Over 175,000 college student-athletes compete in NCAA Division I sports. Most compete at a lower profile than the basketball and football players who get the most press. But that does not mean that their sport means less to these student-athletes, especially those who compete over long seasons.
Matthew Lepine is one of them. A junior Psychology major at Providence College, he competes in distance track and cross country over a full school year. As he will tell you in this conversation, it is possible to prepare for both sports and compete on their schedules. It is also possible, if you properly manage your time, to earn good grades, for student-athletes to have a social life.
I know that there is sarcasm when someone says the phrase “student-athletes.” But the vast majority of student-athletes recruited to play their sports also have the grades to get into a school on their academics. Providence, as one example, competes in 16 NCAA Division 1 varsity sports. The Friars do not play football. Their high profile sports are basketball and hockey. The basketball programs award full scholarships to all of their student athletes. But most others sports, including Cross Country and Track, do not. Nor do they have the time or budget to recruit widely across the country. In fact, Matthew researched Providence’s program, among others and made first contact. He not only had the statistics to compete; he also had an academic record that would be similar to an incoming freshman at Providence, a very good school. That got him invited for an official visit.
Coaches in all sports want to win. Providence’s track and cross country programs are no exception. In the Fall of 2019, just before the pandemic, the men’s cross country team placed first in four of the seven meets where they competed. At the New England Championships held in October, the Friars bested 24 opponents. But these coaches also wanted their student-athletes to do well in the classroom. Matthew and 16 of his teammates were named to the Big East All Academic Team for 2019-20. According to the NCAA, this team ranked in the top ten percent in their sport for Academic Progress in 2018-19.
I have known Matthew’s mother, Barbara, for a long time. Our families were next door neighbors from the time we were three. But I did not advise them during the college search. As you listen to this conversation, you will learn that Matthew came to his own conclusions on where he wanted to be. I got to ask him some questions about how he arrived at his choices. His reasoning was well thought out.
As we start a new year with hope, I wish that parents and high school student-athletes will take the time to learn from our conversation. Like music or performing arts, college athletics requires greater commitment than high school arts or sports, a commitment that should be taken seriously.
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Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
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