March 26, 2014
By Jerome Boettcher | Subscribe to Commodore Nation
Student-athletes tend to look at their lives as a triangle.
They juggle academic responsibilities, athletic demands and social lives.
Often, one of those three gets lost in the Bermuda triangle.
Shelby Moats, a junior on the men’s basketball team, has made sure to prioritize his triangle. As a result, he appears to be on the track to a bright future.
“The triangle is not realistic—you get to pick two,” he said. “I decided to choose school and basketball. My social life has been lacking a little bit… Obviously I still have friends. I like to step out and see them when I can. But it has become less of a priority because I have long-term goals that I know I can accomplish if I can do this.”
His accomplishment shouldn’t be overlooked.
In May, Moats will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in economics—in just three years at Vanderbilt. In 15 years at Vanderbilt, coach Kevin Stallings can’t recall one of his players graduating in three years.
“He is an outstanding student and a great kid. He might leave here in four years with two degrees as smart as he is,” Stallings said. “He is just one of those guys that, a, he’s gifted with his intelligence and, b, he is a very hard worker.”
Indeed, Moats hopes to have two degrees in hand in a couple of years. He has applied to Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt. If accepted, he would start graduate school in the fall and have one year of eligibility left. By Spring 2016, he plans to be wrapping up a master’s degree in business administration.
“My parents always taught me to do your best,” he said. “My best was A’s. I was valedictorian, and it came pretty easy. Here, it has definitely gotten harder. I’m not going to say college is easy, but I’ve gotten better with my process with planning and going through classes. I guess I’ve gotten smarter, too.”
The Moats family places a strong emphasis on education. Shelby and his older sister, Scotti, both graduated from Waconia High School in Minnesota as the valedictorians of their classes. Scotti, after a four-year basketball career at Bethel University in Minnesota, is in her first year of graduate school at the University of Minnesota.
Their father, Scott Moats, is the vice president for academic affairs and provost at Crown College in St. Bonifacius, Minn. A former senior pastor, Scott received his Ph.D. in educational policy and administration from the University of Minnesota.
“He’s got degrees on degrees. I don’t even know what for sometimes,” Shelby said. “Both he and my mom have really pushed academics as being in the forefront. Honestly, they didn’t want me to get let down by basketball when I was younger. My dad was a college athlete, as well (playing football at Division II Nebraska-Kearney). He was like: ‘It is rough. If you don’t get where you want to go, I want academics to take you where you want to go.’”
Basketball has proven to aid him in his educational pursuits.
Summer vacation is a foreign concept to Moats and his teammates. Throughout June and July, the team is on campus for individual workouts and summer practices. Thus, most also attend class.
Moats took two classes in June and then another in July. This came after he spent the month of May studying abroad in London as a part of Vanderbilt’s Maymester program. Moats, who has been to every continent except for Antarctica and Australia, kept busy with classes on war and plunder, trips to war and history museums, a tribute to Winston Churchill and stops at Big Ben and The London Eye.
Just as rewarding as seeing the sights, though, was for Moats to break out of his comfort zone and bond with other Vanderbilt students.
“That was the best trip I’ve ever taken,” he said. “To just be in an environment with kids that weren’t necessarily athletes—they see the world differently. I was able to see their perspective, see their view of how they act. I was able to break out of that athletic mode where, ‘Oh, he is just the dumb jock.’ Well, not really. Not anymore.”
His transcript isn’t perfect—“Let’s be honest, this is Vanderbilt—I don’t have straight A’s,’” he said—but Moats proudly boasts a 3.6 GPA and has been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll the past two seasons. With graduation just months away, Moats isn’t slowing down. He took 16 credit hours during the fall semester and has the full load of 18 this semester.
Though he has sacrificed some of his social life, Moats believes his ability to balance basketball and school, and graduate ahead of schedule, prepares him for the professional world.
“It is a huge selling point for me, especially as I’m starting to look at internships and interviews and things like that,” Moats said. “If I can pitch to (future employers) that I can multi-task while playing a sport and graduating in three years, I think that is something people look for.”