Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Participating in college athletics is like having a full-time job on top of being a full-time student.
NCAA regulations allow 20 hours of practice per week, in addition to university-enforced study hall hours. The College of Charleston requires its student athletes to have between six and eight hours of study hall every week for all freshman and first-semester Cougar students. After that, the numbers vary based on individual marks in the classroom.
Women’s soccer coach Christian Michner requires his freshman to attend eight hours, regardless of current academic standing. Those efforts paid off, as nine of his 25 players earned recognition on the Academic All-Southern Conference Team for the 2012 fall semester.
To be eligible, student athletes must have at least a 3.3 cumulative GPA entering the fall season and have competed in at least half of their teams’ competitions during the previous fall season. They must have also have completed at least 24 credit hours in the past two semesters.
The women’s soccer team, which plays its home games at Patriots Point Soccer Stadium in Mount Pleasant, had an overall GPA of 3.38, and 21 of 25 roster players had a 3.0 GPA or above.
“It’s not easy,” Michner said. “The balance between being a student and being an athlete isn’t easy. We certainly demand a lot out of our players on the field and off the field, and that’s along with the typical rigors of being a college student.”
Michner knows that balance well. He played the forward position for the men’s soccer team from 1996-98 under Ralph Lundy, who remains the head coach.
What was his GPA? “I wasn’t the model student,” he said, laughing, and estimating a mark between 2.7 and 2.9.
“I was never a 3.0 student and above,” Michner said. “I wish I had put more effort and time into the academic side of it. My goal always was to play professionally.”
It’s easier for women’s athletes to not put the athlete in front of the student in “student athlete,” Michner said, because the opportunities to play professional sports isn’t as available for women as men. Because of that, there’s less of a tradeoff between obsessing over being able to sign a large professional contract and sacrificing study hours.
Michner played professional soccer for five years with the Colorado Rapids, San Jose Clash, San Francisco Bay Seals, Seattle Sounders, El Paso Patriots and San Diego Flash.
“There’s not a real, viable professional league for female athletics to go into. The WNBA to some degree...there’s a women’s professional (soccer) league starting again, but it’s not something you can sign multi-million dollar contracts and retire off of,” he said.
“The fact is, on the women’s side of college athletics, a degree is extremely important. It’s very important on the men’s side of athletics, but there are – in soccer, football, baseball, basketball – there are viable professional opportunities that you can carve a nice professional career out of.”
One of the Cougars’ academic stars is Bishop England product Kate Twohig. The sophomore boasted a 3.83 GPA majoring in pre-business administration.
She’s solid on the field too. Twohig saw action in all 20 games and started 11, while scoring twice and having the second-most assists on the team with four.
“She can play a couple different spots, but I think center forward is her best spot,” Michner said. “She’s probably among the top three on our team in being able to strike the ball.”
But, even with Twohig’s rising stock on the field and next season being her junior campaign, Michner isn’t prepared to hand the starting job over to anyone just yet.
“There’s a lot of competition for those spots,” he said, noting returning players and a strong incoming freshman class. “She’s certainly got a lot of great qualities: she works hard, she listens, she takes directions and she can finish. Her advantage is that she’s been in this environment for two years.”
When the former Bishop England standout committed to College of Charleston, it wasn’t to Michner. Kevin Dempsey, coach of the Cougars for nine seasons resigned to become an assistant with the LSU women’s soccer program. But, Michner retained Cougar assists Mike Barroqueiro and Laura Jackson.
The familiar faces helped Twohig remain committed to College of Charleston, and Michner honored every outstanding scholarship that was offered before his tenure.
“I didn’t see it was my place to change it (rescind the scholarship offer), and she was excited about CofC,” he said. “I thought she could come in here and help us, and she’s done that.
“It’s one thing to be good enough to play at a school; it’s another thing to really want to be somewhere and want to give your effort for the colors. She embodies that.”
Bishop England soccer coach David Snyder described Twohig as “an outstanding student and leader.”
She was a captain of the team and a two-time recipient of all-state honors within the 2A ranks.
Perhaps her greatest recognition was being selected for the North-South Classic, which selects the top 18 players from all classifications.
“She could have played at a number of Division I schools and chose the College of Charleston for its soccer program, academic opportunities, setting and because her brother (Francis) also played soccer for CofC,” Snyder said.
The Battling Bishops coach said the two never spoke at length about the coaching change when it happened.
“I do know that she worked hard to be prepared for college-level soccer and was willing to adapt to whatever was asked of her,” he said.
“My understanding is that she remains fully committed and is prepared to be a leader on the team next year.”
NOTE: Another Charleston product, Catey Warren, a sophomore volleyball player at the College of Charleston recorded a 3.75 fall GPA.
She is majoring in biology and went to high school at Ashley Hall.
Troy Lesesne, assistant men’s soccer coach for the College of Charleston, was named as one of the top 15 assistant coaches in the country by CollegeSoccerNews.com.
It marked the second time Lesesne, a former standout player for the Cougars less than a decade ago, earned the annual honor. “Troy is extremely committed to the Cougars, and his energy is amazing in all areas of our program,” head coach Ralph Lundy said in a news release. “He keeps growing and demonstrating great expertise, which is well received by our players.”
Criteria for the recognition is based on dedication to the program and that team’s record.
It was Lesesne’s fifth season as assistant coach.
He manages player training, academics, recruiting, alumni relations, scheduling, budgeting and equipment for the Cougars.
In 2004, Lesesne was a part of the Southern Conference championship team that won its first round game of the NCAA Tournament.
He was also given a spot on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Adidas All-American team.
(Tyler Heffernan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.moultrinews.com.)