While the term “student-athlete” attempts to place emphasis on the “student” component rather than the latter, collegiate athletes spend an estimated 20 hours per week practicing or playing games, which leaves limited time to focus on academics.
For one Oklahoma Christian University athlete, senior Oby Okeke, balancing her studies and her sport became more challenging than the average student-athletes due to her involvement in the Honors Program.
According to Oklahoma Christian, “the OC Honors Program is the ‘most rigorous’ National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) model: a core-based, cohort-centered program with core seminar classes led by the university’s teaching scholars.”
The Honors program accepts “40 exceptional freshmen” each year. Once accepted, the Honors program replaces the student’s general education courses with unique classes only offered in the program, which are “more demanding” than general classes.
“It combines two separate classes into one course,” Okeke said. “The classes are usually harder, but you could also get your credits over with faster. It replaces your general education classes and you have to take less Bible classes.”
Jim Baird, director of the Honors Program, said he believes athletes possess the motivation needed to be successful within the Honors program.
“We have several varsity athletes in Honors right now,” Baird said. “I’ll admit I’m not sure what all the reasons might be why some athletes are motivated to take honors. Successful athletes tend to be very determined, very disciplined people, and those are qualities that work well in honors.”
Okeke plays varsity soccer for the Lady Eagles, starts in every game at the central defender position and maintains a 4.0 GPA.
“At first, I was like, ‘Why am I doing this, honestly?’” Okeke said. “I think it definitely got easier. I went into it expecting it to be really hard, so I think that helped with me trying to balance time and everything.”
Despite having initial doubts, Okeke said the community of the Honors program makes the “pain” of balancing both worth it.
“Freshman and sophomore year, the community of the Honors dorm gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of people that, especially if I had stayed in University House, I definitely wouldn’t have met,” Okeke said. “Looking back at the late nights in the Honors dorm—even though, at the time, they kind of sucked—those are things I’ll never forget, like studying with friends and having our rants at 3 a.m.”
Baird said he constructed the Honors program to highlight community, which helps balance the hours of work required.
“I’m pretty sure all the athletes at Oklahoma Christian struggle with balancing the demands of academics with their sport,” Baird said. “I’m sure that is a stiff challenge for the students in our Honors program. Knowing the way our Honors program is set up, my guess would be Honors athletes might struggle with that a bit more than other athletes in the freshman year and maybe a bit less in later years.”
After Okeke “survived” her first two years in the Honors program, she said she plans to utilize the lessons the program taught her in her future career and life.
“Overall, it just kind of changes your perspective on things, especially some of the stuff we learned in our classes,” Okeke said. “It makes you realize there is so much more out there you might not know about, so you just have to make sure your mindset is open to different things.”