The road to graduation looks bright for ASU student-athletes

Arizona Sports News online

Being a student-athlete takes a lot of hard work, just ask Arizona State University softball player Bailey Wigness.

Wigness not only works with her teammates to be a success on the field, but they encourage each other to do well when it comes to hitting the books.

The support doesn’t just stop with her teammates. ASU is stepping up to the plate and giving all student-athletes the tools they need to put them on the road to graduation.

“The year I got recruited, they had just won a national championship,” Wigness said.. “So I was on cloud nine like, Mom, Dad, I’m going to play for a big-time school.’”

Wigness is a junior at ASU.

“The thing that gets me about softball, that keeps me coming back for more, is that it’s a thinking game,” Wigness said.

Wigness and her teammates know the meaning of hard work. The ladies make sure they’re prepared to take on their opponents by hitting the practice field a few times a week.

“In the spring, we’re practicing six days a week,” Wigness said. “So we have one day off. We have morning workouts three times a week.”

But the meaning of hard work also follows the team into the classroom.

“I mean, doing great on the field or court is wonderful. Clearly we want to win,” Wigness said. “But I mean, I think graduating and getting that degree is going to take you farther in life.”

Wigness along with the rest of the ASU athletes are getting tools to guide them in their journey to graduation from the university’s Office of Student- Athlete Development all the way to coaches and faculty.

“One of probably the greatest challenges a student-athlete has is organization and managing their time,” said Jean Boyd, senior associate athletic director for the Office of Student-Athlete Development at ASU. “So as a freshman we make sure that they have a ton of structure.

They have a certain amount of hours, if you will, that they have structured study time in the building here,” Boyd continued. “There is always academic professionals who are with them during that time, monitoring what they’re doing, monitoring how they set up their workweek.”

One of those people is Natalie Burgess. She is an academic coach and life skills coordinator in the Office of Student-Athlete Development at ASU.

“Making sure that they’re going to their study hall on time, that they’re getting the class schedule that they need, that their classes are around practice that they’re complying with all NCAA requirements for academic eligibility,” Burgess said.

Burgess also helps them understand the importance of getting a degree and provides resources in their job search.

“We get students in here that are like, ‘I have no idea what I want to do, help me figure it out,’” Burgess said. “And, really, you don’t tell them what to do, you just ask them questions to try and help them figure out what they do want to do and what they don’t want to do.”

ASU’S commitment to both athletics and academics is paying off.

“Our Graduation Success Rate was 80 percent and our GPA hit 3.0 for the first time, we hit a 3.01 after the fall semester,” Boyd said. “So we’re definitely pleased with the progress, but we got our sights higher.”

One of the Sun Devil teams to be consistent when it comes to doing well in the academic world is women’s tennis.

“We’ve done this consistently and it doesn’t surprise me that we’re up to 80 percent graduation rate,” said Sheila McInerney, women’s tennis coach at ASU. “It’s sort of like coaching or teaching. It’s all a process.”

Wigness has proven she can balance her sport and studies. She’s an Academic All-American and is on track to graduate next May.

“One of the three prongs is Sun Devils graduate,” Wigness said. “So I think they do a great job of making sure students are successful and they’re graduating.”

This video was originally produced for ASU Magazine.