Southwestern College Student-Athletes Overcome Adversity

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Submitted: May 24, 2016

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Submitted: May 23, 2016



Southwestern College students go through a rocky road when transferring or graduating, a Jaguar student-athlete goes through a college roller coaster ride.

Initially the goal of a Southwestern student is to transfer to a four-year university and get their bachelor degree somewhere else. Last year SWC Jaguars´ athletic program transferred 72 student-athletes on scholarships and 50 regular student-athlete transfers, the highest number in the history of the Jags.

Jaguars' Athletic Director Jim Spillers said the athletic program at SWC is ahead of the game because of the vision they work towards.

"We have 16 intercollegiate sports with over 500 student athletes," he said. "This is a successful program because we provide opportunities to both men and women to extend their academic and athletic careers."

Spillers said that thanks to recognized faculty and motivation, athletes have a manageable college education.

"As the athletic department we want to help our athletes have it easier," he said. "Having people like James Rose helps a lot because he works very close to them. We always ask more of them but the help is here for them always."

Athletic counselor with eight years of experience in the California Community College system James Rose has contributed to the SWC athletic program success since 2014.

Rose said academic regulations for athletes perusing an education are not simple.

"Rules are more rigorous for a student-athlete compared for a general student," he said. "My job is to see the need of what is the academic necessity of our student-athletes."

Jaguars’ freshmen volleyball outside hitter Alma Flores used to train and play at the Tijuana High Performance Center for Athletes (CAR), a Mexican Olympic Training Center.

Flores is majoring in nursing, she was a stand out player for the Jags in the women´s volleyball Fall 2015 season and will be transferring to Central Methodist University with a full scholarship as a sophomore next year thanks a program called CMAS Athletes.

CMAS Athletes is an international program that promotes student athletes from outside of the country and helps them with scholarships to get in colleges or universities in the United States. This program has more than 400,000 students through colleges and universities in the country and invests more than 1.2 billion dollars in scholarships for all of these student-athletes.

Flores said being an athlete is challenging.

"It is very tough," she said. "We need to have our priorities. For me school is always a priority, but my family always showed me sports and education goes hand by hand so as an athlete we need to learn how to balance our time. At the end of the day as athletes we do things not every student does and we should feel proud of that."

Flores said she does not stand alone and her love for volleyball motivates her to overachieve.

"I have the support of my parents," she said. "I am going far away and I will need get a job when I leave. Balancing my time will be difficult but I love volleyball and playing at a high level and still being gifted an education by the great programs I am in means that I have to repay the trust everyone has given me."

Athletes can only compete five years at the NCAA Division 1 level. Spillers said this makes student-athletes pressured as their college years go on.

"It is difficult to be a student-athlete," he said. "There are so many rules it gets more difficult as they go on. They have time limits, benchmarks, grades and minimum units they need to have. That is what make it harder for them."

According to Spillers next semester at SWC there will be an athlete study hall so that the players can commute with their education.

Spillers said being a good student has to be a priority over being an athlete.

"They won't be athletes forever," he said. "Always it is more important to be a student. You need something to fall back on and we want to make a proper education a cushion for our players."

Rose said the difficulty of being an athlete and a student is a real challenge.

"It will always be more rigorous to be a student-athlete," he said. "The component of a being one needs discipline and not everyone has discipline. They need to be fit, practice, play at a high level, do good at school, meet requirements and sometimes even have a job."

The athletic program at SWC is in top shape. Athletes boast their potential while forming part of intercollegiate sports representing the historic Jaguars. People like John Jaso, Reggie Jordan, Vernom Johnson even Oliver Ross and Ogemdi Nwagbuo are former student-athletes that reached to be professional athletes.

Rose said Jaguars are one of a kind.

"Student-athletes at Southwestern are a different breed," he said. "When people see student-athletes they should not be beamed of being one. We should see them as general students with harder requirements. Here we want students and athletes to hit their academic goals, athletic goals and make out of young students successful people who contribute to our society in a positive way."

Flores said she feels grateful with the athletic program at SWC and understands her road towards success.

"This program is amazing," she said. "From my experience coming from Mexico, being here and transferring is an honor for me. What every student-athlete wants is a scholarship, to finish a career and becoming a professional in the future. To do this as athletes we need to be competitive, responsible and never give up."

Spillers said he feels fortunate of being the Jags’ athletic director because he enjoys working with young players and students.

"I think it is a great opportunity," he said. "To take the motivation to compete of these hungry athletes that they can not play unless they do good in class. Players eventually become mature and realize the importance of being what we call a student-athlete."

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