Track and field standout Addison Cox was recognized at a home basketball game for being named Monmouth College's Student Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Helping to congratulate her are President Clarence Wyatt and her track coach, Brian Woodard

MONMOUTH, ILLINOIS (January 27, 2023) — Ask members of the Monmouth College men's basketball team where they stand in the Midwest Conference race, and they will tell you that they are fighting for a regular-season title.

Equally impressive, they can also tell you their team's cumulative grade-point average — which stands at 3.2 on a 4.0 scale after the 2022 fall semester.

"I'm able to talk with the kids on all the teams, and I was recently around the men's basketball team," said Monmouth Director of Athletics, Recreation and Fitness Roger Haynes. "They knew that their team GPA was at 3.2, and they were excited about that."

The Monmouth men's basketball team isn't the only Fighting Scots athletic program to find success in the classroom. Collectively, the 451 Monmouth College students who are rostered as Fighting Scots athletes this year achieved at a high level academically during the 2022 fall semester.

Monmouth had seven of its 10 women's teams above a 3.2 GPA for the fall semester, as well as one men's team. Four other men's teams were above a 3.0.

"Depending on the sport, a 3.2 or 3.3 GPA is what qualifies for team All-America honors," said Haynes.

The “touch system”

A big reason for the Monmouth men's basketball team's success is because of how many contacts team members make in the classroom with their professors.

"We ask them to try and get three to five academic contacts per week," said the team's coach, Todd Skrivseth. "That can include attending a tutoring session, stopping by the Writing Center, meeting with a professor or adviser, and attending a study table. Our goal is to get them to utilize the resources available to them around campus."

The "touch system" can be traced back to Haynes' years as a Monmouth coach.

"We encouraged them to get five or six touches per week, which could involve things like talking with a professor or with a tutor," said Haynes. "What we see is students with three touches or less, their grades tend to be less than a 3.0. If a student-athlete wasn't where they needed to be and wasn't getting the touches, they didn't travel to away meets."

Brian Woodard, Haynes' successor, has continued to focus on touches while using a tiered system. The lower that student-athletes find themselves on the GPA scale, the more touches they are required to make.

"We especially stress contact with professors," said Woodard. "It puts their face in front of a professor, which is a good thing. Holding our athletes accountable has been a big part of our success."

The academic diligence is paying off, as the women's track team posted a 3.61 GPA in the fall, tops among all Fighting Scots teams.

"That includes six team members with a 4.0," said Woodard. "In all, we had 28 men and women combined on the Dean's List, which is about half the team. It just goes to show the type of kids we've been recruiting."

Haynes said a number of teams — including coach Chad Braun's football squad — use a study table program, "primarily for freshmen and kids who want to improve their GPA." A target is using the study table three times a week.

Individualized attention

Academics are discussed by coaches throughout the season, and most Fighting Scots coaches also give their athletes individualized attention.

"In the two instances that I had a player 'flagged,' I met with the professor in person and followed up with my players," said men's and women's tennis coach Brian Dahlstrom, whose teams had a fall semester GPA of 3.37 and 3.45, respectively. "I did have a player that finished the spring 2022 semester with some challenges. During the first weeks of the fall semester, I met with his faculty adviser and have met with him periodically throughout the semester. He has done much better this semester."

"I check in every other week with each athlete who was under a 3.0 in the previous semester," said men's and women's swimming coach Jake Dacus, whose women's swimmers had a 3.28 GPA last fall. "We usually discuss their classes and what they need to get done before our next meeting. I am planning to start having required study hours in the library this spring semester, as well."

Women's soccer coach Lucas Henderson also holds individual check-ins with each student-athlete, meeting with them two times per month. His diligence paid off last semester, as his players posted a cumulative GPA of 3.50, second only to the women's track team.

Women's lacrosse coach Jordan Tice has yet to coach her first game with the Scots — that comes on Feb. 25 — but she's already picked up on the importance of her athletes doing well academically.

"I meet every two weeks with all first-years, as well as older students if they have less than a 3.0 GPA, to discuss grades, turning in assignments and stressors with professors," said Tice, who also meets once a month with her older students who are above a 3.0.

Many of her players fall into the latter category, as the team's GPA for the fall semester was 3.37, the same mark achieved by the women's basketball team. The volleyball team was not far behind at 3.33.

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