|The OU-C athletics program allows students to pursue their competitive aspirations and contributes to campus life.|
By OU-C public relations student writer Leah Sternberger
The Ohio University-Chillicothe athletics program is experiencing a spike of interest in students who wish to continue their athletic careers beyond high school and play a sport at a college level.
“Interest in basketball has certainly increased from when I started coaching four years ago,” said men’s basketball head coach A.J. McCray.
“We have started to become more attractive to players, not just for basketball, but also as a school to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree. We have local kids from our area but we also have kids from as far as Dayton and Michigan so it is a nice mix of players from all backgrounds,” McCray said.
Basketball isn’t the only OU-C athletics program experiencing growth. Bret Mavis, head coach of the baseball team, said the program has 21 members this year in comparison to 12 members last year.
OU-C has a robust athletics program including women’s teams in volleyball, basketball, softball and tennis; and men’s teams in basketball, golf, baseball and tennis, as well as cheerleading squads. The Hilltoppers compete against similar campuses in the Ohio Regional Campus Conference. There are about 90 student athletes on rosters this year, including some athletes who play on multiple OU-C sports teams.
ATHLETICS BOLSTER ACADEMICS
Beyond interest steadily growing in athletics, OU-C coaches and administrators make the players’ education the top priority.
“We want to make sure we aren’t just getting quality players, but that we are also attracting students who want to get a degree and be more than just athletes,” said McCray . “We want our student athletes to make an impact and to be quality citizens in our community and eventually become great employees.”
Playing a college-level sport requires a substantial time commitment and helps students learn how to balance a wide range of responsibilities.
Senior student athlete and biology major Amber Lewis believes the most challenging aspect of being a college athlete is time management. “I play both volleyball and basketball. I'm a full time college student and I also have two part time jobs,” said Lewis. “Making the time to do everything can be difficult, but it's easier with the support from family, friends, coaches, teammates, and my bosses.”
Zach Mager, a senior baseball player pursuing a bachelor’s degree in applied management, also finds developing time management and prioritization skills a necessity.
“You learn how to juggle practice, games, classes, homework, relationships and work; all while trying to be successful in all of them,” Mager said.
Consequently, self-motivation is an important attribute for success.
“It’s challenging, but I always found time to do my work,” said freshman basketball player Tyler Cartee. “I go to the student center to get help when I need it, and I do my best. I ended my first semester with all A's. It was a rewarding experience, and it comes down to being self-motivated enough to go to practices and study. I continue to push myself to be successful and it pays off at the end of the season.”
Mager said playing a college sport motivated him to do better in the classroom. “Growing up, it was instilled in me that if I wanted to play, I had to make the grades. If I didn’t play baseball in college, I can honestly say I would not work as hard as I do to get good grades,” he said.
VALUABLE PREPARATION FOR FUTURE ENDEAVORS
Dedicating yourself to a sport and self-improvement are important, but ultimately coaches want student athletes to graduate as better people and with a wide range of skills to enter the workforce. One of those skills is the ability to cope with failure.
“Failure in baseball is part of the game,” Mavis said. “For example, getting a hit one out of three times at bat is considered a good batting average. Getting back up and trying again is a lesson that will carry these young men and women forward the rest of their lives.”
Student athletes must also master skills like good sportsmanship, dedication and the ability to work with others to thrive in the competitive environment. Blake Warrington, a senior basketball player studying business, believes playing basketball has helped him become goal-oriented, which is a skill that will serve him well after graduation.
“In basketball, one of the main goals is to win a championship,” said Warrington. “By pushing to win games and to improve, you learn how to work towards that goal with your team. Knowing how to set and achieve goals will carry over into my career.”
Most importantly, they learn to be role models in their community.
“Our players are representatives of our school and of our community,” McCray said. “It’s their responsibility to make the best possible decisions they can. Being a role model is a full time job, and every one of them has risen to the occasion.”
PLAYERS PURSUE THEIR PASSIONS
OU-C does not offer athletic scholarships which mean s students who choose to play a sport do so for the love of the game. Their hectic schedules and added responsibilities are challenging, but to the students the rewards are invaluable.
“For me it’s so much more than just a sport. The people on the team, the coaches, the fans, the trips, and the experiences have all helped me become who I am and have helped prepare me for my career after college,” Lewis said.
“Being a college athlete has allowed me to grow as a person, inside and outside of the classroom,” Mager said. “I’ve grown up and become more responsible for myself. Through baseball, I’ve learned life lessons I couldn’t have gained anywhere else. It’s these life experiences that make you who you are.”