Collins excels across the board
Standout flips between academics, softball and Ethics Bowl
Most regular college students don’t do much of anything when they’re on spring break.
Grace Collins of the Barry softball team is far from a regular college student.
When Collins was named the Sunshine State Conference Player of the Week on March 7, she had led the Buccaneers to a 7-0 weekly record including an SSC sweep at Florida Tech. She hit .542 with seven runs and four RBI and hit safely in every game to extend an eventual school-record 19-game hitting streak to 11 games. The team’s regular No. 2 hitter and starting right fielder, Collins leads the team with a .431 batting average, 36 runs scored and 14 steals this season.
But that was only half of the story of the junior’s spring break. Collins is in her second year of participation on the Ethics Bowl team at Barry. A double major in history and philosophy, Collins was invited to participate in this debate competition by her philosophy professors. When Barry finished top-five at their regional competition in St. Petersburg, Fla., to qualify for the national competition in Cincinnati, Ohio, Collins assumed she would not be able to participate at nationals.
“I just assumed that there was no option for me to go,” said Collins. “It’s during the spring season and I figured there was no way for me to get there because of how many games we play and because we do a full week of traveling from Miami to Georgia and back during spring break.”
“I like to know what’s going on with my team academically and athletically,” Barry head coach Danielle Penner said. “When Grace came to me and told me that her debate team had made it to the national tournament in Ohio, she immediately said ‘don’t worry, I’m not going. I just wanted to let you know because I think it’s a great accomplishment and you would always ask me about it.’
“I could see the disappointment when she said that.” said Penner. “I asked Grace if there was any way she could go. I told her that if she could be at our games, I didn’t care if she was tired. I told her to talk to her debate coaches and see if they were willing to work it out.”
Collins put in the time to find alternate flights to and from the Ethics Bowl competition around her softball schedule. The philosophy department was happy to have Collins continue with the Ethics Bowl team at nationals in Cincinnati, and Collins wrangled rides to and from the airport on each end of her exhausting journey.
“We had home games on Monday,” recalled Collins. “Tuesday and Wednesday, we had games at Florida Tech with a doubleheader on Wednesday. I flew out of the Melbourne (Fla.) airport Wednesday, right after the game. My grandparents drove me to the airport and I changed in the car and made my flight with about an hour to spare.
“I flew through Charlotte, N.C., and got to Cincinnati about 11 o’clock and took a hotel shuttle to downtown and got there around midnight. I studied with my Ethics Bowl team for several hours to prepare and the competition started around 8 or 8:30 Thursday morning. It went until about 2 o’clock. I was picked up by the hotel shuttle around 3, got back to the airport, flew to Atlanta, Ga., and was picked up again by some family members and brought back to the team to play the next day.”
“We had a cut-off time for Grace in that Florida Tech doubleheader,” remembers Penner. “She had everything packed and prepared, her books and clothes. She had given me her itinerary and arranged a ride. The University paid more than double on her flights to accommodate her schedule. It was really awesome how much support there was to allow Grace to do both softball and the Ethics Bowl.”
The Ethics Bowl format provides a list of cases to each team in advance of the competition. Team members study their assigned cases, divided up between the team members with two to three cases per person, and must present in front of the judges for 10 minutes without notes. Schools are not divided into divisions like they are in athletics, and the Barry team competed against Loyola-Chicago, Maryland and Dartmouth at the national competition.
“Usually, the cases deal with up-and-coming political debates or moral topics,” said Collins, who plans to attend law school after graduation. “The ones that I had in the spring national tournament, one case dealt with students who commit academic dishonesty and cheat in a college or university setting. Should they be given a demarcation for dishonesty on their official transcripts? My second case was about teacher tenure. It was a case in Arizona where they’re linking teacher tenure to classroom effectiveness, measured by their students’ performance on a standardized test.
“You do a lot of preparation beforehand and you aren’t allowed to bring any notes in with you to the table,” said Collins. “You have to debate and come up with stuff on the fly that you may not have prepared for. The judges may ask you questions from left field and you have to give them an answer.”
Both sets of teammates, softball and Ethics Bowl, were supportive of Collins’ sleep-deprived spring break schedule.
“My Ethics Bowl teammates thought it was beyond crazy to say the least,” said Collins. “They were all traveling together, so I wasn’t traveling with them. They were just worried that I was going to get there and not have the time to study and I’d be burned out in between games. But my softball team loved it. They thought it was some great adventure that Grace is doing. They thought it was insane, but we are an academic team so they really believed that I could do it and do it well and come back and still play. They all just wanted to know how I did. I got text messages and calls from my coach and teammates asking me how we did and what I was studying for.”
“It was important to Grace, so it was important to all of us,” said Penner. “Yes, we were all very interested. It’s not shocking because we’re using this as an example but our whole team is like this. Grace is also the vice president of our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at Barry. She runs my team in community service. She’s an overachiever to begin with and this story says a lot about her character and her desire to succeed on and off the field.”
“She met us at the restaurant (on Friday) and you’d never know she had a tiny amount of sleep,” said Penner. “She ended up hitting over .600 at the tournament and was just a great example all the way around. I couldn’t be prouder.”
“It was so great that the University was almost pushing me to do it all,” said Collins. “They weren’t telling me not to. The athletic department was loving it, the philosophy department was excited that I could go. It was just great that I got the support from both sides.
“Whenever my players do something like this, it gives me an excitement to know them in 15-20 years because I just know they’re going to do something great,” said Penner. “Grace is no different. I see all of the areas she excels in. She was all-conference as an outfielder. She has been a great leadoff for us and a great No. 2. She has accepted every role she has ever done and she has done well with it. Academically, she is a pleasure. It’s just the type of athlete we like to have and she’s exactly that. It makes me excited to know what she’ll do in the future. Grace is not only a leader on our team but she is a leader in our Barry community. She is the example by which Division II student-athletes that are interested in balance should try and mirror.”