When I first came to South Dakota State, I decided that I wanted to go pre-dental but after talking with my advisor, I ended up undecided on my major and took courses irrelevant to anything I wanted to do for a career. I still remain bitter that I let my advisor talk me out of what I wanted to do, but he did have a point. If I took the classes I needed to go pre dental, I would most likely get bad grades due to traveling, practices, games, and lifts that take up my study time. I decided to major in Exercise Science but still have to take summer school classes in order to fulfill my requirements in four years. This is just one example of how academics are put on the back burner for student athletes. Dave Meggyesy, former Syracuse all-American linebacker, said “These (college athletics) are more than full time jobs. When I played at Syracuse, it wasn’t like that. We had a regular season and twenty days of spring practice. Now it’s year round. It’s a more cynical system now than when I played.”
Along with the clear academic obstacles placed in front of student athletes, there is also an evident social obstacle. Most athletes are perceived as either the campus hero, or the “dumb-jock” by fellow students. Intellect is not a common word used by everyday students to describe student athletes. Being discriminated on as an athlete can pose a major threat to social skills. In any high school or college setting, students associate with others who are like them. If ordinary students don’t understand the life of an athlete, it is much easier for athletes to latch onto teammates. Research done by Charles Gressard indicates that involvement in sports has hindered the accomplishments of normal developmental tasks such as developing a sense of competence, identity, educational plans, autonomy, and mature interpersonal relationship.
A study done by Catherin McHugh results that students possess some negative attitudes towards student athletes, particularity related to areas of academic performance. She found that students seem to be more suspicious and less trusting of student-athletes obtaining an A in class, simply because they do not believe that athletes have to academic capabilities to obtain an A.
Another study done in the Journal of Higher Education found that student engagement in educationally purposeful activities is positively related to academic outcomes as represented by first year student grades. Both of these studies show that interaction with other students can help with grades and social skills. As an athlete, most of their free time is spent with their team through a common interest (their sport) and finding time outside of school work and athletics is near impossible, therefore social skills start to lack along with academics.
Given the time constraints and additional pressures associated with participation in college sports, Division I institutions may want to be intentional about engaging student athletes in activities that lead...