CLEVE, KOKOT GIVE DEFINITION TO 'STUDENT-ATHLETE'
Editor's Note: Kansas State's athletic department celebrated the academic side of being a student-athlete last week with the second annual Mark A. Chapman Powercat Choice Awards. Winners of the 2010-11 Scholar Athlete Awards - Nina Kokot of Slovenia and Moritz Cleve of Germany - both came from the Wildcat track and field program, and both happen to be international student-athletes. Sports Extra sat down with the two K-State honorees to learn their view on being a stellar student, and an Olympic caliber athlete.
By Mark Janssen
Let's play the pretend game for a bit.
Let's pretend you come to the United States for the very first time. You come from ... let's say Germany, or maybe Slovenia.
Oh, while we're pretending, let's add to your plate being a member of the Wildcat track and field team with its grind of daily training and travel commitments for the entirety of the 10-month school year.
Now, let's turn our conversation into the reality of senior Moritz Cleve and junior Nina Kokot.
Kansas State's athletic department staged the Mark A. Chapman "Powercat Choice Awards" last week when Cleve, a native of Bochum, Germany, and Kokot, a product of Velenje, Slovenia, were named the Scholar-Athletes of the Year for the 2010-11 academic year.
Cleve, a past Big 12 multi-event champion and three-time All-American, is a graduate of Markische Schule High School. Now a senior at K-State, Cleve is majoring in public relations with a 3.6 GPA.
Kokot received her prep education at Splosna Gimnazija High School. On the track, Kokot currently ranks third in the nation in the long jump with a leap of 21-2½. Her major is kinesiology/athletic training where she maintains a 3.8 GPA.
"Sports Extra" sat down with each K-State student-athlete to see how they managed the blend of student, and athlete, and doing "A" work in both.
Sports Extra: First, congratulations on being named the No. 1 student-athletes for the academic year. What does it mean to you?
Kokot: "It's definitely an honorable award to receive. So much effort has gone into academics and track, although I haven't had the greatest luck in track because of injuries."
Cleve: "It means quite a lot because I have put a lot into it. Honestly, when I started four years ago I didn't have much of a direction in my studies, but it was just a gradual process of landing in public relations."
SE: How do you compare the education system in the United States to that of your respective country?
Kokot: "I would say my first two or three semesters were more of refreshing my knowledge that I learned in high school. I enjoy my studies. It's not hard to make good grades when you're interested in your classes. The kinesiology program is really good here, but honestly, the first year or so was just going over what I had already learned in high school."
Cleve: "Classes were more difficult my last year of high school than my first year here. I had to put more effort into my last year of high school classes. Here, the early grades just seemed to happen."
SE: Can you give some comparisons in education system from your country to the U.S.?
Cleve: "In the United States there are more general education classes and freedom of choice. I think the teachers expect more in Germany and have more authority. There are centralized tests for every student and the teachers are constantly pushing you.
Here, physical education is not the same as physical education in Germany where that term means training methodology and human body stuff.
Our schools also have 13 grades instead of the 12 you have here."
Kokot: "We have primary school at age 6 through 14, and then every student takes a test that arranges you into different high schools based on results. The best school prepares you for the best colleges, while another school is designed to teach a technical trade to prepare you to go into a job out of high school.
In Slovenia, the schooling government sets your schedule. You take this as a freshman; you take this as a sophomore. All classes are designed to a certain end. Even in college, you might only have three what you call electives during the course of your college career.
You don't start school until you are six, so you're 19 when you finish."
SE: You speak fluent English. I'm guessing that started well before your arrival at K-State.
Kokot: "You start English at age 12 and continue through high school. We are required to learn two foreign languages. Mine were English and German."
Cleve: "Learning English starts at age 10, if not earlier for some."
SE: In your respective countries, why is learning English so important?
Cleve: "Our government realizes that in order to stay competitive in the world, you need one or two foreign languages, and, maybe to study abroad for a summer. I'm surprised another language is not required here (U.S.). Learning English is just a given in our school system in Germany."
Kokot: "We understand that you need to be able to communicate well in the world. English is more of a universal language. I really think all young people should try to learn another language."
SE: How do you find time to combine the two ... student and athlete ... at K-State?
Kokot: "You just have to organize and be self-disciplined. I schedule my life at the beginning of the week and I remain on that schedule. You can't just go out and do whatever you feel like doing and get everything done."
Cleve: "You develop a routine and stick with it. If you don't, you become off-balance. That's your sleeping schedule, your eating schedule, to developing times and places to study."
SE: Do you feel like you're missing anything in student life because of your hectic schedule?
Cleve: "I have time to have fun, but I certainly don't party every week. During the off-season, there is some free time, but once practice begins, you get pretty serious. If I miss being a normal student, the things I've accomplished and my experiences I've enjoyed as an athlete more than make up for it. I was awarded a scholarship. That's worth giving up a few of the other options other students take part in."
Kokot: "Whenever you see great results and achieve something whether it's in the classroom or on the track that makes some of those other things normal students do not as important."
SE: Do you get a bigger kick out of making an "A" on a test, or scoring a high mark in track?
Kokot: (Laughing) "Oh, the high mark in track. Grades are nothing special for me. I'm used to having high grades because I have a craving for knowledge. I have to work so much harder in track, so that means more."
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