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Brooke Coleman, a sophomore setter, gets ready to receive a hit from Texas A&M while Abby Gilleland, a junior setter, and Karin Bull, a junior middle blocker, jump for the successful block. Ohio was swept by Texas Friday night. 

Volleyball: Coleman balances brains and brawn as academic captain

Ohio's first ever-academic captain returning to court after dealing with concussion 

An unexpected phone call in June put Brooke Coleman into a role she didn't anticipate.

The junior was at home this summer when she got a call from head coach Deane Webb, who expressed his concerns to her about the team’s academic troubles in recent semesters.

Webb proposed a unique solution: Coleman would become the program’s first-ever academic captain.

“I was honored because I take academics very seriously,” Coleman said. “I know there are some athletes that may put it second. In my mind, academics is what is going to make me successful in the end.”

Of course, selecting Coleman wasn’t much of a difficult choice for Webb.

Coleman double majors in sports management and marketing while carrying a 3.7 GPA. Last year, in addition to being named to Ohio’s dean’s list for the fall and spring semesters, the Mid-American Conference named her to the All-Academic team, the conference’s honor roll and a recipient of the Commissioner’s Award.

Unfortunately for Coleman, her impact on the Bobcats has been somewhat limited. She’s been sidelined for a majority of the season due to a concussion.

Coleman’s spot on the sideline has been filled by freshman Erica Walker in the meantime. Besides the injury though, Webb said he tends to go with younger players because the learning curve is steeper.

This week, however, Coleman returned to practice.

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“Brooke is starting to do some good things,” Webb said. “When you’re out for almost a month and you come back, then it’s going to take you a couple weeks to get back to the speed of the game. We’ve seen Brooke up and coming. That’s an on-going competition.”

Coleman offers a different perspective of the Bobcats — and the landscape of college sports in general.

She said the biggest challenge students face is time management. When student-athletes struggle with either their academics or their sport, they often have to make a difficult choice.

“At that point when you don’t have it, your academics fall behind or your sport falls behind,” Coleman said. “At that point they decide to make a decision and some choose sport and some choose academics, but the good players can learn to balance both without having to choose.”

For Ohio, Coleman may be the gel that binds the unit together.

Webb has said throughout the fall season, the team always stresses cohesiveness on the court and off it.

“I feel like (freshmen) can speak to me freely about whether they’re doing bad in classes, whether they’re doing great, whether they think they need help on something,” Coleman said. “They’re open with me about it. I think that brings both ends together.”

Coleman’s main advice to her younger teammates is to perfect their time management skills, something she said many student athletes lacked.

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She tells everyone to use the academic planners given to them in the beginning of the year, as Coleman has been giving advice like this in order to help the Bobcats in the classroom.

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