What defines success for a student-athlete in the most relative way possible? Many would consider athletic contributions to be the only measuring factor in a student-athlete’s success, but to do so would be to ignore the word “student” entirely. Each year, the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) forms an Academic All-Conference Team consisting of a list of collegiate student-athletes that have reached second-year status while maintaining a 3.5 grade point average on a traditional 4.0 scale. This honor is typically reserved for the most studious collegiate athletes in the New England area, making qualification for the list a very impressive feat. Just a few weeks ago, Clark University’s fall-student athletes showed an astonishing level of brains and brawns when 56 student-athletes achieved academic honors.
Many of the major sports teams at Clark helped the college reach this level of distinction, including the women’s field hockey team who added a program-best total of 12 student-athletes to the list. According to Emma Boland, a two-time recipient of Academic-All Conference honors, the bond between upperclassmen and underclassmen oftentimes helps first-year and sophomore students succeed in a competitive and new environment. “It can definitely be pretty difficult at times to balance field hockey and school obligations, particularly when we’re in our main season since we spend at least three hours a day at the field, six days a week. With that said, because the team spends so much time together we see each other at our worst and our best, so when I’m stressed about work I always have someone to vent to, and when I’m excited about a project I’m working on, my teammates will be excited for me and support me,” Boland (‘22) stated. “On top of that, older players are always giving school advice to younger players which definitely helped me get my footing as a first year and sophomore student.
Clark’s women’s soccer team also reached a high level of success by having an astounding 16 student-athletes reach the list, with six of these athletes qualifying for the list for the third consecutive time in a row. According to Taylor Barberi, a third-time All-Conference selectee from the women’s soccer team, a big reason for the team’s success revolves around the culture that the team fosters on and off the field. “We have high expectations to excel not only on the field, but in the classroom as well. My team is a huge support system for me, and we can go to each other for anything, not only soccer,” Barberi (‘22) stated. Alongside the women’s soccer team, the men’s team also had several members achieve academic distinction, with 10 members joining the 2020-2021 Academic All-Conference team. One of the men’s soccer players who received the academic and athletic honor was Greg Amador, an upperclassman team member who received his second accolade. According to Greg, the Academic All-Conference team is a great way to help inspire young athletes to reach their full academic potential. “As an upperclassman Academic All-Conference athlete, I hope to set a good example for younger Clark athletes so that they can aspire to be the best version of themselves,” Amador (‘21) stated.
Adding on to this success was the men’s and women’s cross country teams, both of whom had a large number of student-athletes join the Academic All-Conference Team, with the men’s team having seven members win the award and the women’s team having six members win the award. According to Alec Hoffman, a first time eligible runner who received the distinction, a big part of the success he and others on the team experienced stems from the resources available to student-athletes at Clark. “I’m happy to have been able to succeed not just as a student but also as an athlete. Further, I am incredibly grateful to Clark and my athletic peers for giving me the tools and motivation to achieve such a feat. As for the future, the sky’s the limit, I shall always be striving to be the best student, the best runner, and generally, the best person that I can be,” Hoffman (‘23) stated.
Another team that received high honors was the women’s volleyball team, having a total of five athletes receive the award. According to Marimo Oka, a Senior player on the women’s volleyball team who recently received her third consecutive Academic All-Conference honor, trial and error played a big role in balancing her academic work with her athletic training. “Finding the balance between athletics and academics has definitely been a series of trial and error, such as finding out what kind of study schedule works best for me and finding out which subject I needed most time to spend on,” Oka (‘21) stated. “One thing I have been consistent with since my freshman year is reviewing the materials from the class on the day I take the class and creating my own exam-like summary notes.” Marimo also discussed overcoming the challenges associated with completing school work during the fall competitive season. “As a student-athlete, especially during the formal season, we often have late night games and practices. I know I don’t function well late at night, so I always kept in mind to plan ahead with my planner.” Oka finished.
Overall, in the face of a global pandemic and in an age of online-course work, student-athletes at Clark proved that success and determination can always exist in uncertain times. Even in the midst of semester-long turmoil, 56 Fall season student-athletes at Clark managed to perform well enough to receive high honors for their academic determination and athletic focus and drive. This shows all of us that the age of COVID-19 does not have to be simply an age of darkness, it can also be an age defined by overcoming the odds and working harder than ever before.