Year of the Tiger 2018

Books before blocks

'You must first be a student before you are an athlete'

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While the Tigers are known for their performance on the field, they have to have a good handle on things in the classroom before they even begin to suit up.

Student-athletes are required by the New Mexico Activities Association to maintain good academic standing in order to set foot on the field and ineligibility means inability to play. Coach Art Abreu Jr. has long recognized the importance of academics in the sports world and instilled that dedication and importance in his team.

“ I just steer them in the right direction, and hopefully they take my advice,” Abreu said. “I do my best to emphasize the student-athlete side of things.”

Abreu’s work ensuring that each of his team members, from eighth-grade to 12th, was eligible to play came long before the state finals.

According to the NMAA, a student must have a grade-point average of 2.0 and no F’s based on the 4.0 grading scale. Abreu held study hall for his players throughout the season every day at lunch to make sure each of them met their required grade checks.

“Do all my boys get 4.0’s? No, that’s not the case. Do all of them get 3.0’s? No, that’s not the case,” Abreu said.  "I push them on all areas, not just football. Studentathlete comes with the expectation that you have a different standard.”

According to Abreu, there were few students he was unable to play due to ineligibility in the past four years. Students under Abreu’s leadership must complete grade checks to play, and the new crop of football players has already turned grade checks into Abreu for the next season. This is not unique to football, but many outside the program have acknowledged his dedication to student achievement.

“[Abreu] models the importance of doing well in the ‘classroom’ in conjunction with being the best athlete and working towards their potential,” said Taos Municipal Schools superintendent Lillian Torrez. “ The combination of this culture is what took us to the top.”

Other coaches at Taos High School also embrace the student-first model of the term studentathlete. The NMAA affirms that the ability to play is a privilege, not a right for students.

“These guys are good students and that’s a testament to Taos High School,” said assistant track coach Hilario Serrano. "You must first be a student before you are an athlete. And I think these young men have done that."

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