Oklahoma Christian University athletics is setting the bar high for college athletes in Oklahoma. According to NewsOK, Oklahoma Christian has the highest academic success rate in the state among DII schools at 82 percent.
Senior biology major and basketball player Hannah Holasek was on the Heartland President’s Honor Roll for the fall semester for having a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Holasek said being an athlete is important, but she has always felt her studies have to come first.
“One way I have been successful in balancing athletics, academics and club is knowing when I have practice and solely basing everything else off of that,” Holasek said. “If I am expected to be in the gym for two hours, then I know that when I get out I have to work on homework and attend meetings. Managing my time has been difficult at times but overall it is simply just knowing when you have time to get your homework done and prioritizing my obligations.”
Holasek said stress was present but manageable throughout her time at Oklahoma Christian.
“I manage my stress by allowing myself time to have fun with friends,” Holasek said. “Many times this can be a quick break after I studied for a few hours or just allowing myself a night to hang out and detach from schoolwork. I am pumped to finally have made it through four years of college with a degree that I have worked so hard for. It will be by far the greatest accomplishment of my life.”
Seth Brown, a senior electrical engineering major also on the President’s Honor Roll, said what drew him to Oklahoma Christian was the soccer program.
“When I got here I realized soccer was not going to be my life,” Brown said. “My priorities quickly changed and I focused a lot on school. One of the best things about OC is the professors understand and want you to succeed at school, and so do the coaches. Having that support was good to keep me focused on academics, as well as soccer.”
According to Brown, students taking a path similar to his should know balancing athletics and academics requires sacrifice.
“I would tell someone taking a similar path to know that there are going to be times that you have to say no to your friends, and get your homework done,” Brown said. “It’s just something you sign up for when you take this path. If it is what you really want to do, then it’s worth it. Find some really good friends in lots of different groups. I wasn’t just a part of the soccer team, I also had engineering and honors. I could not have done this on my own. A big part of it is balancing, and it is different for everyone.”
Athletic Director David Lynn said Oklahoma Christian’s commitment to student success makes it unique.
“Our commitment starts with recruiting students that are committed to graduating,” Lynn said.
“All our coaches and staff make graduating a priority of the students’ experience at OC. Our coaches truly care about what is best for each student-athlete and make many decisions on a daily basis that will benefit their long-term success. What also plays a huge part in this process is the commitment of OC’s faculty and staff to make every effort to see their students succeed.”
According to Lynn, student-athlete success is due to the efforts of many individuals, including Teresa DeBoard.
“DeBoard works with almost every student-athlete, monitoring their grades and class attendance, working with them on their degree programs, and enrolling them each semester,” Lynn said. “Our success is directly tied to all her efforts and hard work every day. She has a fantastic relationship with the student-athletes and it’s obvious to all of them she cares about their classroom success but also takes interest in their lives.”
Lynn said non-athletes do not always understand the time investment required of the athletic teams.
“Each team is allowed 20 hours per week for scheduled activities during its main season,” Lynn said. “These hours including practice, working out and competing. But those 20 hours do not include travel. Missed class time and the hours on the road make studying very difficult. Student-athletes also rely heavily on their classmates to get notes and study prep from days they miss class for games and travel. It is not uncommon during an in-season week with two or three games off campus for travel, practice and games to exceed 40 hours.”
According to Lynn, Oklahoma Christian is special because the work of the faculty and staff gives students the best opportunities for success.
“Bottom line is our student-athletes’ success in the classroom is a collaborative effort between the student, coach, faculty member and staff at OC,” Lynn said. “What is best for each individual student is always held in mind.”