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Summer 2003
Field of Dreams
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“He cares about their future,” says Boehm of Howland’s relationship with his athletes. “That’s what this is all about.”

IT’S COUNTERPRODUCTIVE, Bruin coaches say, to emphasize athletic achievement without likewise encouraging high standards in other aspects of a student-athlete’s life. How is it even possible to run a college program as if it were not at a college?, they ask.

John Wooden would encourage his players to “be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Character is what you really are; reputation is what you are perceived to be.”

Kondos Field is quick to point to a salient statistic: In her 20 years at UCLA (she began as an assistant coach and choreographer in 1983), gymnasts have made better grades during their competitive season than during spring quarter, when they have more free time. This, she says, demonstrates the importance of structure and expectations.

“We have proven over and over again that our young adults feel much more successful when they are acting responsibly. Our latest recruit told me that was one of the biggest reasons she decided to come to UCLA, because I was the only coach in the country with whom she spoke who actually talked to her about these things. She wanted that structure, and she wanted to be held accountable.”

Kondos Field’s squad is not, to be sure, the only team on campus that successfully balances academics and athletics. Women’s basketball, golf, track and field, soccer, softball, water polo, swimming and volleyball all have high graduation rates, as do men’s baseball, golf, track and field, volleyball and water polo. In fact, according to the 2002 NCAA Graduation Report, 86 percent of all UCLA student-athletes who have completed their eligibility — those who play their college careers at UCLA without leaving early — ultimately graduate from the university. That puts the Bruin graduation rate 4 percentage points above Cal and a percentage point ahead of USC among teams in the Pac-10 Conference. When UCLA’s graduation rates for all student-athletes who entered as freshmen in 1995-’96 (including those who left the program early) are compared against all NCAA Division I schools, the numbers are outstanding: The Bruins boast a 73-percent graduation rate in that category — the third highest in the Pac-10 — compared with 60 percent for Division I as a whole.

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