By Susan Feinberg
FIU volleyball is making the grade in the classroom as well as on the court. Despite long matches and practices and weekly road trips during the season, the team has achieved a cumulative grade-point average of 3.19, with nine of the players achieving a GPA over 3.3.
Academic success is not something that is simply handed to the team. “Our athletes succeed because they’re intelligent and they use every spare minute that they have for studying,” said Coach Danijela Tomic. “We teach them on the court to be dedicated and work hard, and that translates to their classwork.”
For Yarimar Rosa, a volleyball star and one of the most highly decorated student-athletes in the history of FIU sports, achieving academic excellence hasn’t been easy. A native of Puerto Rico, English is her second language, and it has been difficult at times to understand and complete her assignments. Finding the time to study during the volleyball season is often challenging.
But that hasn’t stopped the 21-year-old senior, who is majoring in international business, from earning a 3.39 GPA and making the Sun Belt Conference Academic Honor Roll while winning accolades such as the only four-time AVCA All-American in school history across all sports; a four-time All-South Region; and the 2008 and 2009 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.
Rosa attributes her academic success to good time management. “Every single hour between practice, class and eating, I do something – like start a paper or my homework,” she explained. “I don’t leave things until the last moment.”
When she misses classes due to road trips, Rosa stays in close touch with her professors and classmates. “The main reason I have good grades is because of my friends, who always let me know what’s going on in class,” she said.
Teammate Isadora Rangel, a 22-year-old senior and journalism major, agrees that time management is the key to earning good grades. With a GPA of 3.8, she was named to the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner’s List.
“I do my homework early so that the work doesn’t pile up,” she said. “When I have a paper to write, I try to start the week before. I also consider myself a note freak because I write everything down that my professors say.”
With future careers in mind, both student-athletes are committed to maintaining good grades. “I might play professionally for a few years after graduation,” Rosa said. “But if I get injured or something happens to me, I need to have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree – maybe in Fine Arts or marketing – so I can get a job, no matter what happens.”
“After you play sports in college for four years, the only thing you have left is your education,” said Rangel, who hopes to become a newscaster or producer. “And if you don’t study and get good grades and go after what you want, you’ll be lost after you graduate.”
Both players credit the FIU Student Athlete Academic Center (SAAC) with providing them with academic support which has helped them excel. The Center monitors the academic progress of all FIU student-athletes, helps them to develop proper study habits and provides each team with an academic advisor and tutors.
Coach Tomic also closely monitors the academic performance of her team. “If players earn a D or an F, they have to tell me that in person,” she said. “Then we make a plan and figure out why they weren’t successful and what they need to do for the next exam or paper.”
“The team knows that academic success is important to us, and we expect it,” Tomic added.