The effort to retain intercollegiate athletics as a valuable part of campus life at Western Nevada College is well under way.
The college is measuring the academic, economic and social benefits of the programs, and all have produced a number of positive outcomes, according to John Kinkella, who serves as athletic director and dean of Student Services.
"The Wildcats intercollegiate athletics program was begun in an effort to increase student access and student success at Western Nevada College," he said. "Since its inception, intercollegiate athletics has contributed to a significant increase in the number of western Nevada high school students coming directly to college."
That may be in part a result of the pride that athletics can bring to a school and a community, but Kinkella said it also comes from the academic success the student athletes have achieved.
"By every measure: grade point average, course completion, semester to semester retention, graduation, and university transfer, WNC student-athletes have performed well above the college and statewide average," Kinkella said. "Student-athletes have set a high standard that now reverberates throughout the college. In addition to the example set in the classroom, our student-athletes have been solid citizens and productive members of the community."
WNC President Carol Lucey set the academic success bar high from the inception of intercollegiate athletics at the college, she said.
"The success of Wildcats athletics has brought young student-athletes to Carson City from across Nevada and the western United States," Lucey said.
Baseball coach DJ Whittemore said being a member of a college athletics team can be a life-changing opportunity.
"The idea is that these young men will become civic leaders in their communities as adults, as well as business and industry leaders," he said. "The chance for personal growth is enormous."
From an economic standpoint, intercollegiate athletics at Western Nevada College benefits the community.
"Parents from throughout Nevada now send their sons and daughters to live and compete here while they attain a college degree. Our student athletes pay rent and buy their groceries, gas, and incidentals right here in town," Kinkella said. "If the past is any guide, many of these student-athletes would otherwise have continued their love of sport at community colleges in California, and would likely have never returned to our state."
Each spring, Wildcats softball and baseball teams have hosted visiting teams for 15 nights. An average of 26 players and coaches, along with parents and supporters, rent hotel rooms, eat meals in local restaurants, and refuel their vehicles in Carson City with each visit.
When the teams are successful, the economic benefits increase. WNC has qualified to host the Scenic West Athletic Conference baseball tournament in three of the last five years. Each time, five teams with 30 players and coaches, as well as their fans, traveled from Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Southern Nevada to Carson City for the five-day tournament.
Successful completion by WNC student-athletes of an associate degree and credits towards a baccalaureate degree also serves Nevada's economy well, Kinkella said.
"Their success provides skills and motivation that can benefit Nevada businesses and communities in a wide variety of areas."
Wildcats softball coach Leah Wentworth agrees.
"The lessons that our student athletes learn are invaluable - leadership, teamwork, discipline, sacrifice, commitment and communication," she said. "These qualities will enhance any company, relationship or community. In the big scheme of things, when their time as student athletes is behind them, our hope is that they will be out in the world inspiring people."
"These collegiate athletes are extremely driven, high achievers whose futures are very bright," he said. "I believe they will look back in 20 years and realize that their opportunity to play and learn at WNC was one of the strongest positive forces in their lives."