By Katie Morrison
While the high school sports level is often downplayed as not as “challenging” or “demanding” as being a student-athlete at the college level, it is nonetheless the foundation of preparation for student-athletes before playing at the next level. Before a student-athlete can perform at the collegiate level, they must first excel in the classroom and on the field or court of their local high school.
Maintaining excellence both academically and athletically, applying to colleges and scholarships - all while attempting to balance some level of a social life and normal sleeping habits - are just some of the challenges college-bound student-athletes face.
Though these young student-athletes must juggle many responsibilities, their high schools are providing them with tools for success. From study halls, weekly advisement periods, GPA standards, and general encouragement and support from faculty and coaches, student-athletes have access to a plethora of resources to be successful.
In the United States, 45.7 percent of schools reported student-athlete graduation rates of 98-100 percent (Slashing Sports: A National Study Examining the Correlation Between Athletic Involvement and Academic Success), compared to the average high school graduation rate of 84.1% (National Center for Education Statistics). This high rate of success for student-athletes correlates to the school’s emphasis on the importance of academics.
Clarke Central High School, located in the heart of Athens, Ga., is one of those schools that has made it a priority to ensure the success of its student-athletes.
According to Clarke Central sports information director Chris Hulse, “It’s helping kids navigate their day to day in the building and understanding that ‘student-athlete,’ there’s a reason one of these words comes first and it has to be the priority.”
Hulse says there are definite academic benefits of being an athlete in high school. “It’s something to keep them tied in and motivated, and give them that reason to be excited to be here,” he explained. “It gives them that reason to really want to pour themselves into it.”
When he first began his high school football career at CCHS, senior wide receiver Jacob Dula wasn’t sure a career as a college athlete was in his future. Playing football in college has always been one of his lifelong dreams, and he knows it would help his mother out financially if he could land a scholarship. However, Dula wasn’t on top of his grades throughout his freshman and sophomore years. Fortunately, his teachers and coaches at CCHS have had his back.
Over the course of his final two years as a high school student-athlete, Dula, with help and encouragement from the athletic department, committed himself to making his role as a student as great a priority as being an athlete. His Twitter account, which is also used as a college football recruiting tool, now boasts an 1120 SAT score and 22 ACT score.
Dula, who has been in touch with coaches at Jacksonville University, The Citadel, Albany State, and Western Carolina, now feels he is readier than ever to tackle being a student-athlete at the next level. Hear his story below.