I used to assume there was a significant difference between our hockey team and the rest of our student-athletes. Hockey players come here from all over the world, so naturally I thought hockey was primary for them, and academics secondary. Conversely, the rest of our student-athletes come here, generally, from just this state, and so I assumed the opposite.
I’ve come to realize that the lines are a whole lot blurrier than that.
Consider the tennis player I spoke to last night who could have graduated after her sophomore year but wants to stay for four to use all of her eligibility. Or our swimmer who wouldn’t have gone to college at all had it not been for her sport. Or the soccer player who would have gone to a much more rigorous academic school but for the fact that she could play soccer here. There’s a story every time you ask.
Sorry, but young people like sports, so much so that they’ll base their entire futures on it.
Look at the social media profiles of student-athletes: You’ll frequently find that they identify by the sport they play; you’ll rarely find they identify by their major. They’d gladly miss their graduation if it meant they could play in an NCAA tournament.
At the dawn of humanity I don’t suspect there was any more utility granted to the study of physics than there was to the study of basketball, but at some point we began valuing the prefrontal cortex over the motor cortex. We confined “smart” to the four walls of a classroom, forgetting that the majority of the brain’s function is to move the organism. Albert Einstein became a “genius,” Stephen Curry just a really good basketball player.
Let’s stop putting our values on students. Let’s ask them what they value, and reward them accordingly.