Grades before goals

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Ryerson athletics has implemented a new program that hopes to keep its star athletes on the field. Matthew Oxman reports

Alex Braletic has played professional soccer in Canada and Europe, was named to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) all-Canadian soccer team for the past two years and is one of 17 Ryerson University student-athletes at risk of losing eligibility next season.

While only around 10 per cent of Ryerson student-athletes are on some form of academic probation, Ryerson has introduced a new mandatory course that aims to keep their top athletes in-play.

On top of fulfilling his weekly responsibilities as the captain and star midfielder of the men’s soccer team, Braletic, who is in his second-year of electrical engineering, is having trouble getting his grades up to par.

“I’m at a point in my life where it’s extremely hard to excel at both. I tried, but I can’t say it’s worked out for me,” he said.

Ryerson’s director of athletics, Ivan Joseph, and Ryerson’s athlete service coordinator, Beth McCharles created an “Academic Success” course this winter to force athletes to focus on their studies.

Student-athletes with a grade point average (GPA) under 2.5 are considered to be on athletic probation and are expected to attend both study hall and the “Academic Success” class; however though they are not at-risk of missing any practices or games. However, athletes with a GPA below 2.0 are considered to be on academic probation and have one semester to get their GPA above 2.0. If they cannot do this, they are not allowed to continue being part of the team.

Instead of having study hall on a drop-in basis like it did in the past, it is mandatory for student athletes on probation to attend a two-hour study hall.

“I want the GPA of our athletes to be 3.0,” said Joseph. “It’s not there yet. We’ve still got ways to go.”

Despite playing a large role in last season’s historic finish, which saw the Rams make the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semi-finals before losing 2-1 to the York Lions, Braletic is at-risk of missing the entire 2011 soccer season.

To improve his grades and get back on track academically, Braletic, who was named the number one athlete at Ryerson by the Eyeopener, has been excused from all off-season soccer practices.

“I’ve been getting great marks,” he said.

Although he had fewer classes than most of his teammates last season, Braletic said he still had more than double the class hours. That coupled with his captaincy was simply too much for him to manage.

Because it is up to individual schools and not the CIS to determine their academic guidelines for student-athletes, there are no records kept for students who miss playing time due to academic standing.

Markus Molder, a third year Ryerson student, but first year arts and contemporary studies student, was one of Braletic’s teammates last season. Unlike his captain, he was named an OUA East all-star for the second time in a row, while receiving a GPA of 3.75.

“I’m a third-year student taking first year courses. I know how to study for exams, and how professors want their papers written.”

While he intends to play next season, Braletic said school undoubtedly has to come first for him from now on, and the team dynamic is going to have to adjust

“Some of the guys are going to have to step up their leadership responsibilities,” he said.

With his grades improving and the reality that playing soccer for a living is difficult to attain, Braletic said he’s realizing that his future is in engineering.

“If you had asked me that question last year, I would have told you professional soccer player – hands down – but right now, it’s electrical engineer.”

—With files from Elayne Teixeira-Millar

Photo by: Rob Moysey

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