Sledge succeeds in and out of classroom

For junior Ashley Sledge, balancing her pursuit of an advertising and public relations degree as well as competing on the Alabama gymnastics team is a daunting task.

Her key to success? A planner.

“I learned how to use a planner my sophomore year,” she said. “I had never really used one before and just kind of got by with turning things in, doing things last minute. But once I did that, my life got so much better.”

Sledge is one of the Crimson Tide’s top performers inside and outside of the gymnasium. Last season, she was named a first team Vault All-American and second team All-SEC while helping lead the Tide to its 5th national championship in gymnastics.

But in the classroom, she is just as accomplished.

Sledge was named a Scholastic All-American her freshman year and made the SEC Academic Honor Roll as well as the Dean’s List her freshman and sophomore years.

She said academics is an important part of being a student at Alabama, and her planner helps her stay organized.

“I came in my sophomore year and I was like, ‘I’m making a change this year. I’m not going to be up all hours of the night trying to finish something and then try to go practice,’” she said. “That’s just not conducive to what we do. Outside of the gym, making the right decisions has helped me inside of the gym.”

It helps to have a head coach like Sarah Patterson who values academics just as much as much as gymnastics.

“Sarah stresses academics more than she stresses our athletics. I know that’s hard for people to grasp because she’s a coach,” Sledge said about Patterson. “She’s focused on our academics while we’re here so that we can succeed later in life.”

The team has multiple staff members and tutors to help the gymnasts stay on task academically, but ultimately, it is Patterson who makes sure the girls are keeping up with their studies. Patterson is sent monthly reports on grades and attendance and conducts meetings to make sure everyone is where they need to be.

“From day one, one of the responsibilities that I have as a head coach is their academic success,” Patterson said. “I feel that, as a coach, that’s my first responsibility as the head coach is to make sure they are set academically.”

As Sledge has progressed into her third year at the Capstone, she’s taken on more responsibility in and out of the classroom.

“I used to have meetings with her to keep her in line, and as we move into her junior year now, she asks for meetings with me now, she’s organized, she’s vocal as a leader,” Patterson said. “She’s the perfect example of watching someone grow and mature into their athletic ability, their leadership role and being a successful young adult.”

So what does the future hold for Sledge? She is still deciding on a number of options including graduate school for marketing or sports management. Patterson says the sky is the limit.

“I think Ashley Sledge could be president if she wanted to be,” Patterson said. “She has it all. She is bright, she is smart, she has a great personality, but she has that charisma that people will love in the business world.”