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To make the cut, make the grade

By DAVID MURPHY
Published March 21, 2007


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To Cherikhan Waddy, Darryn Frazier, Crystal Anthony, Nick Pauliott, and every other freshman, sophomore or junior playing high school sports in Hernando County:

I'm going to tell you all a story. Three weeks ago, an out-of-town basketball team came to Brooksville for a playoff game. The star of that team was a monster - easily Division I material. When you watched her play, you could see her future: free books, free room and board, free tuition, four or five years of competition against some of the top basketball players in the country.

The next day, I called an assistant coach at a Division I school. Bounced her name off him. He knew her. Said they weren't recruiting her.

He would have loved to. But he couldn't. The reason? Grades.

End of story.

When I was in high school, I was like many of you: I didn't see the purpose in algebra or calculus or 300-page novels written by dead white men. I had video games to play, play-ground basketball courts to visit, a part-time job to attend.

When a teacher asked me to graph a quadratic function, I'd silently wonder when I would ever have to do so in real life.

And let's be honest: In the seven years since I graduated from high school, I've never picked up a graphing calculator. I forget what the term co-efficient means. In fact, I don't even know if co-efficient is an actual term.

I've never had to use my knowledge of the Magna Carta. I forgot everything I ever learned about economics. And, to date, nobody has ever stopped me in the grocery store and asked me to compare and contrast the major characters in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

But here's the kicker: If you don't have any of that knowledge, you won't be playing college sports.

Are there other benefits to school work? Sure. It will make you a more well-rounded individual. It will help prepare you for the real world. It will teach you discipline. Knowledge is power, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But I'll let your parents and guidance counselors tell you all that. I'm not an after-school special. I'm a sports writer. And that gives me the ability to tell you this: If you don't study, you don't play. Period.

Apparently, it is a necessary message to relay because so many area athletes don't seem to take it to heart. For every Cheyenne Sellers Hernando volleyball and Kristen Wimer (Central volleyball) and Hillary Fiocca (Springstead softball) who is moving on to play sports in college, there is an area kid who won't because of his or her grades.

The situation is the same every time: I'll bounce an athlete's name off of a high school coach, ask about college prospects, and the coach will look at me, grimace and shake his or her head.

Grades.

If you don't believe me, talk to your coach: Talent level is not the first thing college coaches look at when they look for prospective athletes. Whether it is mid-major Division I or NAIA, the first thing any recruiter will ask about is grades. And if you don't have what it takes to get accepted into college, they won't even bother talking to you.

In many ways, an impressive transcript is as important as an impressive game tape.

I realize the education system in Hernando County may not always give students the best chance for academic success. Teachers are underpaid. Programs are under funded. Schools are overcrowded.

But when it comes to doing homework, building a solid grade point average and preparing oneself for the SAT or ACT, effort is often the most important ingredient. And there is no excuse for a lack of effort.

Academic success can be enhanced or hindered by factors outside of one's control. But for the most part, it falls on your shoulders.

It takes dedication. It takes discipline. And it takes drive.

Kind of like sports.

Funny how that works.

David Murphy can be reached at dmurphy@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1407

[Last modified March 21, 2007, 06:28:20]


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