ryder said, as the department takes both academic performance and athletic talent into consideration. In addition, during campus visits, the department encourages all prospective student-athletes to meet with academic advisers to discuss potential majors and review academic policies and expectations, which helps convey the message early in the process that Barry student-athletes are expected to hold their academic performance to the same standards as their athletic performance, she said. Potential student-athletes also have the opportunity to meet with the School of HPLS dean and assistant dean.
The strong emphasis on academics does not end there, however; from the moment a student-athlete joins Barry Athletics, the department examines his or her academic records and designs a “success plan” that includes required study hours and monitors academic program milestones. Student-athletes are also encouraged to meet with their academic advisers at the beginning of each term to devise class schedules that reduce conflicts with athletic obligations and their customized study plans. Rather than enforcing general study hours, the department specifically requires student-athletes to work with experienced tutors in the Learning Center labs.
Barry Athletics’ academic monitoring model has also been improved since its inception through the use of technology, Ryder said. Traditional strategies used to keep student-athletes on track academically, such as enforcing study hours and class attendance, have been enhanced through the SAAR (Student Athlete Academic Reporting) web application, developed by Barry’s Division of Information Technology, which allows the department to receive bi-weekly feedback from professors regarding a student-athlete’s performance in class. Barry professors use the SAAR to communicate with athletic academic support personnel providing academic performance feedback on a consistent basis. Faculty participating in this feedback system is integral to student-athlete success, Ryder said.
Perhaps one of the most unique features of Barry Athletics’ academic monitoring model is that it incorporates community service opportunities. Through the BucTutor system, select student-athletes have the chance to tutor other student-athletes and share their experiences as college athletes.
The academic policies and procedures set into place by Barry Athletics are further strengthened by a university-wide mission calling for a balance of academic and athletic success while reveling in both, Ryder said.
“Student-athletes genuinely appreciate that there does not need to be a conflict between their dual roles or aspirations,” Ryder said.
The call to serve the Barry community and its mission, whether through academics, athletics or service, is what distinguishes the Barry student-athlete’s experience from others, Collins said.
“Barry student-athletes are always striving toward making the university a better community for everyone, bringing pride and success to the university through all avenues, and encompassing the mission of the university. The culture of the Barry student-athlete is one that is overpowering, life-changing, and inspiring to take part in.”