4B: Sustain intercollegiate athletics as a nationally recognized NCAA Division III program committed to academic and competitive excellence

Our excellent coaches and competitive athletic teams are a vital and important element of our campus culture. Fifty-eight percent of students participate in recreational sports or intercollegiate athletics, and 29 percent of all recruited students are student-athletes. Not only do athletic programs benefit student recruitment, retention, and alumni engagement, data show that Division III student-athletes on average have significantly better time-management skills and more “leadership potential” than non-athletes. We will ensure that recruiting student-athletes remains a priority and that while at Trinity, student athletes receive ongoing support to balance their academic, athletic, and social commitments. We will investigate the sufficiency of the Bell Center and other facilities to ensure that we possess adequate campus resources to support student needs.

Chelsea Cole kicks a soccer ball during a game

Putting the Student in Student-Athlete

Trinity University’s Women's Soccer star Chelsea Cole won’t stop at All American

All-American captain of Trinity’s championship winning women’s soccer team Chelsea Cole finished her career with 54 goals placing her third in the category in Trinity's record books. But outside of soccer, Cole was known as a stellar student, an undergraduate researcher involved in two labs, and a humanitarian. Over the past four years she has studied overseas and held a public health internship with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

When asked how she managed the workload, she said, “I owe a lot of it to my team. When I came to visit Trinity, it was a different environment than other schools. The team emphasized that you have to be a good person and a good student first, and soccer is important but not your primary job.”

While it might not have been her primary job, Cole still stood out from the crowd: At the end of the 2018 season Cole was chosen as SCAC Women’s Soccer Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight time and was selected as Most Valuable Offensive Player for the SCAC Championship tournament.

When asked about her smattering of awards, Cole explains that she doesn't like to internalize them too much. “I try to take them as a way to set an example for younger girls. I hope that they see the hard work I have put in and the mindset I have and are inspired by it, rather than the awards just being for me.” But she does smile and adds, “All-American was really cool.”

Since graduating in May 2019, Chelsea has joined the Peace Corps and leaves for a two-year stent in Peru in September.

Putting the "Student" in "Student-Athlete"

Academic initatives crucial to team success

Over the past year, the Trinity University athletics average GPA has risen steadily, sitting at 3.186 in spring 2018. In fact, during the spring, 16 of Trinity’s 18 NCAA varsity athletics teams had team GPAs above 3.0, the most in three years, and the athletics women’s teams’ GPA was higher than Trinity’s average student GPA (3.361 and 3.249, respectively).

Academic initiatives within each sport, as well as overall department support, have been crucial for this success. For example, Jerheme Urban ’03, head football coach, has implemented initiatives that have steadily increased the team GPA over his four years at Trinity, from 2.917 in spring 2014 to 3.012 in spring 2018. Several of his initiatives include: a writing-intensive summer bridge program for first-year students; an academic success program, spearheaded by coach Paul Michalak, that requires with weekly meetings to review class progress; a transition to morning practices, which “sends them to class primed for learning,” according to Urban; and a requirement that they sit in the first two rows of class to enhance focus and engagement with the professor.

Urban rounds these all out with one goal: success after college. “Ultimately we are training these students for life after football,” he explains. “With no football scholarships, they are all investing in their future, and I feel like these initiatives help keep that in perspective for them.”

For Dylan Harrison ’02, head women’s soccer coach, that academics-first perspective begins at the recruitment level. “We try to attract the most qualified students possible by ensuring their academic experience will always take priority over athletics,” Harrison says. “From there, it is our job to make sure we stay true to this promise... but it starts with each player placing a priority on their own academics.”

Harrison’s team has the highest GPA of any Tiger athletics team, men’s or women’s: 3.561. He says his student-athletes stay on track with preseason meetings about class scheduling, study time during away game trips, and, like Urban, early-morning practices. “By 8 a.m. our team has completed their commitments to soccer, and the rest of the day is dedicated to academics,” Harrison explains.

Harrison sums up the academics-first viewpoint that he and Urban share: “We are fortunate that our student-athletes chose Trinity for its academics—being successful on the soccer side just enhances their whole collegiate experience.”