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 foster both athletic and academic greatness in our student-athletes? 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 have a one up on people? Why not be marketable and not just eligible? What I mean by that is why not have a good GPA and test scores, and a healthy academic profile AND sick athletic stats? This makes an athlete marketable rather than just eligible. It’s all well and good to have the 2.00 (2.30 for c/o 2016 and beyond) core GPA for NCAA Initial Eligibility, for example, but that just makes an athlete eligible. Being marketable means that an athlete has the requirements to get in but has gone above and beyond to make them an asset rather than just an option. They now have added value to their brand. People can look at this athlete and want to invest time, effort, and so forth into them because they prove that they are worth it.
At the high school level, it’s so important for athletes to realize the importance of their education before they even step foot on to a high school campus. Their education will get them out of high school, not their sport. Athletes don’t graduate after they letter in their sport all 4 years, they graduate when they have fulfilled state graduation requirements. Real talk. Better yet, if no athletic scholarships come their way, they can still apply/qualify for academic scholarships if they put forth the effort in the classroom.
I want athletes to be classroom MVPs. I mean, sure that’s great that they are all district, region, state, American, world, whatever, but what are they doing in school? Laziness in school may be the biggest excuse (note: not REASON). We need to encourage athletes at any level to put forth the effort they put into athletics into academics. 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, athletes to start this movement.
The WANT to do better academically needs to be there. Where does that come from? If it doesn’t come directly from the athlete, it needs to come from his/her support system. Parents, friends, family, fans, I’m talking to you on these next few points. Don’t just buck them up because they are Player of the Week, buck them up because they got an A on the Algebra II test. If you make a way to pick up your athlete from late practices, you can make a way to bring them to the library so they can get their assignments done. Just like you have the coach’s number on speed dial, the teachers’ emails should be in your “recent contact” folder. You are their biggest cheerleader at every single game whether they win or lose, so you need to be their biggest support when they do well or not on test. You should be encouraging your athlete to win academically and athletically. You need to be the one in their ear letting them know that athletics and academics go hand and hand. You probably see your athlete more than school and team personnel so YOU are the biggest influence on them once they leave school and practice. Make sure that you are being a positive one. This is so clutch for your athlete’s future.
Coaches, I know you already have more than enough on your plate. But if it’s a part of your program’s philosophy to produce quality men and women then education should be emphasized. That doesn’t necessarily mean giving up practice time for study time, but taking the time to make sure your athletes are excelling in school and not just remaining eligible. Take some time and engage in open dialogue with teachers, professors, and athletic academic counselors to find out about your athletes’ academic progress. Give special recognition, or just a shout out, for academic success. When athletes know that education is just as important to the coach as athletics, they may find a little more motivation to put in work. The word of a coach can be so impactful on athletes. When athletes know coach has his or her ears to the academic streets, they are probably going to do a little more to make sure that coach gets a good word back.
This can shift mindsets for athletes and people who drool over every action made by athletes. For example, how many people were completely shocked that the Mr. Sherman who went off on National TV is the same Mr. Sherman who had a higher high school GPA than your favorite 5 star recruit? Just imagine the personal confidence boost of athletes who turn up for the game and turn in their work on time. If we can have athletes being 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. This takes a village. Family and friends, be their cheerleaders and support systems athletically and academically. Coaches, let these athletes know that a sound education is clutch in life and should be treated as such. Together, if we all put as much emphasis on education as we do on athletics, things can be a little different. Who’s excited about that?