Monday, November 30, 2009

It’s Not All About Athletics!!

by Pam Lowie- Interim Director of Academic Services

Division I athletes at NAU and around the country have recognized that the “student” in every student-athlete is critical to achieving success in and out of the classroom. The NCAA recently announced that the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) is at an all-time high: 79 percent of all Division I student-athletes who enrolled in college in 2002 earned their degree.

The NCAA sees academic success as the future for both intercollegiate athletics and the student-athletes who participate, and poured millions of dollars into ensuring that student-athletes have the resources they need. NAU has benefited from the increased funds for academic support, as our Lumberjack academic support staff has doubled in the past five years.

Some more stats:

• Student-Athletes’ GSR is two percent higher than the general population of college students. This can be attributed to increased eligibility standards required to participate in athletic programs
• Men’s Basketball and Baseball have increased dramatically, with Football’s rates decreasing slightly

How does NAU compare
Here at NAU, academic success of our student-athletes is phenomenal!

• Our current GSR is 70 percent, but we are confident that the rates have been increasing (as seen by our most recent Academic Progress Rates).
• The Federal Graduation Rate for all students at NAU is 53 percent, and in comparison, the graduation rates for all student-athletes at NAU are 60 percent!!
• The NAU athletic department’s cumulative GPA is over 3.00, almost unheard of in Division I FCS schools
• 180 of our student-athletes have at least a 3.00 GPA of higher
• Our 2009 Soccer Big Sky Champions have the highest team GPA with an unbelievable 3.45!!

Recently, junior Kristi Andreassen became the first soccer player in the Lumberjack program history to earn All-American academic honors. Andreassen, a native of Tempe, AZ was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Second Team for earning a 4.0 cumulative GPA in her four semesters as an Exercise Science major. In addition to her academic success, Andreassen has established herself as a force on the field as well being named to the All-Big Sky First Team in 2008 and 2009.

Regarding her most recent accolade, Andreassen stated “I am honored to receive this award because it shows how hard I work not only on the field but also in class. Being a student-athlete is not easy at all. Not only do you have to perform at your best level, you must also succeed in the classroom. It is definitely a lot of pressure to put on one person. My success has come from believing in myself and not letting anything get in the way of what I want!”

As an Academic Advisor, hearing the successes that the Lumberjacks achieve in the classroom is a thrill. Student-athletes have many more responsibilities than the general student body, and our athletes have shown that they pursue their future success with rigor in both arenas. Diana and I have the privilege to work with these student-athletes to help them meet their goals, and share in their success when they are achieved.

Many of you have heard or seen the NCAA public Service campaign tag line “There are over 380,000 student athletes, and most of us go pro in something other than sports.” This is what Diana Ulrey and I, as Academic advisors/coordinators spend our days ensuring and we encourage all student-athletes to come visit us and take an active role in their academic success. Being a Division I student-athlete is short lived, but the life skills developed through success on and off the playing field will last a lifetime.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yankee Memories

Andy Williams joined the Northern Arizona athletics staff as the head strength and conditioning coach in July of 2009. Williams came to NAU with 13 years of experience in the profession, most recently spending a year as the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Eastern Michigan University. He spent one year with the World Champion New York Yankees and recalls his experience.

I interned with the Kansas City Chiefs back in 1996. I got to know the Royals strength coach because they would come over and run at our indoor facility. He called me when I worked at Cal State Fullerton to tell me he had recommended me for the director position with the Yankees, the director of major league rehabilitation and the entire minor league system for the club.

Four days later they flew me to Tampa, the headquarters of the franchise, for a 24-hour interview. Two weeks later they offered me the job. I got to work with guys like Joba Chamberlin, who had a pulled hamstring in major league camp that year so I was in charge of his rehab until he made his debut later that year, and Phil Hughes.

It was a lot of fun. There are so many different people you meet that present different situations. For example, if I was working with a kid from the Dominican Republic who did not speak a lick of English, it tested how good of a coach you were because you have to teach through a translator. People have different learning styles. You can’t just tell the kids what to do. You have to show them and you have to physically help them through it. You deal with all kinds of different personalities within a minor league system with more than 300 people in it.

I got to be good friends with a guy who did the personnel stuff. It was interesting to see the system work. When a guy gets bumped out of the major leagues, it is a trickle down effect all the way down to short season A ball. There might be a kid going back to the Dominican Republic just because that guy gets bumped down from the major league roster.

Obviously one of the highlights was working with Roger Clemens, the Rocket. He was a great guy. He was very professional, the difference between a guy that gets paid and a real pro. There were other guys that were not superstars that were really good to work with. It was interesting.

I grew up a Yankees fan so that helped my enjoyment of the position a lot. I grew up hearing stories about the Yankees from my grandfather, who lived in New York. My ancestors had immigrated from Sicily to New York. At the conclusion of my time with the Yankees, I got a championship ring in the mail from one of the minor league teams that had won a championship during my tenure. It was real nice with the NY on it. I took it over to my grandfather’s house and gave it to him. Earlier that year we had lost my grandmother. I told him I got the ring because of them and I wanted him to have it. I was not the most popular grandchild at that time because how was any other grandchild ever going to top a Yankees championship ring? He has it in a safe deposit box now.

It is a good organization. I am fortunate I got to do it. With baseball you can hear a million stories in one inning. It was a great opportunity. In the end, it really was not for me. I am a football guy. I felt if I was not in it 100 percent, I was cheating the game, the organization and myself. But it is cool to see people you have a connection with do well.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NAU Swimming and Diving Senior Class

One more time around…

Coming out of our first swim meet of the season, the Lumberjacks are Jacked Up to get into more racing. The senior class is heading into their final season, but that does not mean they are backing off, far from it.

Here is a look at the 2009-2010 Senior Class...

Rachael Foe aka Foe-Burger – From the great land of Michigan, Rachael is the defending WAC Champion in the 200 IM as well as school record holder in the 200 IM, 50,100 Free, 100 Fly, 200 Free Relay, 400 Free Relay, 200 Medley Relay and 400 Medley Relay. This girl can do it all, to say the least. After not even knowing she was swimming the 200 IM at WAC’s last year, the girl stepped up and rocked the meet with the win. Looking to improve her times and qualify for the NCAA’s this season looks to be her best yet.

Kristen Hamilton aka Bruiser – Comes to Flagstaff from Columbus Ohio. After a two year pit stop at the University of Oakland, Kristen is the NAU School record holder in the 100 Back, 400 Medley Relay and the 400 Free Relay. Having struggled a little coming out of high school Kristen was looking for a change and NAU was it. Making a huge impact her first year on campus Bruiser is looking to improve on that this year.

Jessi Jones aka Trip J’s – Jessi has one of those names, you know where all three start with the same letter? Yeah, Trip J’s is the real deal. Jessi is one of the hardest workers and most consistent swimmers on the team. Getting faster every year and looking to crack that top 8 at WAC this year, Trip J’s is more focused than ever to bring a Conference title back to NAU.

Lindsey Miller aka Tuce – Coming from my town of Tucson (hence the name Tuce) Lindsey has made an impact on the NAU relays. Swimming some of her best swims when it matters most, Lindsey is a valuable asset to the sprinting core that makes up the Lumberjacks. Tuce is also an extremely hard worker that is never willing to quit. This attitude is what keeps Lindsey and the team going everyday.

Kimber Morelli aka Kimbo – Kimbo comes to NAU from the Valley of the Sun. A butterfly, IM and distance free specialist. Having the ability to do a little bit of everything has helped place her in the top 8 at the WAC championship meet in multiple events. Looking to improve on those finishes and lead the Jacks to a championship is what drives this lady every day.

Renee Rother aka BOREagon – That is right, she comes to NAU from BOREagon! Renee is a butterfly fanatic and has proven so every year. She has jumped up the rankings for NAU since day one. She currently ranks 3rd in the 100 Fly behind fellow seniors Foe and Hamilton. Looking to make big leaps this season and crack into the top three of the 200 fly, Rother is determined to make this the best year of her career.

TJ Williams aka Mrs. Gonzalez – TJ has what some may call a one sided love affair with Mr. Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons. It all started when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs, where TJ is from and it has only grown. TJ is a breaststroke specialist who had a break out year last year. Having a couple of struggling years when she first got to campus, TJ was able to put it all behind her and swim two best times and finish in the top 10 in both of her events, the 100 and 200 Breaststroke. Never being satisfied, TJ is back and eying the school record in the 200 breaststroke. Her motivation and attitude help the Jacks day in and day out.

With one meet in the books, one this weekend and another a week from now, it is a busy couple of weeks for the Lumberjacks. Everyone is ready to step up and race their brains out.

It is going to be a good year and an even better year to be a Lumberjack!

Jack ‘em Up!

By Dave Rollins, NAU Assistant Coach