Oct. 17, 2012
By Margot Gahan
The UConn women’s soccer team has many accomplishments to be proud of. They have 28 NCAA Tournament appearances and 10 BIG EAST Championships in their record book. Since 2002, they have also had the highest team GPA at UConn.
A decade ago, women’s soccer Coach Len Tsantiris and former women’s soccer academic counselor, John Miceli decided to move in the direction of having learning groups for the athletes instead of a traditional study hall. With the learning groups, the team is divided into groups based on academic areas of study.
“Academics is the reason why the students are here. It needs to be their first priority. Soccer is part of the total picture, but not the most important,” Head Coach Len Tsantiris commented. “Education is first because that is what they are going to need later in life. The bottom line is they need to work hard in the classroom and on the field.”
The groups are led by senior members of the team and meet multiple times a week. “We don’t really monitor the learning groups; they push each other,” said Assistant Coach Margaret Rodriguez.
“These girls structure it themselves. Some teams have a more structured study hall, based on just the numbers on the roster,” said academic counselor Gavin Potter, of the team’s ability to handle their own study sessions.
For the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 semesters, the team earned marks of 3.37 and 3.39 respectively, giving them the highest GPA for all UConn athletic programs.
Former Husky Jessica Dulski ’12 earned UConn’s Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletes (CPIA) Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2012 for her academic accomplishments.
Academic success is important to the program and the coaches want their student-athletes to do well off the field and in the classroom.
“Lenny feels the athletes have to do well academically. He will give a player time off to study,” said Rodriguez.
The learning groups that women’s soccer has established are clearly effective, but their success can also be attributed to recruiting. “This is an intelligent group of kids. Recruiting high-quality kids brings another level of academic achievement,” said Potter.
The women’s soccer team has proven to be so successful with their learning groups that men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams and the women’s cross country and track & field teams are now using the system.
Potter feels the athletes that UConn recruits already have that level of academic success and for the women’s soccer team, the learning groups are just a way to ensure they continue to be successful.
“It is good to get what we need done and have enough time to get everything done,” said freshman Jess Montrose.
“I am more motivated when others are working and with the seniors leading the way,” added freshmen Allison Gallo and Krystina Jackson.
This team has been recognized nationally for their academic accomplishments, including being honored as a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Academic Team. In 2010, the team was recognized by the NCAA for being in the top 10% among women’s soccer teams nationally in regards to Academic Progress Rate.
According to Rodriguez, the learning groups have become a part of the team culture. The incoming freshmen see how dedicated the rest of the team is to their studies and it encourages them to follow.
“Chemistry grew. It became a part of team bonding for the girls to see each other outside of the field,” said Rodriguez. “Lenny is very proud of their academics.”