4 Truths About Being a Student Athlete
There is a big misconception out there that student athletes are dumb, entitled, meat heads, and undeserving of things that they get. I am here to tell you that this could not be further from the truth.
Fact: NCAA Division 1 student athletes have a graduation rate of 86%, while the general student population maintains a 64% rate. This is a measurement of students who graduate within six years of entering university. Link
Fact: In a self-survey done by NCAA Division 1 athletes it was found that the average football player was spending 45 hours a week in football related activities. The average of all the sports was 32.5 hours a week spent in athletic related activities. Link
With these two facts, it is easy to see that the numbers do not match the misconceptions, yet rather point to how impressive student athletes are.
As a student athlete myself, it always pained me to hear other students, who only had school in their life and that was it, complain about how busy they were and how they could not handle the “stress” of college. I am not one to compare stress in my life to stress in someone else’s because everyone is going through something in life and it is not fair to judge, but also most normal students do not have a stigma on them 24/7 that they are entitled, dumb and undeserving. I believe student athlete’s around the world know exactly what I am talking about in this instance.
I have compiled a list of 4 other things that the average student, average professor, and average person do not understand about being a student athlete.
- Exhaustion– Workouts, travel, practices, meetings, events, community outreach….oh and then classes, midterms, finals, group assignments, and tests. One of the hardest things to do as a student athlete is to have the energy to perform well in classes. After working out and practicing a student athletes body is exhausted and it takes a toll mentally as well. So when at class it may look like we are out of it or tired or not paying attention, but it is not because we aren’t interested or do not care it is because we have been up since 5 am doing sprints, then had practice, then had to stretch with the team, then had meetings with our coach and watch 2 hours of film, and then ate a quick meal on the way to class.
- Our Coaches Don’t Care About Us– This may come across as a shock to most, but the fact of the matter is that college sports nowadays are big business. And any time there is significant money involved, there is pressure to perform. This is true for college coaches. Many college coaches get into the profession for the right reason, but then as they go through the ranks they realize that they are only as good as their last game. Meaning there is constant pressure from the school administration and fans for them to produce winning teams, and not graduating players because fans do not care if “Johnny Football” had a meaningful education and graduated. This creates an atmosphere where coaches fake care about academics, just to appease the media, college presidents, and the athlete’s parents. I have had a coach at every level of football that I have played in put up two fingers and state in front of the team, “school first” (holding up two fingers) then say (holding up only one finger) “football second”. Simply put, it may seem funny at the time to joke about how the one finger up is actually what is important, and that is the sport, but it really is telling about the current state of college athletics. It’s all a façade for most coaches when it comes to caring about the players. (Note: I have had many coaches that really care about me, and I do not blame coaches for this because it is their heads on the line when losses occur. It is the coaches livelihood. I blame the NCAA and all the money hungry people at the top)
- We Have No Way To Make Money- Scholarships are amazing and truly an honor to receive one, but let us not forget that those scholarships are earned and not given. Through years of perfecting a craft, often times from a very young age, those scholarships are representative of years of sacrifice. But scholarships do not cover everything it takes to live, and most people in athletics do not actually receive scholarships. With the schedule that was talked about earlier plus classes and studying, there is no time left over to get a normal part time job like most do in school. So often times the world class college athletes will be doing world class workouts in world class facilities and playing on TV in front of millions of viewers on a cable station that just paid over a billion dollars for the rights to air their game, only to go home to a tiny apartment that they cannot afford, and ramen noodles are on the menu for dinner.
Example of Hypocrisy About College Athletes
Let us say that there are two college students, one named Johnny and one named Steve. Johnny just so happens to be the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and a household name. Steve is a genius musician who got a full scholarship for music to one of the most renown music schools in the world. Johnny cannot make any money off of his image, his likeness, appearances, speeches, autograph signings and cannot even receive any gift that “a regular student would not have access to receiving” because he plays in the NCAA where he is a student athlete and therefor an “amateur” and cannot make money off of being an athlete. Steve on the other hand regularly performs at concert halls around the nation making thousands of dollars while he is in school, even though the “average student at his school did not have access to receiving these benefits”. Steve is able to make whatever money he wants, even though he is also a student-musician. Both have dedicated their life to their craft, but only one can benefit. But please tell me again how Johnny is an amateur? Ridiculous, this is ridiculous.
- Professors Resent Athletes- Unfortunately it is my experience that some professors wildly resent college athletics and specifically the students who participate in them. This is because of various factors, but one overriding one that I have seen is that professors in the past have dealt with a few (out of countless) student athletes who were disrespectful and not good students. With any subgroup of people there will always be all different spectrums of personality and behaviour. Of course some athletes are knuckleheads in class and disrespectful, but let’s not forget that there are regular students who are knuckleheads in classes too. The point is there are knuckleheads all over the place these days, but to judge a whole group of people based off of the actions of a tiny fraction of idiots is unfair. Athletes can be some of the best students because athletes have trained ability to listen to coaching/teaching, make adjustments, work hard, be on time and always maintain a level of respect for authority. So please, the notion that student athletes are bad students to have in class for professors need to go.
A lot has been said, but I want to leave you with one final thought: student athletes are amazing and I have respect for every single one of them. Keep on dreaming, working and representing student athletes in a positive fashion.