Rattlers work for academic victories

By Thomas Garcia: Quay County Sun

Before the Rattlers lifted any weights or ran any plays on their first day of practice, they gathered in the locker room around coach Dub Smith.

Smith told the Rattlers what to expect this season and that hard work was going to be key — hard work on the field and in the class room.

In 1999, during his second year as head coach, Smith established a study hall program. When the first progress report cards came out, any student who was having difficulty maintaining a 2.0 grade point average (GPA) began attending the study hall.

Students and coaches in all high school sports have in interest in maintaining that GPA. To be eligible for play any sport, “a student shall have a 2.0 grade point average with no more than one (1) F, based on a 4.0 grading scale, or its equivalent, either cumulatively or for the grading period immediately preceding participation,” according to the New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) Handbook.

“We started this program strictly for helping the kids,” Smith said. “Not so they are eligible, but so they can excel off the field and graduate. We tell them constantly that good grades and a solid education are necessary these days. We want them to attend a good college or trade school after their time here in Tucumcari schools.”

The students meet with Smith at 7 a.m. at the high school to work on a subject or subjects they are having trouble with. Several of the high school teachers assist with the program and tutor students.

“We have a fine faculty staff,” Smith said. “They come in early and are always willing to help the kids.”

Junior Mike Fazekas is one of the student athletes who attends the study hall. “This is my second year in the study hall,” Fazekas said. “At times, I don’t have the time to finish my homework at home. It’s a great when I can come in early and get some help when I have a question. It has helped to keep my grades up and for that I’m thankful. I’m not sure if other schools’ teachers and coaches wake up at 6 a.m. and come in to school at 7 a.m. just to help you with your school work.”

The program continues well after the football season is over and student athletes participating in any sport are required to attend and receive help if their grades fall behind. Smith monitors students’ grades to make sure that they are doing well.
Robert Zayas, communications director for the NMAA, said the body that oversees high school activities has little to do with such academic support.

“The NMAA has no direct supervision or association with any study hall program used by New Mexico schools,” Zayas said, “but we support any program that improves the academic success of students.”

Rattlers’ athletic director Wayne Ferguson said, “It’s a good program. It helps out the students a lot. It shows we are doing every thing we can to make sure the students get the help they need.”