All this month we've put together Daily Dose videos from the football program at Rhodes College, a Division III college in Memphis. Former Rhodes player Evan Tucker has partnered with Rhodes political science professor Michael Nelson to contribute a piece to Inside Higher Ed, with Tucker providing advice to professors on how to handle teaching college athletes and Nelson providing advice to athletes on how to succeed in the classroom.
While this is (obviously) tailored to the Division III level, there's something in here for every athlete of every sport at every level.
Sit front or at least center in class. Above all, do not clump together in the back of the room. The signal you want to send your professors is that you are individual students, not a delegation from the team who happens to be taking the same class. That will be an especially unnatural act for freshman athletes playing fall sports, because you arrive on the campus a couple weeks before the rest of the student body and forge your first on-campus friendships with teammates. Naturally you, like everyone else, would prefer to sit near your friends in class. Make a point of not doing that.
Don’t let your first impression on the professor be an announcement of the days you’ll miss class for team travel. Establish yourself in your professors’ minds as a student before you do anything else, so that when you -- like other students who occasionally travel for college-sponsored academic events like Model UN and undergraduate research conference -- do inform them you will have to miss a class, they will already know you as a student.
Invite your professors and their families or friends to come watch one of your team’s games. If you’re assuming that most professors know when your home games are, you are probably wrong. Even those who do know would appreciate a personal invitation. And they’ll thk you. The truth is that D3 sports contests, most of them free and with easy parking, are among the great entertainment bargains around.
Never miss a class you don’t have to miss. Most professors grant their students a little slack in terms of unexcused, unpunished “cuts.” Make a point of not taking even one as a way of showing that although you may have to miss class sometimes, it’s never by choice. The message to your professors is: I’m in your class every chance I get.
On the one NCAA-mandated day each week that your team can not practice, go to out-of-class lectures, programs or other events that your professors recommend. That will set you apart from most of your non-athlete classmates in a way that marks you as academically serious.