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Whatcom breeds "culture of achievement" in academics

Whatcom's men's soccer program averaged a 3.29, had 10 athletes average above a 3.5, and had three students achieve a 4.0 for the fall quarter, during their season of play.

By John William Howard
for NWAACC.org

The last few seasons have seen a relatively large amount of athletic success at Whatcom Community College. Both men’s and women’s soccer took second in the Northern Region and advanced to the post season. Last year’s men’s basketball team was ranked No. 1 in the league going into the championship tournament, and this time around both the men and women are above .500 as region play begins. 

As impressive a run as Whatcom has had as of late, their run off the court and in the classroom has been even better. Whatcom released some of their top GPA athletes earlier this month, and the numbers are off the charts. 31 of around 80 student-athletes averaged 3.5 or higher, with six athletes achieving a 4.0, and all five of Whatcom’s programs finished fall term with a better than 3.07 average,  with a 3.42 average overall.

“A few years ago we set a goal that all of our athletic programs would be at a 3.0 or higher,” said Kris Baier, Director of Athletics at Whatcom CC.

Baier mentioned that while that number might seem low, the athletes that achieve that average typically go on and find success at four year institutions. He also said that setting the goal did a lot to get everyone on board.

“It was a collaborative effort between academic advising with our student athletes and the coaches and everybody knowing what the other hand was doing so that we could have that wrap around support,” said Baier. “The coaches recently have done a lot of effort in recruiting students that will fit into the college well, and we’ve realized that this quarter. It’s been a really successful quarter for us.”

Baier gave much of the credit for what he called a “culture of achievement” to the coaches, saying that they were vital in the process, but that Whatcom’s system wasn’t anything new and cutting edge, just normal techniques like study tables and tutors. The difference was that the goal, the recruiting and the athletes all came together at once.

“When it clicks, it’s like ‘wow, that works,’” said Baier.

 As any coach can tell you, one of the hardest things to do in sports after winning a championship is to turn around and win it again. By the same token, it could be easy to let up amidst the academic strength of the fall quarter, but Baier has a few ideas to that end.

“I think celebrating it, and making sure the students understand what a big deal that is (can keep success going),” said Baier. “They worked really hard and it means something. That (celebration) comes from the administration, and especially the coaches.”

Celebration, according to Baier, goes well beyond the Whatcom campus. Coaches can share that there is a tradition of academic success, and a strong academic program can feed success on the court as well.

“It’s important, having the high expectations and letting people know from the first moment that they’re here that we want you to go to the next level,” said Baier, “whatever that next level might be for you.”

*          *          *

Grade Point Average by Program
Women’s Soccer: 3.51
Women’s Basketball: 3.56
Women’s Volleyball: 3.69
Men’s Basketball: 3.07
Men’s Soccer: 3.29


George Gablehouse Ritchie Price Tim Reese
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