WESTERN FRONT: Study sessions fuel men's soccer beyong season

Uche Ugwoaba

Nov. 22, 2013

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - For more Western Front stories visit westernfrontonline.net - Twice-weekly student newspaper of Western Washington University

by Mallorie Estenson, The Western Front

When Western Washington University's men's soccer team is not charging a ball on the field, the team is charged with full-fledged academic responsibilities.

"We're student athletes," sophomore Uche Ugwoaba said. "After soccer is done, we're still going to have to have good grades."

This season, the team decided to allocate Wednesday evenings to tackle their coursework and evaluate their footwork on the field to ensure the highest performance in each of the respective arenas.

For the first hour of each study session, the team members get down to business with schoolwork. Afterward, they review gameplay footage.

Junior Keegan Rogers is an English major with a secondary education emphasis. His toughest class this quarter is English 309: 18th and 19th Century US Literature, he said.

Surrounded by teammates, Rogers cranks out coursework to keep up on academics. He uses study session time to draft outlines for papers.

"The day before [a paper is] due, I just knock it out," Rogers said. "It's a good way to formulate my thoughts."

On Wednesday evenings, he knows he can always ask for help with his homework from his coaches or teammates, he said.

Each week during the season, the team spends about 25 hours training together -- practice and study sessions included.

"It's nice to see all of us as a group studying together," Rogers said. "It's a different atmosphere to get to know each other."

The sessions average two hours. It provides an opportunity for the guys to get work done and to bond together, Rogers said.

"It's nice to bond with them over a soccer ball, but it's even better to bond with them over a pencil, a notebook and some homework," Rogers said.

Rogers is not the only one who benefits from the sessions.

Ugwoaba admitted his study habits are not his strong suit.

"Knowing I have at least one day a week when I can dedicate a full hour and 30 minutes to studying helps in my classes," Ugwoaba said, not including the time allocated for video review.

Junior Matt Temple is pursuing a degree in manufacturing engineering technology. His teammate, junior Caden Sowers, is an electronics engineering technology major.

"[Sowers] is really good at electronics, and I am struggling in my electronics class, so I always pester him," Temple said. "He's much better at that stuff than I am."

When they cross each other's paths around campus, Temple jokes with Sowers about being excited for upcoming study sessions. Sowers just rolls his eyes, Temple said. However, it does not prevent Sowers from helping his teammate out.

In order to play, student athletes must maintain a 2.0 GPA and a full course load of 12 credits a quarter.

The men's academic performance is important to head coach Greg Brisbon.

"I'm hoping everyone gets really good grades every quarter," Brisbon said. "I want them to get good jobs when they graduate from Western."

As far as Brisbon can tell, the team members are doing well in their coursework, but he is waiting to see final grades posted at the end of the quarter.

After academics have been addressed, the men move on to review gameplay footage.

The coaches edit gameplay footage for Wednesdays to prepare for Thursday and Saturday games.

Reviewing game footage helps the players see themselves make mistakes and perform well instead of just being told, Brisbon said.

After the introduction of the study sessions and video review, the Vikings won six of ten games and tied two. The Vikings overall record was 11-4-3.

"In the second half of the season, we finished very well," Brisbon said. "I have definitely seen improvement in training and games."

The season ended Saturday, Nov. 9, but the team will continue to study together for the remainder of the year.