Harvard Athletes Kick Back
Student Athletes Take Guts, Use Team Network to Survive
Every year, a Harvard first-year student is provided a CUE Guide free of charge, and can purchase a Confidential Guide for a mere five dollars. In some instances, however, a bit of inside information is required to select both the most horizon-broadening and grade-boosting courses.
Arguably, no group of individuals faces such extreme extracurricular pressures and constraints as athletes. From energy-sapping road trips to practices that last until dinner is no longer served in the dining halls, the men and women who proudly wear the crimson colors are subjected to grueling schedules which may leave some unfazed, but force others to reassess their priorities by easing their course work. Their source of information can often be their own teammates.
"When you come in as a freshman, you don't know anything," said former men's soccer goalie Benjamin Weeden. "Seniors are always helpful in the preseason."
"There's definitely communication that goes on in the locker room," said men's hockey captain Ashlin Halfnight.
The biggest problem for athletes in terms of their classes is time constraints. Some courses simply have to be bypassed, as they interfere with practice time. Many athletes are forced to take night sections.
"There were four people from the team in my Gen. Ed. 105 night section. I think the whole section was made up of athletes," said women's basketball captain Kelly Black. "Time constraints are definitely huge."
Road trips, often eating up evening and weekend time, are another issue of concern. Most team members bring books on the bus, and having teammates in the same class is a plus.
"It makes it easier for road trips," said women's soccer player Jessica Henderson.
Some athletes, particularly those on larger teams that have multiple "units" or "lines," talk all the time about academics. Younger players often ask upperclassmen about good classes or easy cores. They also occasionally help out with classes they have taken in the past.
The overwhelming advice is to "get cores out of the way," said first-year men's hockey player Matt Scorsune.
The locker room provides a natural environment for discussion about interesting and/or easy cores. Some athletes take the discussion further by attending the same classes. Black pointed out that she shares books with teammates and sits with them at lectures.
"Every year that I've been here there has been another sociology major on the team," she said.
Attending classes and studying together is not restricted to the time of year when the team is in action. Most athletes agree that they make great friends within the team and continue the friendship in the off-season.
The most popular course for freshmen seems to be, not surprisingly, Social Analysis 10 (Ec 10).
"Everybody usually wants to be an Ec major to start out with," said football standout Colby Skelton.
In fact, economics and government are by far the most common majors among the athletes interviewed. Sociology and psychology were the next two concentrations named. The sciences were less popular with most of the people interviewed.
Among other courses mentioned as attended by teammates are Psychology 1, Literature and Arts A-14: Chaucer, Literature and Arts B-51: First Nights, Literature and Arts C-14: The Concept of the Hero in Greek Civilization, Science B-29: Human Behavioral Biology, Science B-40: The Biology of Trees and Forests, Historical Study B-42: The American Civil War 1861-1865 and Chemistry 5: Introduction to Principles of Chemistry.
While some Harvard students undoubtedly perform the simple calculus of choosing the class with the greatest differential between the CUE Guide's "subject matter" and "difficulty" entrees, many athletes disagree that classes they pursue are guts.
"It is more important that a class is good, rather than it is a gut," Black said. "Maybe our team is kind of nerdier though."
Still, most athletes, just like the rest of the students, have as their top priority the goal of receiving a quality education at Harvard. Furthermore, just because a class is labeled a "gut," a higher grade does not automatically follow.
Overall, while there is a noticeable trend among athletes to take some relatively simple courses and to make their lives easier by having teammates in their classes, this is certainly not an absolute conclusion. For some, the team is no more than just another source of friends, on par with their House, a drama group or PBH.
"We take classes together occasionally," said men's basketball captain, David Demian. "But I do that with my other friends, too."