Often I have written about Laura’s athletic accomplishments or action photography skills on this blog. In comparison, mentions of her work as an academic counselor have been few. There is a simple reason for this seeming oversight. Laura wants none of it. Whether she likes it or not, the time has come to expose Laura’s dark side to some light.
This week, Kansas rowing placed 21 student-athletes on the Big 12 Conference’s inaugural Academic At-Large team. Then Conference USA announced that 39 KU rowers made the Commissioner’s Honor Roll. As confusing as that sounds, the key fact is that rowers have done very well academically. On a team with just over 60 rowers, those are some impressive numbers.
Laura argues that most rowers were outstanding students before coming to KU and should take all the credit for their success. No doubt, rowers must do the work. Yet, to blindly dismiss Laura’s key role, as she would like, would be foolish.
Rowers have wide-ranging interests. A “dumb-jock” class load will not work. Coordinating complicated class schedules, training sessions and practices is a difficult puzzle that Laura must solve. The same issues apply to Laura’s other sports – swimming and diving.
The stress level in our house climbs rapidly when Laura’s individual meetings with each student begin before each semester’s enrollment. Stupidly, I try to joke with her that her “paying” job gets in the way of her “volunteer” job of shooting with me. That does not go over well. This is after all serious work.
Save for a few east and west coast schools, rowing is a fringe sport. Right or wrong, most schools would never have rowing if not for Title IX equal opportunity demands. Only four Big 12 schools have rowing programs. That small number keeps rowing from being an official Big 12 sport. Bowling, competitive cheer, men’s gymnastics, equestrian, rifle, and men’s and women’s skiing are other sports hanging on the fringe. To have the Big 12 finally recognize the academic accomplishments of these 161 student-athletes is a real positive.
The Conference USA tie-in is a way for the four Big 12 schools to face tougher competition and have a better avenue available for NCAA qualification. Their academic award requires a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better, a true indicator of the quality of the students.
Just as rowers are good students, they are also good people. Over the years, Laura has heard from many rowers offering their thanks to their counselor, friend, confidant and surrogate mother. There really is no dark side other than Laura underplaying her role in these young women’s college lives and beyond. Just thought that needed exposure.