Schol Athlete Excerpt


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An excerpt of my new book "SholAthlete\'s Survival Guide: Essential Study Skill for teh Student Athlete" available at

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Schol Athlete Excerpt

  2. 2. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE Copyright © 2008 Tamsen Valoir, Ph.D., J.D., L.L.M., and Jolanda Jones, J.D. ISBN 978-1-60145-654-0 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the authors. Printed in the United States of America. The information in this book is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice., Inc. 2008 ii
  3. 3. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE Essential Study Skills for the Scholar Athlete Written by Tamsen Valoir and Jolanda Jones Illustrated by Peter Q. Nguyen iii
  5. 5. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE v For scholar athletes everywhere…
  7. 7. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE About the Authors Tamsen Valoir has a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Rice University, as well as a J.D. and an L.L.M. in Intellectual Property Law from the University of Houston Law Center. Tamsen is a partner Houston office of Baker & McKenzie LLP where she practices patent law in the biotechnology and medical arts. Dr. Valoir has often lectured on how to study and take exams, and has provided private tutorials for many types of standardized tests, ranging from grade school achievement tests to the LSAT to the Texas Bar exam. She has also published a study guide for law students called the “Law School Survival Guide,” available at and most major online bookstores. Tamsen is also the wife of an at-home programmer, mother of two boys, and lives on a farm with chickens, geese, turkeys, peacocks, pigs, rabbits, horses and one miniature donkey, as well as the usual assortment of pet cats and dogs. The entire family fences either epée or saber, and Tamsen does endurance riding for fun—25 to 50 mile cross-country horse races, vii
  8. 8. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE although like many marathon runners, her goal is to complete, rather than to win. Jolanda Jones is the owner of an inner-city law firm and a consulting firm, and a member of City Council in Houston Texas. She is a successful civil, criminal and family litigator, a Hall of Fame athlete, starred on the reality television show Survivor-Palau, is a warrior activist for poor people, an honors graduate, a basketball coach, a radio commentator, a poet, and so much more . . . Jolanda’s speaking experience has taken her to venues as diverse as Mistress of Ceremonies for Miss America to prisons to schools and corporate boardrooms. Her ability to connect with audiences on topics of social importance is remarkable. viii
  9. 9. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE About the Illustrator Peter Nguyen is a graduate student in the biochemistry department at Rice University, and hopefully by the time you read this, will be a young scientist applying his skills to world- saving endeavors. The illustrations presented herein are a direct product of countless hours of doodling in grade school to alleviate boredom. He likes to read, paint, and do extra science experiments when he should be relaxing instead. ix
  11. 11. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE Forward TV: I would like to thank my husband Trey, who looked after the boys when I was writing, working weekends, and off horseback riding with the cowgirls. He also provided helpful suggestions and valuable editorial review. He’s a wonderful guy, a great husband, a fabulous father and he makes an incredible hollandaise sauce! I’d also like to thank Jolanda Jones, a brilliant scholar and incredible athlete whose passion for justice and equality have always inspired me. Jo doesn’t just talk the talk, she puts her money down every time she defends a poor person against the tyranny of the wealthy. Without Jo, this book would never have been written—it was her fervor for helping every student athlete succeed in school that drove this project onward. These accolades1 would not be complete without thanking my son Pier who proofread this book and provided excellent 1 Accolade: an expression of approval, praise. xi
  12. 12. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE xii suggestions to improve its readability and scope. If you read this book and easily understood it, it’s thanks to Pier! JJ: The ScholAthlete Survival Guide is the book I needed back when I was in high school and college. The techniques described here are what allowed me to eventually enjoy my school experience, although I hated it at first because I was overwhelmed with academics, sports, a newborn son and an abusive husband. These techniques allowed me to win the Most Improved Legal Writer in my third year of law school and ace the Texas State Bar Exam, all while maintaining sufficient training to qualify for the 1996 Olympic trials. I’m sure that when you finish reading, you will see that athletics and studies can exist in harmony. You can have success in both arenas of college life.
  13. 13. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE Table of Contents 1. Introduction.................................................................................1 2. Class Selection..........................................................................14 3. Scheduling ................................................................................23 4. Target Your Weaknesses ..........................................................28 5. Reading: A Fundamental Skill..................................................35 6. Taking Notes.............................................................................58 7. Group Study..............................................................................70 8. Private Study.............................................................................77 9. Outlines.....................................................................................81 10. Improving Memory..................................................................87 11. Pre-Exam Pointers ....................................................................99 12. Taking Exams .........................................................................103 13. Multiple Choice Exams...........................................................112 14. Insomnia..................................................................................119 15. Conclusions.............................................................................122 Additional Materials........................................................................125 Afterthoughts...................................................................................126 xiii
  15. 15. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE 1. Introduction So, here we are! You have spent—or are thinking of spending—some hard earned cash for this book, and we begin by telling you what it’s for—what we hope to achieve. In the short term, we hope to contribute2 to the development of scholar athletes or “ScholAthletes” by providing the skills necessary to make better grades, stay eligible, and ultimately graduate from college. In the long term, we believe that acquiring these skills will make you a more qualified job applicant and help you to move up the career ladder. You can even teach your children these tools so they too will have the benefit of an early start on success. In short, you’ll learn a positive way to transition from athlete to ScholAthlete to a lifetime of success. 2 Contribute: lend, give, bestow a quality on, provide. 1
  16. 16. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE First step… Buy this book! As a ScholAthlete myself (says Jolanda), not just an athlete, I believed this book had to be written for a number of reasons. First, it was very difficult to balance school, athletics and life. 2
  17. 17. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE Second, many of my comrades were ill prepared for a college curriculum3 , in most cases through no fault of their own.4 Third, I noticed that many had problems transitioning to life after athletics. They weren’t equipped to compete in a non- athletic world. It seemed to me that no one bothered to teach athletes how to manage both academic achievement and competing in sports. For those who haven’t competed at a collegiate5 (and sometimes world class) level, it’s hard to explain how incredibly difficult it is to juggle these two independent and equally difficult tasks. 3 Curriculum, Curricula (plural): all the courses of study offered by an educational institution. 4 Social promotion for star athletes is unfortunately a sad fact of life. At some point in these young people’s lives, someone realized they were great at athletics. It became more important to keep them on the playing field than actually teaching them. School was secondary and passing them to the next class or next grade became the norm. 5 Collegiate: of or pertaining to a college, as in collegiate studies or a collegiate society. 3
  18. 18. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE Most non-athletes have no real appreciation for how much of a JOB completing the requirements for an athletic scholarship are. They think of the media coverage, traveling, the cool sweats, the free shoes, the toned bodies. Everything seems glamorous. But training and competing is just as time consuming and emotionally draining as any job. In addition to an intense training and game schedule, athletes have to learn over 100- 4
  19. 19. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE page playbooks, opposing teams’ offensive and defensive schemes, study competition film and learn the proper techniques and winning strategies. These intellectual endeavors take hours and hours of study time, and this is in addition to 12 to 15 academic hours each semester, research papers, homework, labs, classes and tests. It’s a daunting task! You must maintain your athletic prowess,6 but without losing your grades for fear of losing your scholarship or eligibility! What’s an athlete to do? Most of the athletes I knew didn’t get a degree. Many, notwithstanding their degree, were functionally illiterate because they were socially promoted based on their athletic ability. Many were from impoverished7 backgrounds and were the first family member to ever attend college. These athletes were eaten up by college athletics and spit out, unprepared to cope with the real world. 6 Prowess: superior strength, courage, or daring, especially in battle. 7 Impoverished: reduced to poverty, poverty-stricken, deprived of natural richness or strength, limited or depleted, “an impoverished vocabulary”, “a region impoverished by drought.” 5
  20. 20. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE But it doesn’t have to be that way. Look at me—I am from the Third Ward, a ghetto in Houston. All but one of my uncles went to TDC,8 the prison system in Texas, with crimes ranging from drugs to violence. Many of the women in my family were on welfare or addicted to drugs. One was a prostitute. My Dad committed suicide in front of me, and my Mom raised five children largely alone. We constantly moved from place to place, always being evicted when the rent got too far behind.9 We might have a car one day, but the next it would break down and we’d be walking again. I didn’t want to keep living like that—I wanted something better. My Mom said college would change my life for the better, but only two members of my family ever earned a college degree. Even if I wanted to go to college, my mother couldn’t afford to pay for it. My Mom couldn’t put me through college, but she said my brain could—with a scholarship. From the first moment I 8 TDC: Texas Department of Corrections. 9 Behind: in arrears, late, in a place or condition that has been passed or left, in or toward the rear. 6
  21. 21. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE dreamed of going to college, I knew it would be my brain that got me there. Even when it became clear that I was good in athletics, that “brain” notion never changed for me. I always relied on my brain more than my athletic skills. I decided that I was going to get that scholarship and I would go to college. But to get into a college, you have to take the “SAT.” I didn’t know about SAT preparation courses, but we couldn’t have afforded it anyway. My Mom scrambled to come up with the SAT fee and I took the test without any preparation. If I remember correctly, I scored between 800 and 900. Not a good score, but luckily I had good grades in high school, so my SAT scores didn’t matter that much. I got into college. Once in college, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. But to get into law school you had to take the LSAT—another standardized test! By then, I knew about preparation courses, but I still couldn’t afford one, so again I took the test without preparation. I don’t remember what my score was, but I do know it was so bad they suggested that I should probably pick 7
  22. 22. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE another profession! Lucky for me I had excellent grades in college, and my LSAT score didn’t hold me back. I got into law school. To practice law, you have to pass the Bar Exam—the Granddaddy of standardized tests. As you can imagine, I was anxious and scared because I had never done well on a standardized test. All you had to do was look at my history to predict my future. There was a lot of pressure too. I had been offered a prestigious10 clerkship11 at a prominent12 law firm in Houston. Only the top law students got these positions, and I was going to be earning more money than anyone in my family had ever earned. I was also going to be the first and only Black lawyer at the firm. 10 Prestigious: having prestige or a good reputation, respected, esteemed. 11 Clerkship: having a job working as a clerk, lawyers may refer to obtaining a clerkship—a position in a law firm. 12 Prominent: widely known, eminent, important, “he was a prominent writer in economics.” 8
  23. 23. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE But first, I had to pass the Bar . . . Talk about stress. Not only had I never done well on a standardized test, but the weight of all future Black lawyers was on my shoulders! I studied for the Bar using a preparation course and the techniques taught in the ScholAthlete Survival Guide. 9
  24. 24. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE When I got my Bar results, I was shocked! I called the clerk of the Texas Board of Law Examiners to make sure they gave me the right person’s results. Surely I couldn’t have done as well as that? Same answer—I passed the bar—with flying colors! The ScholAthlete Survival Guide can give you the academic freedom and confidence it did for me in law school and on the Bar exam. Please use this book to ensure you get what you deserve out of college—a degree. Don’t let the athletic world take one of your very special gifts, but then fail to prepare you for success in academics and later on in life. Use the techniques in this book to become more efficient in your studies. The book won’t do your work for you, but it will give you some fundamental skills that will make you a better student. It will cut down on your study time and give you more free time (to the extent that any free time exists for the ScholAthlete). TV: Succeeding in school requires certain skills that you learn from your parents if you’re lucky, and if not (because your parents, like mine, never went to college), you have to learn them some other way. 10
  25. 25. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE I have helped many students pass the Texas Bar Exam after one or more failed attempts by teaching them the techniques in this book. For most of these students, what was lacking was not an innate13 ability, but rather their study and test taking skills were poor. My best student tried twice to pass the Bar and was desperate when she came to see me. She did everything I told her to do and passed the Baron the third try. I’m very proud of her! I recommend her to all who need a family lawyer, because she’s smart, determined, and I know she’ll never give up in the face of an initial failure or setback. You won’t learn much about any particular subject or class from this little book. You will learn how to take useful notes, how to study both individually and in a group, how to memorize, and how to take better tests. In short, you will learn how to improve your GPA,14 and thus stay in college, continue playing sports, and maybe even make it to the pro’s! 13 Innate: describes an inherent or intrinsic characteristic or property of some thing, such as a quality or capability that is possessed since birth. 14 GPA: Grade Point Average, the sum of your grades divided by the number of credit hours. 11
  26. 26. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE The best time to read this book is before starting college, or within the first couple of weeks, and again sometime near the Thanksgiving break. Why twice? Because you need this information before you even begin the semester—that way you can get started on the right foot. But the second time you read it you will have more experience with school, and you will have a deeper understanding of what we are trying to show you. It’s a quick read so you shouldn’t have any trouble reading it twice, and we really want you to make that commitment.15 You can also read it again every year, or at least as long as you need the extra help. Please read it twice. Another thing we ask—is that you try each of the tips in this book at least three times. We know that each of you is different and has different learning strengths. We also know that for many of you the tips will feel unnatural at best and difficult at worst. But if you try each one at least three times, giving it your best shot at making it work for you, you’ll have a 15 Commitment: the act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a particular course of action. 12
  27. 27. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE better chance at incorporating16 them into your study habits. Please try every tip three times. Then, go ahead and use what seems to work best for you! We know that some of our readers will be better at reading than others, and that some may have limited vocabulary.17 To help those students out, we’ve included a footnote with a definition for some of the words. Read the footnotes if you need to, and ignore them if you don’t. Remember, have fun, be enthusiastic, share the work and your notes with others. College is more than athletics—it’s your skybox ticket for the next stage of life, be it the pro’s, graduate school or a successful career. Tell yourself every day: “I CAN do this.” “I CAN be a ScholAthlete!” 16 Incorporating: assimilating, blending, combining into a structure or organization, whether material or mental, “she was incorporating Jo’s ideas into her work.” 17 Vocabulary: a language user’s knowledge of words. 13
  28. 28. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE 2. Class Selection So you’ve made it to college, and for the first time you have complete freedom in selecting your classes. The choices are dizzying—ranging from sociology and political science to chemistry and math to drama and art appreciation. This freedom of choice is one of the best things about college— imagine finally studying only the things you are interested in! But with so many choices available, how can you choose? We can’t offer much advice here, because each of you is unique and the generic advice of strangers in unlikely to be of help. What we can say is “follow your heart.” Study whatever you feel passionate18 about! School is SO much easier when you enjoy what you are studying. JJ: Many athletes are put into majors they have no interest in or will put them in a career they have no desire to work in for the rest of their lives. Don’t allow a coach or advisor to move you to another major or class because they think you can’t handle the academic load or because it 18 Passionate: having or expressing strong emotions. 14
  29. 29. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE might negatively affect your sport performance. With the proper learning tools, you can be successful at the classes you are interested in. TV: Ask other students how good a Professor is. A great teacher can make even dry material fun to learn. That said, there are a few basic skill sets that you should try to acquire. We believe that every adult should pay attention to these four areas: 1) bodily health, 2) mental and spiritual health, 3) relationship health, and 4) financial health. Look for any classes on first aid or basic health. Your body has got to last a lifetime, and you’ll be putting it under more pressure to perform than the average human. Anything you can learn to better the care and feeding of your body will help to maintain it. Consider classes like basic sports medicine, nutrition, or first aid. These will help you throughout your entire life. 15
  30. 30. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE You don’t have to be a religious person to sharpen your mental and spiritual edge, although that certainly is one way. Meditation, yoga, or anything that stresses regular deep breathing can help you relieve stress, sharpen your focus and 16
  31. 31. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE reenergize you. Even karate, with its emphasis19 on regular breathing, meditation and discipline,20 can benefit your mental and spiritual health. You can also study religion or comparative religion in college. Alternatively, you may prefer to train your mental and spiritual being outside of the college environment, perhaps in a church or other community. You can even just set aside time to walk through a nature preserve. The point is that you make time available for contemplative21 thought. After all, college is a marathon, not a sprint, and you have taken on a much heavier workload than the average student. You don’t want to burn out before you get to the goal line. 19 Emphasis: special importance or significance, “the red light gave the central figure in the play increased emphasis.” 20 Discipline: training to improve strength, skills or self-control, train by instruction and practice, especially to teach self-control, “He was a highly disciplined piano player and practiced for five hours each day.” 21 Contemplative: a person given to contemplation, deep thought. 17
  32. 32. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE There may not be too many classes to help you with relationship health, but look for leadership, people management or communication classes. Being a leader or manager requires many of the same skills and considerations that apply to personal relationships. You can also look for those sociology classes that seem to deal with relationships. TV: I didn’t learn good relationships from my parents—except maybe how not to behave in relationships. However, when I left home I took care to surround myself with people that did have healthy relationships and I emulated22 them. Judging from the success of my own 18 year marriage, I’d say I had some pretty good mentors (Thanks Heidi and David Needleman and Karen Lee for showing me how its done!). The average undergraduate had a balance of $2,169 in credit card debt in 2004, and it was much higher for graduate students! In fact, University administrators say they lose more students to credit card debt than to academic failure. This tells us that most students have not learned healthy personal finance practices from their parents. 18
  33. 33. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE We didn’t either—we had to learn the hard way. But we hope you can learn from our experience. No matter what you do in life, whether you become a pro athlete, a sports announcer, coach, doctor, or lawyer, it is critical that you learn the basics of personal finance. After all, how can you make it if you can’t look after your own money? Take a course in finance, or get a good self-help book on the subject. You’ll need this information to keep you from graduating with a large debt—and when you start to make money from endorsements! 22 Emulate: to strive to equal or excel, especially through imitation, “he was an older pupil whose accomplishments and style I emulated.” 19
  34. 34. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE JJ: If you are going to be a professional athlete, you must take business and finance classes. There are countess stories of athletes who earned millions of dollars and ended up broke because they were ill-prepared to manage their wealth. Instead of great financial planning, they were robbed blind or spent more than they made. Kareem Abdul Jabbar is a perfect example of a great athlete who didn’t prepare to be wealthy and filed for bankruptcy in 1987. TV: I really liked “Smart Women Finish Rich,” by David Bach. It was written in plain English, was easy to understand, and taught me some very important financial basics. The author has also written “Smart Couples Finish Rich.” 20
  35. 35. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE Another issue to consider as you choose your courses is the workload and time management. Most schools have a 12 hour minimum and a 16 hour maximum workload. Since you already have a large commitment to sport, consider dropping your workload. You might need to stay in college a little longer, but if you can graduate with decent grades it will have been worth it. JJ: If you do take a smaller course load, make sure your scholarship will pay for a fifth year. Be sure, as well, that the courses you select will contribute towards earning a particular degree. You might also want to select classes in part based on the requirements of the class. Some classes have term papers, some have weekly homework, some have final exams, and others have midterms too. If you hate writing term papers, you might not want to take a paper class, or you might want to limit it to one paper class per semester. Similarly, you might not want to take too many classes where the entire grade depends on one 21
  36. 36. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE final exam. These issues shouldn’t be determinative,23 but they can certainly be considered in close cases. JJ: Figure out what it is you’re interested in and how you learn best, then you can choose your classes in an educated manner. If you are able to master this, you will choose classes that are in your degree plan, that interest you, and that encompass how you learn best. When this all comes together, you put yourself in the best position to do well in college while you move forward towards your degree. We’ll take a closer look at scheduling next. 23 Determinative: Serving the function of deciding or settling with finality, having the power to determine an outcome. 22
  37. 37. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE 3. Scheduling As a college athlete, you will have an extraordinary24 workload—not only do you have class and study time, but you have a practice and competition workload. This is equivalent to working a job and going to school at the same time! This means that you will need to be more disciplined than the average student. Fortunately, as a college athlete, you also have more discipline than the average student (you will soon anyway)! JJ: While in college, I realized that most of my fellow athletes had great discipline but didn’t realize or appreciate it. They routinely sacrificed for their sport. For example, early rising to practice, drilling technique for unimaginable hours, working through pain or putting the team ahead of themselves—the list goes on and on. It seems crazy to me that most of my fellow athletes couldn’t or wouldn’t apply 24 Extraordinary: beyond what is ordinary or usual. 23
  38. 38. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE those incredible and valuable skills to endeavors25 outside sports. An average work week is between 40 and 45 hours long, but since you’re in effect holding two jobs, you can expect your work week to be as much as 60-70 hours. Don’t schedule much more than this—it isn’t sustainable.26 Start with a 7 day blank schedule. Pencil in all travel, games, competitions, and all academic deadlines, such as exams, term paper deadlines, and the like. Now add your regular practice time, classes and at least 2 hours of study per class per week. Add 1-3 hours a week for something that will recharge your spiritual batteries—perhaps volunteer work or church. If there are a few hours left, you can use the extra time for writing a paper, or you can leave it unscheduled because as exams approach, your study time will as much as double. 25 Endeavors: things we do or undertake, enterprises, purposeful or industrious undertakings. 26 Sustainable: being able to meet the current needs, without compromising those needs for the future. 24
  39. 39. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE Let’s start with an example. Say you have an away game every two weeks, and between travel and game time a whole day is lost. Pencil the games into your schedule and design around them. Already, 12 hours every other week is taken, and home games take out about 6 hours on alternate weeks. Typically, you’ll have about 12 to 16 hours (say 12) of class room time for four or five classes. Classes have to be your first commitment. After all, if you don’t go to classes (or games), 25
  40. 40. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE they will throw you out and you’ll never make the pro’s! And if your are injured AND flunk out, you’ll have nothing to show for your efforts. You’ll also have another 15 to 20 hours (say 20) in sports practice. Already we have 44 hours between just away games, classes and practice. That leaves about 16 hours for study (12 + 12 + 20 + 16 = 60). Therefore, you should have an hour or two a week in group study for each of four classes and two or three hours for individual study. Sixteen hours isn’t a lot—non-athlete students will have as much as 30 hours to study! But you are probably more disciplined than they, and can make the most of your 16 hours! Of course, as exams approach, you will probably need to increase your study time considerably—say double. This will mean that when you get close to exams, you will have about 32 hours of study per week, but this should be doable a couple of times a year. You’ll be helped because not all classes have mid- terms, and they’ll be at different times, and because there is usually a study week between the last class and finals, and you can easily fit 40 hours of study into that final week. 26
  41. 41. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE Of course our schedule is only exemplary,27 and your competition schedule may be more intense or more variable, and your classes may require term papers, projects or trips. Whatever your schedule is, plan ahead for it so that you know in advance when you’ll need to be playing, and what time is left for classes, studying and personal time. There’s no way to manage two jobs without a good schedule—and the discipline to follow it! 27 Exemplary: worthy of imitation, being or serving as an illustration of a type. 27
  42. 42. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE 4. Target Your Weaknesses Many people have some discomfort level related to academics, but that discomfort should not define your school experience. Honestly evaluate yourself and develop a strategy to capitalize28 on your strengths and compensate29 for your weaknesses. Think back to all those things your teachers, parents, and friends say or said about you. The people who know you best will usually have a pretty accurate assessment30 of who you are. Now consider how you can use your strengths to put you in the best position for success. Consider as well how to compensate for your weaknesses with increased practice or changes in environment and behavior. 28 Capitalize: draw advantage from, “he is capitalizing on her mistake.” 29 Compensate: Cover or make up for shortcomings, “he is compensating for bad eyesight by sitting at the front.” 30 Assessment: to determine the importance, value or other qualities of a person or object. See also Evaluation. 28
  43. 43. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE For example, if you hate the time pressure of exams and do better with open books, you might prefer a class that is graded by producing a paper. If you are very self confident, perhaps a class that requires public speaking or an oral exam might be a place where you can shine. But don’t forget to also target your weaknesses for improvement. For example, if you don’t see or hear very well, you should probably sit in the front of the class where you have the best sound and view—even if that makes you uncomfortable. You will eventually get used to it and wonder what all the fuss was about. Sitting in the front can also help the easily distracted student. JJ: I used to always get in trouble for talking too much in class. I never liked getting in trouble so I eventually modified my behavior to make getting into trouble less likely. One practical thing I started doing was sitting in the front row of all of my classes right in front of the teacher. Why would she do that you ask? Well, I found that sitting right in front of the teacher cut down on my bad conduct grade 29
  44. 44. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE because I couldn’t talk as much with her so close to me. Likewise I could always see and hear everything she said or wrote. When you sit in the back of the class, you can’t always hear and with my bad luck, the things I couldn’t hear were the things most likely to be on the exam! Most students are afraid to ask questions because they don’t want to look stupid in front of their peers, but thank the student who gets over this embarrassment and asks all the questions because without him or her, the rest of the class would be lost too! Can you make a commitment to ask one question in every single class starting on day one? Making that commitment will force you to listen hard and think about the lecture, and pretty soon you won’t be the least bit embarrassed to ask questions in front of others. JJ: On many occasions, classmates came up to me after a class and whispered to me that they were glad I was in the class because I asked the question they were too scared to ask. Time and time again I heard, “Jo, I never would have passed that class if it weren’t for you!” While you are at the front of the class, listening and thinking about your question for the day, go ahead and take good notes in your own words. This is another little trick that 30
  45. 45. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE can keep you paying attention and thinking in class. We’ll show you more on how to take good notes later in the book. JJ: I took pages and pages of notes in every class in my own words. I learned over the years that I can understand myself better than I can understand anybody else, so to the extent I could translate the teacher’s words into my words, the better I could prepare for the test or quiz. One important behavioral change that some of you need to make is to actually attend all of your classes. This isn’t high school and no one will check up on you, but you’re paying for it, so you should attend each class and get the most for your money. JJ: I always made myself go to class whether I wanted to or not. This is Murphy Jo’s Law—if something bad can happen, it will happen to me! I was certain that the one day I skipped class was going be the day that the professor taught something important for the test. Others may need to reconsider who their associates are. If the people around you are just doing time with no interest in making the most of their college experience, maybe you should hang out with different people. If you associate with students 31
  46. 46. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE who really care about their grades, and who have disciplined study habits, it will be much easier for you to do the same. Study without distractions, such as TV or music. It only makes sense that if HALF of your brain is tuned to the TV, it will take you TWICE as long to get the same learning. This is especially true for difficult material or for the easily distracted student. If you must have some background noise, play an instrumental album (without words) that you know really well. The more familiar an album is to you, the less your brain will be focused on it. TV: I like to wear earplugs to block random noise. Another thing that you can do to improve your chances of doing well is to get to know your professor. If you know your Professor personally, you are less likely to blow him off in class and more likely to pay attention. Visit each Professor early on in the semester, and ask them to explain something that you don’t understand. Visit again after each quiz and discuss how you could have improved your grade. Professors are people too, and they will really appreciate your efforts and remember you when it comes to grading time. 32
  47. 47. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE TV: I have taught many classes and its always a thrill to be able to help the student that wants to learn. I visited Professors when I was a student too and some of the tips in this book were taught to me by my Professors in these after-class visits! If poor vocabulary has always held you back, carry a dictionary and make a commitment to never read over a word you do not know. Learn the meaning of that word, say it out loud, learn how to spell it and use it in a sentence. Use it in your writing. You can even keep a running list of new words that you have learned. TV: One trick I use to help myself spell words is to say them in my head as they are actually spelled. Thus, I sound out “benefit” as though it was “bee-nee-fit,” and that helps me to remember that the first two vowels are e’s even though the second sounds like it could be an i. Jo: Don’t neglect learning how to spell words because even college Professor’s will deduct points for bad spelling. To sum it up, take a hard look at yourself to see what has caused you to do poorly in the past. Often we want to blame lack of achievement in school on the teacher or time spent in sports or some other factor outside our control. But the truth is 33
  48. 48. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE we have more control over our success and failure in school than we are usually willing to admit. The only way to do better in school is pretend to be your own parent or coach, and make yourself do what you know they would tell you to do. JJ: All those rules my Mom imposed on me over the years, I eventually learned to impose on myself. I found that when I made behavioral modifications, my grades went up because I put myself in the best environment to learn. In other words, I implemented31 self-controls that helped me to succeed. 31 Implement: make use of, “implement a procedure.” 34
  49. 49. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE 5. Reading: A Fundamental Skill One thing that should be very clear to you by now is that reading is the single most fundamental32 skill for succeeding in school and in life. Not only do you need this skill for learning the class material, you need it for exam success. JJ: Years ago my youngest sister was living with me during her senior year in high school. I read one of her papers and unfortunately her writing was not up to the 12th grade level, so I suggested she read anything of her choice and then write a paper on it once every two weeks. I explained that if you can write about what you read then you truly understand it. That reading is not just saying the words, but understanding them and their context. She didn’t buy into my theory and didn’t really try to improve. But when she got to college, she didn’t place into freshman English, and had to take remedial English. 32 Fundamental: cardinal, serving as an essential component, being or involving basic facts or principles, “the fundamental laws of the universe.” 35
  50. 50. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE She came back later and apologized. She wasted a semester studying remedial English because she hadn’t tried to improve when I pointed out what she was lacking. As was stated previously, reading is truly fundamental for standardized tests, all of which use the same multiple choice format. Each series of questions begins with a long fact pattern, followed by 1-5 questions about that fact pattern and 4 or 5 multiple choice answers for each question. Obviously, the student who reads quickly and accurately33 will outperform those whose reading is more labored.34 Reading—and her cousins Writing and Speaking—don’t stop being important after school either. All white-collar jobs require good reading, writing and speaking skills, and even a manual laborer needs sufficient reading skills to review a 33 Accurate: Conforming exactly or almost exactly to fact or to a standard, total correctness. 34 Labored: produced or done with effort, lacking natural ease, strained, “the labored breathing of a dying man.” 36
  51. 51. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE mortgage35 or employment contract, set-up a retirement fund, and help his or her children with their homework. JJ: I see the devastation36 that illiteracy37 reaps every day as a criminal defense lawyer. Most of my clients are in the criminal justice system in part because they can’t read. They can’t get good jobs because good jobs require literacy.38 In many cases, low wage jobs won’t pay the bills so my clients either self-medicate or turn to illegal activities for extra money. All told, the inability to read trapped many of them into a life of poverty and crime. Therefore, the Reading, Writing and Speaking trio are critical to your success, and we have assumed that the average student could use some improvement in that area. If so, what can we do about our reading skills this late in the game? 35 Mortgage: put up (usually a house or land) as security or collateral for a loan, a method by which persons can buy property without paying the full value up-front because the buyer pledges the property as security for the loan. 36 Devastation: an event that results in total destruction, the state of being decayed or destroyed, “Katrina left New Orleans in a state of devastation.” 37 Illiteracy: the inability to read or write at a competent level. 38 Literacy: the ability to read and write. 37
  53. 53. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE Begin by candidly39 evaluating40 your reading skills. How would you rank your skills on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being excellent, 5 being average for your grade, and 1 being marginal?41 If you have no idea how to rate your skills, you may want to ask someone you trust and that has good skills to listen to you read and evaluate you. Or you can try an online evaluation of reading skills.42 That way you may have a more accurate idea of what your true level of reading comprehension43 is. It is not enough to just be able to speak words out loud or in your head. You must also understand what the words are saying—the story they’re telling or the message they are conveying.44 39 Candidly: honestly, “candidly, I don’t think she has the talent.” 40 Evaluate: to appraise, to judge the worth or quality, to assess. 41 Marginal: of extremely small merit, extremely small, “a marginal increase in speed can really increase your scores.” 42 See (up to grade 10) or (up to grade 8). 43 Comprehension: an ability to understand the meaning or importance of something. 44 Convey: make known, pass on information. 39
  54. 54. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE JJ: Evaluate your reading honestly. The only way to solve a reading problem is to accept responsibility for whatever reading level you’ve reached. Once you identify your level, you can then develop a plan to improve your skills. If you figure you are below 4, don’t be embarrassed. You are NOT alone. Instead, view it as just another skill you need to practice, like laps to develop the perfect butterfly stroke. Practice, practice, practice will have you reading at a higher level, just like Michael Phelps practiced enough to win 8 gold medals at the 2008 Olympics. Find a program specifically designed to improve your reading skills. There are many available, and several are available in software format, allowing you to improve your skills at your own pace and in privacy. Some free material is available at the sites below, but web links decay45 quickly, so just Google® “reading skills” or something similar and see what you find. 45 Decay: the process of gradually becoming inferior, degrade. 40
  55. 55. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE Free advanced reading course day/tiparchive.phtml/7 Offers weekly tips, free downloads and feature articles Offers the first nine weeks of any grade level free Provides three ways to improve reading skills ev/reading.htm Links relating to reading including self assessment tests ml Suggestions for improving reading speed Most student athletes will be somewhere about average in their reading skills. If you scored between four and seven, you should take every opportunity46 to practice this critical skill! JJ: Reading is a skill that improves with practice. It doesn’t matter what you read— newspaper articles, want ads, books, comics, Harry Potter, subtitles in movies—just read! 46 Opportunity: a favorable or advantageous circumstance or combination of circumstances, a time or occasion that is suitable for a certain purpose. 41
  56. 56. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE When you read out loud (and even in your head) make sure that you adjust or change your voice and speed at the punctuation47 marks. Periods get a long pause and commas get a shorter pause. Your voice should rise at a question mark. It should get louder or more emphatic48 at an exclamation mark! Reading to include the punctuation changes in voice and speed will increase your understanding of what you read. One excellent way to practice reading skills is to read bed- time stories to younger siblings. Really! Work with us here . . . Young children won’t even know if your skills are less than stellar49 because they can only compare against their own rudimentary50 reading skills. 47 Punctuation: the marks used to clarify meaning of the written words. Punctuation includes the period (.), comma (,), the question mark (?) and the exclamation (!), but there are many other punctuation symbols in addition to these four basic marks. Just look at your keyboard! 48 Emphatic: spoken with emphasis, sudden and strong, “an emphatic NO!” 49 Stellar: of or pertaining to stars, indicating the most important or best, “a stellar performance.” 42
  57. 57. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE Read with feeling and do a different voice for each character. You may be a bit embarrassed at first, but these two techniques will help to improve your skills quickly. Of course, you may be living in a college dorm by now, and only rarely seeing your brothers and sisters. If that’s the case, why not send them a weekly tape? It’s good practice and it will thrill them! If you are already “famous” and making public appearances, or if your athletic department has a community service program, consider visiting a children’s cancer ward or a school and read to those children. You can pick your book in advance, practice before you go, and your improved skills and generosity may even be worthy of a newspaper or TV spot! It’s great free press, and even the President does it! You can also get together with your teammates or study buddies and read out loud in front of each other. This doesn’t have to be explicitly51 about reading—you could simply read 50 Rudimentary: being in the earliest stages of development, “rudimentary plans.” 51 Explicit: precisely and clearly expressed or readily observable. Explicitly: In an explicit manner. 43
  58. 58. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE important paragraphs from your text books to help explain the material. Another great way to improve your reading and speaking skills is to take a drama class. Not only is it an easy (and fun) grade, it will give you many opportunities to speak in public. Drama will also be of benefit if you’re hoping to make the switch to sports announcer after your athletic career winds down! It may also help if you plan to be a business person and have to give presentations to grow your business or make a sales pitch. As you practice your lines, be conscious52 of your diction53 —the way you pronounce54 each word. An educated man can pronounce each consonant55 clearly and distinctly. Try 52 Conscious: intentionally conceived, knowing and perceiving, having awareness of surroundings, sensations or thoughts, “he was conscious of his faults.” 53 Diction: enunciation—the articulation of speech regarded from the point of view of its intelligibility to the audience. 54 Pronounce: the way a word or a language is usually spoken. 55 Consonant: a speech sound that is not a vowel. 44
  59. 59. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE British roles—no one articulates56 the consonants like the British! Don’t get us wrong, we’re not denouncing57 local accents. It’s just that people do make judgments based on accent, as anyone with a thick Cockney, Irish burr or Southern drawl can attest.58 No one would deny that Martin Luther King had a accent, but his diction was always clear and when he gave a speech, everyone understood him. The average college student reads between 250 and 350 words per minute and a “good” reading speed is around 500 to 700 words per minute. Surprisingly, research has shown that an increased rate of reading actually improves reading comprehension, and that where speed has gone down, 56 Articulate: pronounce, speak, or utter in a certain way, usually speaking each syllable clearly and precisely. 57 Denounce: speak out against, stigmatize, to accuse or condemn or openly or formally or brand as disgraceful, “he denounced the Nazis.” 58 Attest: provide evidence for, stand as proof of, show by one’s behavior, attitude, or external attributes, “his high fever attested to his illness.” 45
  60. 60. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE comprehension also decreased. Practice reading more quickly and see if it helps. Something that might help you read more quickly is to read with an index card above the lines you have already read. The card will keep your eyes focused on the line you are reading, and you can push the card quickly down the page, forcing yourself to read quickly. Another tip that can help you understand and remember what you read is to read with a highlighter59 (of course, the books must be your own, and not a library copy). Highlight the important facts as you go. In general, you should not overuse the color, lest60 it lose effectiveness, but if you do color copiously,61 add a red box around the most important information. You can also save the boxing for later review sessions. 59 Fluorescent yellow highlighters do not photocopy. Therefore, if you want a clean copy of something you’ve highlighted, make sure you use fluorescent yellow. 60 Lest: unless, in order that something might not happen. 46
  61. 61. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE One thing that trips students up is unfamiliarity with the terminology62 or language of the subject material. In other words, you don’t understand the words used in a certain area of study and this holds you back.63 Nip this interference in the bud by starting each class with a good glossary.64 Getting familiar with the words will not only improve your reading skills, but gain you significant yardage on the class materials as well. JJ: Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know a word. Just look it up. All it takes is not to know one word once and Murphy Jo’s Law says that’s the word that’s going to show up on the test! Likewise, not knowing the meaning of one word 61 Copiously: abundantly—in an abundant or profuse manner, “they were copiously supplied with food,” “he thanked her copiously.” 62 Terminology: words and/or phrases used to describe a concept or phenomenon. 63 For example, your coach might tell you that “You must make sure your penultimate step is longer than your take-off.” You could never understand that coaching tip if you didn’t know that “penultimate” means the “next to last.” 64 Glossary: an alphabetical list of technical terms in some specialized field of knowledge, usually published as an appendix to a textbook. 47
  62. 62. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE in a sentence can change the whole meaning of that sentence. People used to laugh at me a because I had to know every word, even if it meant carrying It takes courage to admit that you don’t know glossary into your computer. Then you can add to it as the class proceeds. You can also share it with yo having awesome multiple choice exam skills) I around a dictionary. I got the last laugh though, as my success shows. something, but that courage is what it takes to get you through college. Google® for “glossary” and whatever topic you are studying and copy a good ur study buddies. TV: I had to take the Graduate Record Examinations® in biology and although as a biochemist I knew a little basic biology, I knew NOTHING about ecology or population biology, which was about two thirds of the exam. Just by learning a glossary from each topic (and by was able to score in the top percentile, although I did have to try twice to get such a good grade. 48
  63. 63. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE Another tip that will help you to build a stronger vocabulary, is to invest65 in a reading pen. This is a large computerized pen that scans the text as you read and provides definitions of the scanned words on a small screen. It is much faster than looking words up in a dictionary, and understanding words is fully HALF the challenge of learning any subject. Reading pens start at about $150 and go to $250, and seem like a pretty good investm ng skill instructors suggest that you don’t sound out every word as you read. The thinking is that it will slow yo lways sound out the words as I read, probably because I am ent.66 Several readi u down. TV: I am an excellent reader, and I a somewhat accustomed to learning through hearing, and I hear myself as I go. However, we think you can talk way faster than you can read, and that you can sound out as you go. If you learn best 65 Invest: to commit funds or resources to some project in the hoping of making a good return or profit from it. 66 Investment: money or time that is invested with an expectation of making profit or some other valuable return. 49
  64. 64. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE thro Let us show you an example of a paragraph that might be o some backyards red-hot liquid was spurting from the ot up and over the houses. The island’s volcano, Helgafell, silent for January night in 1973…red-hot liquid spurting from ground… Flaming ugh your ears, consider sounding out as you go. But don’t sound out every word. Instead, simplify the passage as you read. quickly skimmed for its major points, saying (in your mind) nly the key words or important points. • The village of Vestmannaeyjar, in the far northern country of Iceland, is as bright and clean and up-to- date as any American or Canadian suburb. It is located on the island of Heimaey, just off the mainland. One January night in 1973, however, householders were shocked from their sleep. In ground. Flaming “skyrockets” sh seven thousand years, was violently erupting!67 This passage might be quickly read as: • village of Vestmannaeyjar, northern country of Iceland, is bright, clean, up-to-date. Located on island of Heimaey, off mainland. “skyrockets” shot over houses… The island’s volcano, 67 Test question and answers excerpted from 50
  65. 65. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE Helgafell, silent for seven thousand years, violently erupting! Let’s read it again, but this time circle or highlight what ight be key words. • village of Vestm m annaeyjar, northern country of Iceland, is bright, clean, up-to-date. Located on island of Heimaey, off mainland. January night in 1973…red-hot liquid spurting from ground… Flaming “skyrockets” shot over houses… island’s volcano, Helgafell, silent for seven thousand years, was violently erupting! Now, we have read it twice very quickly, sounding out the maj onnectors like “the.” We’ve also highlighted what might be important words, such as try the sample reading comprehension located on the island of: a) Vestmannaeyjar s ey ll e) Heimma The color of the hot liquid was: or words, but leaving out meaningless c dates and places. Let’s questions: The village is b) Hebride c) Heima d) Helgafe a) orange 51
  66. 66. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE b) black d) e) coming from the: ntains nd d) e) no had been inactive for: onths d) e) quic he village since it was underlined? c) yellow red gray This liquid was a) mou b) grou c) sea sky ocean The island’s volca a) seventy years b) seven thousand years c) seven thousand m seven hundred years seventy decades The answers were c), d), b), and b). See how easy it was to kly check the name of t Let’s try a harder one: • WHAT WAS THE AMERICAN SMALL TOWN LIKE? I’m glad I was born soon enough to have seen the American small town, if not at its height, at least in the early days of decline into its present forlorn status as a conduit for cars and people, all headed for some Big City over the horizon. The small town was not always a stultifying trap for bright young people to escape from; in the years before wartime travel 52
  67. 67. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE or farm ung man and one part-time boy in his r-Way Cold Tablets or Bromo-Seltzer, or perhaps for paramedical advice, which he was glad to give. boys and girls, the town of five to twenty thousand was a self-sufficient little city-state of its own. • The main street of those Midwestern towns I remember from the thirties varied little from one place to another: there were always a number of brick Victorian buildings, labeled “Richard’s Block” or “Denman Block,” which housed, downstairs, the chief emporia of the town--the stores which made it a shire town for the surrounding farmlands. Each of these stores was run according to a very exact idea of the rules of its particular game. A hardware store, for instance, had to be densely hung inside with edged tools--scythes, sickles, saws--of all descriptions. It had to smell of oil, like metal, and often like the sacks of fertilizer stacked in the back room. It had to have unstained wood floors, sometimes sprinkled with sawdust, and high cabinets of small drawers containing bolts, screws, nails, and small plumbing accessories. It had to be owned and run by a middle- aged man in a blue apron, assisted by one up-and- coming yo middle teens. It had to sell for cash on the barrelhead, and it did. • The drugstore was a horse of a different color (and order), but it was circumscribed by equally strict rules. Here you would ask the white-coated (and often rimless-spectacled) druggist for aspirin or Fou 53
  68. 68. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE • These towns are by and large gone in 1974, their old stores shut up with dusty windows, or combined, two or three at a time, to make a superette, a W.T. Grant store, or a sub-and-pizza parlor. The business has moved to the big shopping center on the Interstate or on to the city over the horizon, and the depopulated old towns drift along toward oblivion, centers of nothing in the middle of nowhere.68 Let’s read it quickly, sounding out the key words and highlighting what might be important words: • born soon enough to seen American small town, if not at height, in early days of decline into present forlorn status as conduit for cars and people, headed for some Big City… small town not always stultifying trap for young people to escape from; years before wartime and scorn of Menckens and Sinclair Lewises made cities magnet for farm boys, town of five to twenty thousand was self-sufficient city-state … • main street of Midwestern towns from thirties varied little … always brick Victorian buildings labeled “Richard’s Block” or “Denman Block,” housed, downstairs, chief emporia of town - stores which made it shire town for surrounding farmlands. Each store run by exact idea of rules… hardware store… densely hung with edged tools--scythes, sickles, saws… smell 68 Questions excerpted from Text by L.E. Sissman in Selections From 119 Years of the Atlantic, © 1974. 54
  69. 69. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE of oil, metal, sacks of fertilizer stacked in the back room. … unstained wood floors, sprinkled with sawdust, high cabinets of small drawers containing bolts, screws, nails, and small plumbing accessories. … owned and run by middle-aged man … assisted by one … young man and part-time boy in teens. had to sell for cash on the barrelhead… • drugstore was … different … but … equally strict rules. … ask the white-coated .. rimless-spectacled druggist for aspirin or Four-Way Cold Tablets or Bromo-Seltzer, or paramedical advice… glad to give • towns …. gone in 1974, old stores shut up with dusty windows, or combined to make a superette, a W.T. Grant store, or a sub-and-pizza parlor. business moved to shopping center on Interstate or to city and depopulated old towns drift toward oblivion, centers of nothing in middle of nowhere. Now we’ll try the reading comprehension questions: 1. According to the essay, what is the major reason for the decline of the American small town? a) Cars made people more mobile b) Lack of variation between towns drove people away c) Big cities drew people away from the towns d) Their main streets were all the same. e) Writers criticized small town life. 55
  70. 70. SCHOLATHLETE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE 2. How does the author feel about the American small town? a) angry b) nostalgic c) spiteful d) embarrassed e) relieved 3. Given the descriptions of the small town stores, the author would most likely view modern shopping malls as places: a) catering to small town people b) taking over the role of small farm stores c) lacking the friendliness of small town stores d) providing variety to small town clients e) carrying on the tradition of small town stores This was much harder because the text just sort of rambled,69 and had a lot of descriptive material that wasn’t particularly relevant to anything. Instead, the descriptions just gave you the flavor of how the author felt about small towns and their sad decline. The answers are c), b) and c). 69 Ramble: to move about aimlessly, wander. 56
  71. 71. ESSENTIAL STUDY SKILLS FOR THE SCHOLAR ATHLETE How did you do? Do you see how simplifying and underlined can help your reading comprehension? How underlining (or circling) can help you to easily double check a key fact? Great! JJ: Here are a few rules I generally use when reading—underline or highlight 1) words I don’t know, 2) words I can’t pronounce, 3) names, 4) dates, and 5) what I think is the main idea. Afterwards, I immediately look up the definitions of the words I don’t know and sound out the words I can’t pronounce. The dictionary sometimes helps with pronunciation as well. I then try to get a better understanding of the passage I read. Do the same with test questions. Nostalgic70 is a word that jumped out to me as one word that some people may not have known. It turns out that nostalgic was the right answer to question 2. If you didn’t know what it meant, you may have missed the answer for that reason. Keep practicing. Remember, reading is the most important skill you’ll use in college. 70 Nostalgic: nostalgia describes a longing for the past, often idealized, “he was nostalgic for his Mother’s chicken soup.” 57