Recently, a student interested in playing sports at the college level, contacted the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) because he was unsure about how to get the process started.
The question from the student prompted one of LOSFA's outreach members to poll counselors from one district, to see if an informational session on collegiate athletic compliance would be beneficial.
"She said it was 'a great idea because they have not had anything like that'," said Juterh Nmah (pictured above), one of LOSFA's Field Outreach Regional Coordinators. "They felt this was an opportunity to discuss a topic that they deal with, but many have to learn on their own."
LOSFA staff developed a Collegiate Athletics Compliance Informational Session to include student-athlete eligibility registration information for the major athletic associations (NCAA, NJCAA, and NAIA), provided information on financial aid/scholarships from organizations students may qualify for, and shared recommendations for school counselors and college access professionals to effectively advise student-athletes to prepare them for their transition to post-secondary education.
“We want them to be successful,” said Jessica Walker, the athletic counselor at West Feliciana High School. “For that to happen, we have to identify where they are and what they need at the next level.”
Walker was part of a nine person panel at the April 5 session hosted by LOSFA, where 80 high school counselors and high school coaches attended.
The panel gave counselors a clear picture of the academic requirements for the NCAA: passing core courses, having a 2.3 GPA in the core courses, SAT/ACT score, and certification from the NCAA Eligibility Center.
The session also gave coaches a better understanding of being more involved with the academic work of their players.
At West Feliciana High School, Walker, who is also a guidance counselor, says she sends every coach the grades of each player every Sunday night so they are aware of what is happening on the academic side.
They also block two days a week for tutoring for the student-athletes.
“I might be the only coach that says go to tutoring and miss practice,” said Robb Odom, the head football and golf coach at West Feliciana High School. “It’s not all about football.”
Another panelist told attendees it’s important these student-athletes develop good habits during their high school years, so they carry over to college.
“You’re a student and an athlete,” said Ahvery Thomas, the director of compliance at Southern University. “But don’t forget the student part. You have to be academically disciplined to play at the next level. That means going to class. It only takes one credit hour to make you ineligible.”
Thomas mentioned it’s important that these students realize, not everyone is going to the pro level, so keeping a focus on academics is foremost.
“We need the support from the coaches to back us up on the academic side,” said one of the counselors from the audience. “This was great! We all need to be on the same page.”