The athletic teams of Rend Lake College have been competing on a different playing field during the Fall 2003 semester. Through the institution of an "Academic Scoreboard," the Learning Enhancement Program has created incentive for academic excellence and campus involvement of student athletes.
The Learning Enhancement Program, a branch of the Student Transfer and Retention Support (STARS) program, was implemented to increase grade point averages and improve retention of student athletes. By mandating study hours and monitoring student athlete progress closely, this goal is being achieved. The "Academic Scoreboard" is another method introduced by Learning Enhancement Specialist Tara Sullivan to help facilitate success in academics as well as athletics.
The "Academic Scoreboard" is an actual scoreboard located in RLC gymnasium, so any sports fan can see Rend Lake College promotes achievement in scholastic endeavors as much as it supports athletics.
The board contains three divisions. First is a "Spotlight" area, a place where coaches can display newspaper clippings of their whole team or individuals for outstanding performance in athletic competition.
Next is the "Student Athlete of the Week" area. A student athlete is chosen each week based on nominations from the college’s faculty and staff for either outstanding academic performance, personal accomplishments or involvement in campus activities. There has been a wide variety of nominations because RLC has several well rounded and talented student athletes. One notable nomination was John Major, a golfer from Hillsboro who was actually nominated by two different instructors. One nomination came for being the lead in RLC’s fall production of "It’s a Wonderful Life" and the other for excelling in a college algebra and trigonometry class.
The final part of the scoreboard is the actual scorekeeping chart. Each team is given percentage points for attendance in the Learning Enhancement Center, attendance at school-sponsored workshops, team spirit (which entails going to sporting events of teams other than their own or school-sponsored functions such as plays or concerts) and participation on a student athlete council. At the end of each full month during the semester, the points are tallied and the winning team gets a pizza party.
So far three different teams have been the recipients of the award. In September, the men’s basketball team was the high scorer; in October the women’s basketball team won; and in November the volleyball team captured the prize.
Interestingly enough, it seems that more important to the students are the bragging rights that come along with being the winners of "the board." The designer of the program accurately focused in on what works with student athletes: competition. The thrill of the game serves as a powerful tool in motivating this population to do and be their best, both academically and athletically.
This idea was picked up when Sullivan attended a conference for the National Association of Advisors for Athletics (N4A). Sullivan learned that the University of New Hampshire used the concept of a scoreboard in academics to drive student athletes through a venue they understood. She brought this idea back and implemented it with the support of STARS director Julie Mumbower and the enthusiasm of the coaching staff.
The "Academic Scoreboard" seems to be having the same effect at Rend Lake College. "This is the most academically and athletically fit group of student athletes I have seen in my three years at Rend Lake," said Sullivan.
Sullivan has been working with all-new freshman athletes as well as sophomore athletes with less than a 3.0 grade point average in tutoring sessions, a workshop series designed for the retention of student athletes and in a study hall setting. She said she is optimistic for another great semester in the spring and a new batch of winners for the "Academic Scoreboard."