Parkland baseball gets educated
Being a coach of over 40 student athletes at Parkland, Head Coach Dave Garcia is put in charge of some unique situations. The athletics come a little more naturally, as Garcia was an
Independent League outfielder, as well as a former Parkland player. Dealing with the different academic goals of that number of students, though, has come with its own set of rewards and challenges.
To help with this large responsibility, Garcia has tasked his assistant coach, Jon Drahos, with assessing the students’ academic performance and helping run the team study tables.
“We assess every sophomore differently, and give every freshman a general academic goal that we want them to all to be meeting. The freshmen and the guys who need the help studying also have to do four hours of study tables with coach Drahos, on top of the hours we have them doing in D120 [Center for Academic Success],” Garcia said.
“I’ve been doing the study tables for years,” Drahos said. “I don’t think that there’s been a program I’ve been at that I haven’t implemented them. They’re very effective at helping me help the guys who haven’t had someone getting them into good study habits.”
Garcia also understands that his players will have difficulty adjusting to the time commitment that a collegiate baseball career entails.
“Mandatory study hours give them structure. We know what its like to live with your buddies and teammates, and it’s hard to get into an environment that’s quiet and gives you a good place for studying. A lot of these guys tell us that without the hours, they don’t feel like they would be getting their work done or doing as well in school as they are,” Garcia said.
Pitcher Connor Gross explained that once the season gets going, it can be very hard to find time to study because athletes are often tired from games and practices.
“The study hours help keep you up so when the season is over and you actually want to start doing your homework, you’re not way behind,” Gross said.
The players also take on the role of helping keep academics on track. Garcia explained that it’s tough losing a player because of something like academic ineligibility, so everybody pitches in to make sure these athletes are able to play.
“Having guys on the team going through the same classes helps out, because we’re getting through the material together. It helps having someone going through the time crunch with you,” Pitcher Kody Silverthorn said.
Garcia and Drahos believe that the time put into getting the players academically successful now, is most rewarded further down in their collegiate careers.
“Most of the guys now, are just worried about getting their grades up so they can play and then move on to a four year university. I know for myself, I started at Parkland and it wasn’t until I got to Northern [Illinois University] that I saw myself and the other guys start taking a look at what happens after baseball. Then you see guys start doing night classes, online classes. Without them starting here and getting the time management skills, I think they wouldn’t have been so successful, or even thought of those options to finish their degrees.,” Garcia said.
“I know when I started, I hated online classes,” Drahos said. “It wasn’t until I realized that I could get all of my work done on my time in the morning and not have to schedule around a four hour night course, that I realized they were a blessing for baseball players. They take a lot of self-discipline though, and that’s why we focus on getting time management into the players. We’re trying to get them to realize that you have time for what you make time.”