The classroom versus the sport

Photo courtesy: The Mountaineer

For many young children it has been their dream to be able to play the sports that they love and imitate their favorite players they see on television. Utilizing their athletic ability they strive to compete on the professional level in hopes to be like the greats such as Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Ed Reed, Florence Joyner, and many others. However, before these athletes were able to perform on the big stage they had to attend colleges or universities first.

Athletes tend to see competing in college as a stepping stone to having the opportunity to develop and grow in order to compete at a professional level. When deciding where to continue their athletic career at the collegiate level every athlete must choose a major of study in order to be considered a student at said university. Most universities offer very diverse areas of studies, yet it is believed that the majority of college athletes are influenced to choose less challenging majors in order to be able to dedicate the proper time to succeed in their sport.

“I solely chose [business administration] as my major because that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t need much influence,” said Raylan Wagner, right-handed pitcher for Florida A&M University (FAMU) baseball team.

It’s no secret that student-athletes have some of the most strict schedules on campus because along with balancing school work they must also dedicate numerous hours improving their performance as an athlete. While many students are out enjoying time with friends and hobbies athletes must use what would be considered free time to be in study hall.

“I would say our time is way more restricted because we are sometimes using our free time to do work regular students were able to do at an earlier date or we wouldn’t be able to do certain activities due to it affecting performance at an upcoming date,” stated Javante Stephens, a high jumper for FAMU’s track and field team. “As long as you have a passion for that said major it’s doable to multitask it with sports.”

In recent years there has been a shift in the level of importance of education amongst college athletes. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) reports that there are currently 520,000 college athletes competing across the nation. According to NCAA recruiting facts, less than 2% of college-level athletes are actually going to make it to the professional level. With hundreds of thousands of athletes competing in the same sport on every level and only the best of the best will get the opportunity of a lifetime to continue their athletic career.

To the majority of athletes this is a growing concern for them because should they not be fortunate enough for an opportunity to compete at the next level they will have to seek professional jobs in order to provide for themselves. Athletes are now investing more time and dedication to succeeding in classes and taking more rigorous majors as a backup plan.

“I feel in today’s age student-athletes are more cautious to the fact that their athletic career will eventually end, so we are just as focused in the classroom so we can be prepared for what’s next in our life after sports,” Stephens added.

As athletically gifted as college athletes may be there is always that looming fear that one injury, decision, or life circumstance could strip them of the ability to continue the sport that they love. These athletes are now beginning to start making the best decisions that give them the best chance of thriving. The day will come when you can’t move like you used to but what you learned will always remain.