By Nicole Cortese
The story has been told time and time again: athletes begging their coaches to not get benched before the biggest game of the season because they could not keep their grades above a C. At Rider, Abi Cottam, a forward on the women’s soccer team, is defying that stereotype with her 3.99 GPA and having been the recipient of two prestigious academic awards.
Cottam, a senior psychology major, is actively defying the stereotypical “dumb jock” persona. For the 2012-13 school year Cottam was the recipient of the New Jersey Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women’s 2013 Woman of the Year Award and the College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey Student-Athlete of the Year Award.
Cottam has achieved great success since her start here at Rider. Coming from England, she was excited for the opportunities that awaited her.
“I knew I wanted to come to the States because I wanted to study and play soccer in the same place, which is difficult to do in England,” she said. “So when I was approached by our coach with the offer of playing for Rider and being able to study at a good university, I knew it was the right choice.”
Rider puts a strong emphasis on student-athletes performing well on and off the field through recognizing their achievements with various awards. The NCAA also offers awards and scholarships to those student-athletes with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
“In any given year, roughly 70% of our student-athletes earn over a 3.0 GPA,” said Gregory Busch, associate director of Athletics for Internal Operations and Compliance. “Last year, nearly half of our student-athletes earned an all-conference academic honor for having a 3.2 or higher GPA. Overall, those statistics exceed the numbers for the general student population at Rider and are as competitive as those for any student-athlete population at any Division I school in the country.”
A competitive edge comes naturally for most athletes, so many strive to do well in both aspects.
“The pride the student-athletes feel in being recognized at these ceremonies is infectious amongst the teams, and I think it helps drive a friendly competition between them for academic success,” said Busch.
Head Coach Drayson Hounsome, had confidence in Cottam’s abilities to perform in both the classroom and on the field when recruiting her in 2009.
“As a team, we pride ourselves on several things, one of which is the academic performance of the group,” he said. “So leading from the front with Cottam’s academic performance and discipline to her studies has had a very positive impact on our program.”
Rider athletes in general have strong drives to succeed equally in academia and sports. Busch believes that students have a very realistic approach about life after college.
“The majority of our student-athletes are very focused on their lives after Rider, and they seem to be driven to excel academically because doing so will put them in the best position to pursue their chosen career paths,” Busch said.
In Cottam’s case, the thought of the overall success of the team and life after Rider was what kept her motivated.
“On the field, it was for the team, for all the effort we’ve all put in over the years and for how much we all wanted to succeed,” Cottam said. “Academically, it’s more about not wanting to regret anything when I graduate and it’s all over. If I didn’t try my best, I would regret it later on.”
Many Rider student-athletes, including Cottam, work extremely hard in all aspects of their college careers, and their achievements have not gone unrecognized.
“While we are always striving for more success on the athletic fields, it’s hard to imagine our student-athletes doing any better academically than they are currently,” Busch said.
Printed in the 2/22/13 edition