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Star athlete now focused on being standout student

By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 12, 2012

Courtney Beall decided last year that she’d have to stop playing her favorite sport.

Her play on the soccer field wasn’t the problem for the sophomore. She’d scored two goals in Matthew C. Perry Samurai’s first competition, the Perry Cup last March that the Samurai won.

But Beall’s grades were suffering, exacerbated by being away the month before for the Far East Division II Basketball Tournament at Misawa Air Base, Japan, where she’d garnered All-Tournament honors for the fourth-place Samurai. She missed the first part of the basketball season because of academic ineligibility, and now grades were threatening the same for soccer.

It was time to make changes, Beall told herself.

Remaining grade eligible is the bedrock of being a student-athlete, in fact the prime reason why the word student comes before athlete.

DODDS-Pacific schools conduct eligibility checks every Tuesday during the season. Students must maintain a 2.0 grade-point average with no more than one F in their classes. Eligibility for Far East tournaments is conducted several weeks before each event. For basketball, that’s Jan. 29.

Prior to her stepping away from the soccer team, Beall says she would spend 1½ hours in her room studying, but after dealing with “a lot of distractions,” such as music, social networking or just plain procrastinating. “And when I did work, I didn’t do it to the fullest, just racing through it, going through the motions,” she said.

By giving up soccer, at least temporarily, “I thought if I could develop better study habits, I’d be better for my junior year,” Beall said.

It was hard, she said, to come to terms with right away. The soccer team would go on to win its first D-II Far East title in school history without her. A 6-foot left-hander, she’s as skilled as a volleyball hitter and basketball forward as she is in soccer, which she calls her first love.

“It really did bother me, but I tried not to let anybody see that,” Beall said. “Everybody here and there will slack [off], but I did it so badly, it was something that had to be changed.”

Now a junior, Beall earned a D-II Volleyball Tournament All-Far East selection and best blocker honors in November. Her basketball team, 14-16 a year ago, has won six straight after losing its first four, and she’s averaging 34 points and 17.5 rebounds per game.

She’s trying to pick up the numbers in the classroom as well.

It hasn’t been easy. She was again academically ineligible for part of the volleyball and basketball seasons this year. She says her grades could be higher, but her coach, Victor Rivera, and her father, Master Sgt. Joseph Beall IV, have seen a change.

“A superstar in the classroom, that would definitely be a goal,” Beall said. “I feel like I’m an intelligent person; I want my grades to match that. Realizing college is around the corner, I don’t want to waste my talent.”

Addressing the fact that she needed help on her own “was a big step,” her father said, adding he didn’t have to prod her to buckle down. “To have her make that conscious decision to step away from soccer speaks a lot about her.”

In addition to buckling down at home and in the classroom, Rivera has instituted measures to ensure students are going to the school’s Homework Club twice a week and watching out for each other in the meantime.

“By making the girls responsible for each other, by getting each other’s backs, we take care of our own, the values of family,” said Rivera, a Vietnam veteran. “We never left anybody in the field behind, and that’s the approach I’m taking with the girls.”

How far Beall and the Samurai can take it, it’s too soon to say. But Rivera feels his young charge is on the right track.

“She stepped back, took a look, recognized that something was wrong, did something about it and no looking back,” Rivera said. “I’m proud, her dad is proud, she’s proud, prouder than any of us.”



Matthew C. Perry's Courtney Beall dribbles upcourt against Rie Shinkawa of the Marist Brothers International School Bulldogs during a game earlier this month at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.


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