It’s common to view college and high school athletes as just that: athletes. But student-athletes, like the ones at East Lansing High School, are held to a higher standard — on the field, or the court, or at the pool. And in the classroom.
Not many high school athletes are blessed with the talent to be able to play at the collegiate level, which makes their success and determination in the classroom that much more important. At East Lansing High School, it shows. Three teams finished with all-state academic team GPAs while many athletes were honored for individual successes.
The girls golf team finished with a 3.76 team GPA, while the girls swim and dive team, and boys soccer team finished with team GPAs of 3.88 and 3.375 respectively.
East Lansing’s cross country team sent two runners to the state finals. The boys tennis team finished 16th in the state and the boys basketball team lost in the state quarterfinals. No team, however, had as much success as East Lansing’s girls basketball team. The Lady Trojans finished just one game short of an undefeated season, losing in the state finals. However, Jaida Hampton won Michigan’s Miss Basketball award, given to the best women’s basketball player in the state.
“To me, it means our coaches and our kids are doing an outstanding job,” said East Lansing Athletic Director Tom Hunt. “You know it’s funny because it’s not really a focus on winning, but it is a focus on preparing to win because there is so much winning that’s out of your control. That kinda has led to a formula for success on the field.”
As much as winning is important to Hunt, he believes his athletes’ success in the classroom is more important.
“It’s high school sports that’s what it’s all about,” he said.“Those trophies are great, but it’s about preparing these kids for life, and if we can prepare them for life lessons on the field, they can get the academic piece here and take that and work hard at that, that’s everything to me.”
That is everything to East Lansing High School Principal Andrew Wells as well. Both he and Hunt instituted a new system to keep student-athletes “in check” with their school work.
“We do weekly grade checks and a lot of times and certainly monthly. If nobody is really struggling, then we do them every month,” Hunt said. “But if we catch kids that are struggling or falling behind, then we do those on a weekly basis. The program has worked out really well in keeping our kids involved in the academics.”
In some cases, this can lead to an athlete becoming ineligible.
“If they have more than two E’s, for instance they will be ineligible immediately until they bring their grades up. However, we haven’t had any instances with students up to this point,” Wells said.
Sports are an avenue for a number students to continue not only their playing careers, but their educational careers at the next level. Those not able to make it athletically set up their future with what they do in the classroom.
“I always like to say that athletics is more of an opportunity for students to partake in a whole-school experience and academics will obviously take them much further because they need those academic skills to be successful in life,” Wells said.
But even with the recent academic success East Lansing High School has had with its teams, Hunt knows it will always be an ongoing process to reach higher.
“We have always been pretty good academically here,” he said. “We just want to keep and maintain that, and bump that higher if we possibly can.”