The role of student athletes mirrors that of the name itself: It is divided precisely down the center between two distinct avenues of potential achievement. Oftentimes, it can be difficult for them to balance both, but why is this the case, and, more importantly, why is it of such importance? Bob Reasso, a highly-experienced athletic director with a firmly-established history of working in the higher education industry, believes that it is vital for student athletes to focus on their academics in order to secure their futures.
Prior to his coaching career, Bob Reasso was a member of the Falcons soccer team and earned the title of the team’s most valued player as a senior and was also named an All-Conference and All-District player. He began his coaching career while earning his Masters Degree in education at Springfield College. He worked as the assistant director of athletics and coached both the soccer and baseball teams at Nasson College in Maine.
Bob Reasso moved on to Rutgers University, where he served as the head men’s soccer coach for 29 years, posting a winning record for the university in each of his first 23 seasons and taking the team to the NCAA Tournament 13 times.
From 2013 to 2018, Bob Reasso worked as the vice president of athletics and soccer coach at Pfeiffer University. He then became the director of athletics for the American University in Cairo, where he worked to establish a strong brand identity and create an online strategy for the Office of Athletics. Mr. Reasso currently acts as executive director and head coach of men’s soccer at Combine Rush Academy.
What are some of the reasons why so many student athletes neglect their academic studies?
It’s a complicated issue; for some athletes, they simply don’t view their classes as important or worthwhile. For others, they feel that there is not nearly enough time in the day for their studies. I feel that the overarching reason here is simply the pressure that student athletes are under on a day-to-day basis. A lot is expected of them and it is all too common for them to develop a mentality of having to choose between their studies and their athletics.
Exactly how much pressure would you say student athletes are under?
Typically, it is an enormous amount of pressure and I feel that the overall public perception of student athletes is somewhat ignorant to this current state of affairs. It isn’t a pressure to simply manage both their studies and their athletics, either: it is a pressure to perform exceptionally at both and this is where the problem lies. Athletes can, more often than not, see themselves going the distance in their athletics, but it can be a lot more difficult for them to have that same perception regarding their studies.
Is there a lack of support issue?
Absolutely. Too often, student athletes are perceived purely as privileged individuals, with not nearly enough recognition being given towards not only how hard they have worked to get where they are today, but also how hard they will continue to have to work. Unfortunately, this lack of support is two-fold. The public is not as supportive as it could be, but it is also the educational institutions that could be doing a much better job of ensuring that student athletes are set up to succeed both academically and athletically without feeling pressured to choose between them.
Are there any ways in which athletic pursuits can supplement learning?
I am a big advocate for the positive effects that regular exercise can have on one’s mental abilities and this is no more present than in the student athletes who work tremendously hard each and every day. For all the pressure that they are under, they are engaged in a lifestyle that will ideally help them feel more alert, awake, and motivated towards their academic pursuits compared to their peers.
Do you feel that there is a perceived divide between academics and athletics?
Of course. Generally speaking, in our society, I can say with confidence that people tend to lean towards one side or the other and that is definitely part of the issue at hand here. They compartmentalize people as having the potential for either an athletic career or academic achievement; it is, for whatever reason, difficult for them to understand that student athletes have the capability for both and that they should pursue both.
How do you steer student athletes in an academic direction?
As a coach, you need to focus on building a culture of success off the field to build it on the field. Some have even gone as far as to have a GPA requirement of 3.0 across all athletes so that it is a collective effort to excel academically. As a coach, I make sure I’m involved with my athletes’ academics. I look at my players to see what they can do and achieve. I work to get them to excel and accentuate their positive qualities. I try to focus on what can be done rather than what can’t. It’s about motivating players to be the best they can be academically.
What are some of the necessary skills for student athletes to develop for academic success?
Time management is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, critical skills that is a must-have for any student athlete. Knowing exactly how much time to spend on your athletics and academics is a powerful tool towards the pursuit of success for either and it’s a skill that has many more applications down the road too.
Second, I would say that although it is a more unconventional skill, knowing yourself is also a must-have skill. Know what you can do and what you can’t do. Know your strengths as well as your weaknesses. When you understand all of these things, it is so much easier to plan your future and change your behavior.
Do you have any advice for the burgeoning student athletes in the making?
Don’t give up on your dreams. Always do your best, whether it is in the middle of practice or the middle of an important test. Next, don’t be afraid to lean on your pillars of support when times are tough and you’re struggling to manage both of your lives. It might seem like it’s all on you, but this simply isn’t true and there are plenty of people in your life who are more than happy to build you up when you’re feeling pressured or stressed.
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