Downtime during pandemic enabled student-athletes to focus on academics

Media Credit: Sophia Moten | Assistant Photo Editor

The A-10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll selection includes student-athletes with a cumulative 3.0 GPA in conference-sponsored sports during the academic year.

A record number of student-athletes were named to the Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll this past academic year.

The Atlantic 10 named 274 GW student-athletes to the Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll in the 2020-21 academic year, recording a combined 3.5 GPA throughout the pandemic, according to an Athletic Department release. Student-athletes said extra downtime during virtual classes and assistance from their academic advisers enabled them to focus on their academic work during the pandemic.

“The emphasis that we put on success isn’t just limited to the gym,” junior gymnast Hannah Munnelly said. “It goes to all aspects of our life, especially in the classroom. We’re students first, athletes second. We really just take that mindset with us everywhere.”

Twenty-six teams held at least a combined 3.0 GPA during the spring, with 257 student-athletes obtaining at least a 3.5 average. Nearly 50 student-athletes recorded a 4.0 GPA, while 378 student-athletes held a 3.0 GPA and above overall, according to the release.

Men’s tennis led all GW sports programs in the spring with a combined 3.91 team GPA, followed by gymnastics with a 3.82. Women’s soccer registered a 3.74 mark, followed by golf with a 3.71 and women’s cross country and track with a 3.67.

The A-10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll selection includes only student-athletes with a cumulative 3.0 GPA in conference-sponsored sports during the academic year. The honor was given to 14 schools last academic year, amounting to a total of 3,849 student-athletes to top the previous record by 88 students.

Sixteen gymnasts were named to the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American list. The Colonials placed 14th overall among a pool of 75 schools across the nation, leaping 26 ranks from the previous year, according to an August Athletic Department release.

Senior gymnast Deja Chambliss, a first-time honoree, said the extra downtime during the pandemic allowed her and her teammates more opportunities to concentrate on their schoolwork. The team worked in study groups to help each other with assignments, she said.

“If there was one thing that came out of COVID, we had time to just put it into our schoolwork,” Chambliss said. “And we did exactly that.”

A recent study by the Colorado State University demonstrated that the pandemic allowed student-athletes to better focus on their academic responsibilities, allowing them to acquire academic independence from many of the tutoring centers that were eliminated during the pandemic. The study pointed to an increase of .16 in the overall cumulative athlete GPA from the previous semester, outranking the general student body GPA by .049.

She said participating in gymnastics taught her how to be disciplined from a young age, which has helped her manage her academics in between the hours spent at gymnastics practice and her classes.

“Gymnastics helped us organize our lives, basically for college, and we didn’t even know it as a 15-year-old,” Chambliss said. “And then on the focus aspect of it, we have to focus on one event at a time. If I’m on beam, I’m not thinking about bar. So if I’m in psychology, I’m not thinking about biology.”

Munnelly, who earned the WCGA Scholastic All-American award for the second time, said gymnastics made her more adaptable, helping shape her studying habits and work ethic in school despite the struggles she may have had in a particular subject.

“Even if it’s not my favorite thing, I still have to do it,” Munnelly said. “Even if beam isn’t my favorite event, I still have to train beam. Even if I am terrible at sitting down and focusing on reading, I’ll find a way to break it up so that it’s easier for me.”

Munnelly said she sought help from her academic adviser after struggling with an art history exam and learned how to properly write and structure a college paper.

“She was like, ‘Okay, take a deep breath,’” Munnelly said. “We’re gonna figure this out together. This isn’t the end of the world. This is probably the first exam of hundreds of exams you’re gonna take in college.’ Then we just sat down at my paper and she was like, ‘Okay, I think this is what they’re looking for.’”

Chambliss said she also made use of the resources provided by the Carbonell Center which offers networking services, mentorship and financial literacy programs, and one on one career coaches. She said one of those career coaches, Julia Brown, helped students with “professional competencies” to assist the transition to life after being a student-athlete because gymnastic sports “won’t last forever.”

“We know we came here for school first, athletics is just a plus,” Chambliss said. “So I think that’s why this award meant so much to gymnastics because we have the athletics part, to get the academics on top of that is so much greater.”

Roman Bobek contributed reporting.

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