Belen athletes are doing better in the classroom; still need work

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Higher academic expectations for Belen High School and Belen Middle School athletes has led to a decrease in those receiving Fs on their report cards.

BHS' Athletic Director Rodney Wright announced to board of education members the number of athletes who received an F on their report cards dropped by 28 percent, from 130 to 93, compared to this time last year.

Academic expectations for athletes were increased in August from the New Mexico Athletic Association's minimum of receiving one F and maintaining a 2.0 grade point average to having no Fs.

Seniors, or part-time students, are required to have a minimum of a 2.5 GPA.

"Athletics will open the door, but academics will get them through the door," Wright said. "Academics will get them graduated and out into the community."

Out of the 93 students below academic expectations, about 58 of them are ineligible to participate in school sports. Those ineligible to play can continue practicing with their team, but are removed from the sport's roster and not allowed to travel with their team, sit on the sidelines or be in uniform until the following report card illustrates improvement.

"We're basically asking them to be C or better students and not get Fs," Wright said.

Although the number of students with failing marks decreased, Wright said the athletics department still has room for improvement.

"I believe very highly in academics and we want to be leaders in academics," he said.

Much of the work behind pushing students to excel is placed on the coaches shoulders, since Wright expects them to prevent their athlete's from dropping below the minimum, he said.

"The relationship between an athlete and a coach is strong and coaches have the opportunity to have a great influence on kids in the classroom," he said.

Coaches are asked to complete routine grade checks, organize study halls, set up tutoring sessions or allow for additional time to make up exams and finish assignments on time.

"It's important for coaches to constantly talk about the importance of grades," Wright said.

Raising academic expectations pushes athletes to excel in the classroom not prevent them from participating.

"If we expect kids to fail, they're going to fail, but if we expect kids to do good things, they're going to do it," Wright said.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.