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Cathi Aradi

Effort, Academics is "Wynn"ing Combo at Faulkner State (AL)

Effort can make or break a person as well as a team.

That's an ideal that players can take with them well after their playing careers are over. That's exactly what Hal Wynn, the head coach of Faulkner State College in Alabama, feels is key to a player. Effort. Wynn has gotten every ounce of effort out of his players on the field and particularly in the classroom.

Wynn has helped to build a rich tradition of academic excellence at Faulkner. The past three years his teams have earned NFCA All-Academic team honors in NAIA. The highlight of Faulkner's academic success came in 1997 when the team was ranked first in the nation with a combined team grade point average of 3.36.

"Our GPA is one of our first and foremost goals," said Wynn. "It is a major goal and each year we try to build upon the previous year and push them even more. Although we try not to be unrealistic, we try to stress continuous improvement."

In the team's eight years of existence, it has never had a combined team GPA lower than 3.14. Along with the No. 1 ranking in 1997, Faulkner placed seventh in '96 and most recently third among the country's top academic NAIA teams. This past season, Wynn had three players named to the academic all-American team and has had as many as seven players be named to the team in a single year.

"We don't take the awards for granted," explained Wynn."We're all ecstatic when we learn about them. When the awards come, we use it as a reminder to be successful the following year. It also serves as a good example for our freshmen and sophomores that you can do it both in the classroom and on the field."

Wynn, who played baseball at Faulkner, understands the demands placed on a student-athlete. But Wynn, who notes that his player's GPA's tend to be higher in the spring than in the fall, tries to give them options to achieve the overall goal.

"We give them advice on study techniques, they have support labs where they can come in to do work, plus tutors are available to them," said Wynn. "It's really nice because most times, the tutors end up being other players on the team so it's convenient when we're on the road. It's tough. I remember my years playing baseball. To try to balance things can be challenging."

Wynn began his coaching career eight years ago. He was working as the school's director of student activities. The school was looking into adding an additional women's sport. "They knew about my background in baseball," Wynn said. "And lo and behold, here I am."I've really enjoyed it here. It's interesting working with women compared to men. With women, you've got 14 to 16 different personalities which makes life interesting. Plus I've got two other personalities at home with my wife and daughter, so it adds another interesting dimension."

Upon his hiring, Wynn knew immediately the importance of effort to an athlete's overall success. "To me the big thing is being successful in whatever you do," said Wynn. "All I ask out of my players is to give me the effort needed to win. Whether it be in the classroom or on the field, the important thing is giving the absolute amount of effort."

He definitely practices what he preaches. Through his effort, Faulkner has become one of the premier academically exceptional institutions in the nation.