We need more Richard Shermans in athletics. No, not the calling-out-Crabtree Richard Sherman. I’m talking about the high school Salutatorian, dual athlete, and Communications Major from Stanford Richard Sherman. We see too many of one (excelling in academics) or the other (excelling in athletics) rather than both (excelling in athletics AND academics). Can we start a movement to promote athletic and academic greatness for you? That is my question for this month’s post.
This is a point of contention for me because I work with athletes who are still schooling at the high school or college level. It’s disheartening to see gifted athletes fumble in academics. Why not be a dual threat? Why not be marketable and not just eligible? What I mean by that is why not have a good GPA and test scores, a healthy academic profile, AND sick athletic stats? This is being marketable rather than just eligible. Having a 2.00 (2.30 for c/o 2016 and beyond) core GPA for NCAA Initial Eligibility, for example, is being eligible, but having a 3.00 GPA, community service hours, and hold athletic honors is being marketable. People (recruiters, employers) want to invest time, effort, and so forth into you because you prove that you are worth it. Also, they want to invest in people that represent themselves as well as the program in the best possible light.
High school athletes, you should always be aware that education will get you out of high school, not your sport. You don’t graduate after you letter all 4 years, you graduate when you have fulfilled state graduation requirements. Real talk. If no athletic scholarships come your way, you can still apply/qualify for academic scholarships.
I want you to be classroom MVPs. I mean, sure that’s great to be all district, region, state, American, world, whatever, but what are you doing in school? Athletes are giving all they physically and mentally can for the betterment of the team, but have 2-3 assignments not turned in for 2 different classes because they “forgot”. Miss me with that. I’m looking at friends, family, coaches, and most importantly, YOU to start this movement.
Athletes, is it hard to come back after school and practice and sit down to about 2 hours of homework? Yes. But is it impossible? No. Ask for help. Go to tutoring. Don’t be lazy. Why? Because YOU are responsible for your education. This is the same education that will get you out of school and on with your life. Why not have a quality education that will actually benefit you way past your athletic career? Yall, it makes people who care about you want to flip a table and kick chairs when they KNOW you are so much smarter than the grades you are posting. It hurts. When we see you short changing yourself, it’s just borderline disrespectful.
Friends are very influential. They may not value education and give you the side eye if you study and (gasp!) do well on a test. You know what? Let them hate. Let them joke. At the end of the day, they will be looking at you to “put them on” because you actually did something for yourself and they haven’t. Remember that. Even if your family doesn’t take an interest in your education, you still need to. They’ve made their choices and have to live with them. You are still in the process of making those choices so you have a chance to do what’s best for you. It can be hard not having support from the people you care about. This is when you need to grow up real fast, be the adult, and make decisions that will benefit your adult life even if you are still in high school or college. Seek out someone who does care whether it’s a neighbor, teacher, coach, pastor, or cousin. Try to find at least one person in your life who will celebrate you academically and athletically.
I need you to approach academics like athletics. Do you openly question your coach about his or her schemes? Do you question an Athletic Trainer about the rehab you go through? Do you disrespect your coach(es)? Well then, treat your teachers as you would your coaches. How do you feel when you miss an assignment in a game? How do you feel when you miss an assignment in school? The answer should be the same. I want you to work on balancing equations like you work on learning a 3 - 4 defense. I need you to be at the honor roll breakfast or on the Dean’s List. I need you to shock the world (shout out to my football guys for that one!). Yes, it will take possibly an obscene amount of work, but you chose this life, or maybe the life chose you. Either way, it’s YOUR life so you should get the most out of it.
You spend the time at practice focused on getting better athletically. You are not on Instagram "straight flexing" while running drills. The same effort you put into practice should be given to homework without the distractions of social media. I need you to develop study skills and habits that rival your skills at whichever position you play or sport you participate in. I need you to have solid fundamentals in academics and athletics so you can get stronger in both. I need you to ask questions and research. I need you to struggle, succeed, and grow. I need you to invest in yourself so others can too in the form of college acceptance, scholarships (free money, yall), career opportunities, and a future.
Why put in all this work to excel athletically and academically? Because there are people who don’t think you can shine anywhere else except in your sport. Prove them wrong with every single A you put up in school. Prove them wrong when your name is in the paper for Athlete of the Week then AGAIN for the Honor Roll. Prove them wrong when you win a game on Friday and own the ACT the following Saturday. Nowhere in the rule book of life does it say that just because you are an athlete that means you have to be the dumbest person in class or the laziest student a teacher has ever seen. You can be the exception to this expectation. You can be a dual threat. Have depth to you. You aren’t just an athlete. You can be SO much more than that.
There will always be the possibility of another athlete out there who is working harder athletically and academically than you. If that scares you, then do everything you can to be THAT athlete people are trying to catch. Invest in yourself because your life will go way past high school, college, and professional athletics. You need to the tools to be successful even after the clock hits 0:00.
This can shift mindsets for you, your teammates and people who drool over everything you do as an athlete. How many people were completely shocked that the Mr. Sherman is the same Mr. Sherman who may have had a higher high school GPA than this year’s favorite 5 star recruit? Just imagine the respect you’d get if you turn up for the game and turn in work on time. If you are lights out in the classroom and on the court/field, this could be something pretty awesome. This doesn’t just happen overnight. This takes dedication, strong work ethic, and motivation. It’s on YOU to put in the work in the classroom and on the field. It is on every single one of you to be more than an athlete. This takes hard work, but you are used to hard work. What you do as an athlete is not easy. It is just a matter of shifting your effort. Lean on a good support system to be better than the rest. You will thank yourself 30 years from now for it.
Me and the People Who Want the Best for You