IU women’s soccer head coach Amy Berbary has created an academic dynasty. Since her arrival to IU in 2013, Berbary has worked hard to create a culture that encourages academic success.
Wednesday saw her squad win its fourth Herbert Cup, an honor given to the IU Athletics team with the highest average team GPA in a semester. The team earned the distinction thanks to a 3.6 combined GPA during the fall 2016 semester — the second-highest team GPA in the program’s history.
“It’s kind of our standard now, not just to get good grades but to win the Herbert Cup,” Berbary said. “This is something that I said is a standard from the first day I got here, our players are students first and athletes second.”
Capturing the award for the fall 2016 semester means women’s soccer has now won the last three Herbert Cups: fall 2016, spring 2016 and fall 2015. Overall, four of the last five Herbert Cups have been given to Berbary’s squads.
Berbary, a former student-athlete herself at the University of Georgia, values dedicating time to class despite the often packed schedules experienced by collegiate athletes.
“If you are fortunate enough to get an education because of the sport you love, you owe it to yourself and your teammates to make sure you’re keeping your standards high,” Berbary said.
High standards have now become an expectation in the classroom for the women’s soccer program after it posted an all-time high team GPA of more than 3.6 during the spring 2016 semester.
Part of the reason for the academic success of Berbary’s program is the academic captain the team appoints prior to the start of each season. The academic captain works with team academic adviser Eileen O’Rourke and other team members to set academic goals for the team and schedule study hall times during travel periods.
Junior midfielder Kylie Kirk, academic captain for the fall 2016 season, helped perform these tasks.
“We had a rigorous travel schedule this fall, but we also managed to have a drastic improvement on the field as well,” Berbary said.
That drastic on-field improvement saw the Hoosiers win four conference games, the team’s highest total since 2013.
Junior midfielder Kayla Smith served as the team’s academic captain as a sophomore during the 2015-16 school year and has been on the team for all four Herbert Cups won by the program. Smith said her time as an academic captain was an easy role thanks to the discipline and focus of the team.
“I’ve always placed academics as one of my highest priorities and I really had no idea that the team and coaches would be just as competitive here,” Smith said. “It’s awesome to have your team and coaches setting school standards as well as soccer standards because you always want to reach them.”
Similarly to Kirk this past season, Smith worked with O’Rourke during her time as academic captain to schedule times for studying while on the road. O’Rourke and Smith even created a deadline for members of the team to create a resume to help them be proactive about their futures.
Smith appreciated the attention paid to academics by Berbary and the coaching staff.
“Amy always sticks to the same weekly practice schedule, and if we are travelling, she sends us an itinerary ahead of time,” Smith said. “She gives us plenty of time on the road for study hall.”
After winning three straight Herbert Cups and reaching the Big Ten Tournament last season for the first time since 2013, Berbary is helping the women’s soccer program excel both on and off the field.
“I think we prove you can both win and be academically successful,” Berbary said.
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