By Christopher Smith
For Dalton High School senior Robert Hardaway, academics trump athletics. That’s how it should be in a nation obsessed with sports celebrities at the college and professional levels, he said.
“I love sports, but there’s quite a lot of corruption out there. That’s the way of the world today,” Hardaway said. “With colleges it seems like people work around things to get students into their schools because it’s good for schools. Personally, I think if you can’t get into school academically you shouldn’t be there athletically.”
Not that that’s a problem for Hardaway, one of Dalton High’s 4-year “scholar athletes” who played Catamount football for several years and will play football at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., this fall.
Teachers and administrators recognized 120 scholar athletes at a banquet at the trade center Wednesday afternoon.
To be a scholar athlete, students had to maintain at least a 3.5 grade point average, participate in two or more high school sports and be in good standing with teachers and coaches — all within the same school year, according to several school administrators.
Fifteen seniors were recognized as 4-year scholar athletes, students who met the standard of scholar athlete every year of high school.
“You really have to balance things to achieve that,” Hardaway said. “Georgetown is definitely an academics first school. I’ve been raised that way and taught that way. I’m blessed to be able to play at the college level, but I’m more blessed to go to a great school.”
Cole Calfee, another 4-year scholar athlete and the Dalton High quarterback for three years, said he won’t have a chance to play collegiate sports during his freshmen year at the University of Georgia.
“That’s OK. I’m ready to focus on the academic side of things,” he said.
Which won’t be a problem because academics “just comes easy” to him, he added.
“Really you have to decide that you want to make good grades and play sports at the same time,” he said. “It really depends on the person.”
Trey Hurt, another 4-year scholar and Catamount football player, said anyone who tries to juggle athletics and academics needs to “force themselves to make the time.”
“High school is about being well-rounded,” he said. “That’s true for college, that’s true for the years after college. It’s about motivating yourself enough to succeed. You have to make the time for it and then sometimes have time for a social life.”
That kind of dedication is what makes 4-year scholar athletes the “cream of the crop,” said Athletic Director Ron Ward.
“It’s amazing to me the amount of discipline these kids have got to have to balance school work and their athletics,” he said. “It takes a unique commitment. With some, it’s just part of who they are. I think it also comes from upbringing, the parents. The kids have good people in their lives. We’re proud of them.”
Assistant Principal Steve Bartoo, who will take over as principal when Debbie Freeman retires this July, echoed those sentiments.
“We’re very proud,” he said. “We’re very excited for these students and their accomplishments.”