The Pros and Cons of being a Student Athlete
Pros vs Cons
Everyone looks up to athletes as heroes or idols. Everyone grows up wanting to be a college athlete and have stories to tell their children when they get old about their “glory” days. While this is true, many people don’t know the struggles and hardships that college athletes go through. In this blog, we will compare the pros versus the cons of being a college athlete at the University of Kentucky. The subjects that will be discussed will be about expectations and glory, time management, and academics.
Everyone has their own favorite college football and basketball team. Some people’s lives revolve around these athletes, but you have to remember they are also students. The positives of being a student athlete are known to be numerous since the University of Kentucky abides by the rules of NCAA of providing number of services to the student athlete that counts as an investment for the future. On the other hand, no one knows about the negatives that these kids experience. The pressures and stresses that are put on an athlete in college are far greater than that of a professional athlete. Student athletes at the University of Kentucky are held at a high standard in comparison with other educational institutions listed by the NCAA. UK basketball is arguably the most prestigious basketball tradition in college basketball. These athletes, who are the same age as us, have such high expectations by their fans. If these expectations aren’t met the fans get rowdy and short-tempered with these kids.
Although some people may get short-tempered with these kids, many people feel that they can do no wrong. Student athletes get the special treatment that many people don’t receive because they are known celebrities on campus. Because of the high praise and glory fans give student athletes, it creates a swagger that these athletes take on the court which can help improve their game.
Going back to the Kentucky basketball expectations, the players have extremely high expectations. With high pre-rankings, the young Kentucky basketball team has high expectations that the fans wish will be met. With five players in the top 20 in the nation at their positions, they have their work cut out for them. With sophomore Terrence Jones as the number one ranked power forward in the nation (Ramsey, 2011) everyone knows he’s dealing with some stress to fill those expectations. Besides being a UK athlete and just being an athlete develops/improves skills like tolerance, respect for differences, strong character, and many more. The benefit in being a UK athlete extends those benefits by a support program called CATS. CATS has a number of services, like providing the student athletes with mentoring services if they face any struggles whether in their academic or athletic career. Athletes with such high expectations get caught up in the hype, lose focus on what’s important, and in the end begin to experience the negative effects of being a student athlete.
Although high expectations can be stressful to some athletes, other athletes use this to fuel their motivation. This is the same for teams with high expectations, they just find a way to win and succeed no matter how the job is done. The form of stress that the athlete, again using Terrence Jones as an example, is feeling with high expectations is actually healthy.
Here is a scenario: he could start the season off slow, then fans begin to wonder “is he really the best at power forward?” The answer is yes, give it some time. Every great athlete can go through a cold spell but they end up pulling their act together, but this is where the negatives come in and the stress piles on these student athletes. Because this is all hypothetical Mr. Jones has nothing to worry about, but he may end up at the gym working on his game even more after practice. The little extra bit of work put in puts harm on the body, and the extra time causes less time to work on class work.
Although the extra time put in on his skills may be seen as hurtful in other areas such as academics, but it is beneficial to the team and obviously his game. Student athletes find practicing a way to escape from school work and a way to cope with their stresses. This is because student athletes find the sport that they participate in stress relieving, and the athlete stays interested in their sport. Remembering to balance their time at the gym and their time studying is not a skill that each student athlete has by nature, but being a UK student athlete, it is mandatory to fulfill a number of hours in the CATS support program building of studying, which helps a student athlete balance practice and studying time (Thomas, 2011).
Students everywhere learn the valuable lesson of time management in college. This lesson’s value is heightened substantially when a student is a student athlete. If a student athlete doesn’t manage their time well, they begin to see a drop in their grades. After the grades begin plummeting, an athlete will begin to have to worry more about their grades instead of their game. As a result practices are missed to do homework, social events are not attended creating more stress, and relationships are beginning to break down due to lack of time spent on them. Social events are a big part of being in college. Not being able to attend them because of school work is a very aggravating thing as a student athlete. Not only can social events not be attended because of school work but because of the always dangerous substance alcohol. Alcohol to a student athlete is a very dangerous because if it results in breaking laws, the student athlete experiences academic probation which can jeopardize their status on the team. It’s obvious that a student athlete experiences isolation from the general student due to the requirement they have to fulfill to stay on top of their game and courses (Thomas, 2011). The downside is inability to socialize which brings a couple of down sides to the table, yet the benefits of the isolation experienced will improve or generate skills that will improve socializing skills in the future (Watt, Moore III 14). In fact, isolation from the regular student promotes skills for the student athlete like positive identity, strong character, responsibility, and self acceptance. Not that isolation from the others is beneficial, in fact, what’s causing isolation is commitment to the self, team, yet it’s causing positive impact (Watt, Moore III 14; Carodine, Almond, Gratto 25-27).
The other way someone can view time management is that time is not wasted yet used wisely. It’s obvious that a student athlete has an inflexible schedule, which is a downside. But on the other hand, this fact makes the statement, “Time is money”, more understandable due to daily practice of not having enough hours in the day. The benefit of having a tight schedule due to numerous responsibilities maximizes the outcome and work done from that person (Randy Pausch Lecture: Time Management). And again, the responsibility the student athletes with a tight schedule prevents them from drinking alcohol, since the zero tolerance policy for practice, and the practices are seven days a week. While if drinking was not avoidable and the events caused some law troubles, the student athlete is subject to academic probation which will end their athletic career (Thomas, 2011).
In an interview that was conducted with freshman baseball player Spencer Drake, he was asked what he thought was the biggest negative thing of being a student athlete was. “I’d have to say staying on top of school work and keeping relationships strong are the toughest things about college athletics” says Drake. “I’ve always have had time to be with my closest friends and my girl, but in college you set your priorities and use your time wisely and hope that the people that call themselves ‘friends’ understand your lack of time.”
Lack of time in relationships is a huge stressor that any athlete takes on. Athletes are reported to have more stress from relationships than non-athletes (Wilson and Pritchard, 2005). This would include conflicts with boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s, their family, or with their close friends, all who expect time that cannot be given. “I know that as of lately my mom has been upset with me because of the lack of home visits. I just don’t have the time to go home that I would if I weren’t an athlete” (Drake, 2011).
Another thing that takes time away from athletes on the field and off the field is injury to the athlete. The disappointment an athlete has when he or she can’t be on the field or court to help their team is one of the worst feelings. Injuries are a key component in an athlete’s life, whether they are key injuries that sideline them for weeks or nagging injuries that affect their playing abilities. Nonetheless, student athletes receive full health care plan that covers any kind of injury, illness, or surgery (Thomas, 2011). People that aren’t athletes don’t think about the pain, physical and emotional, that an athlete endures over a season. Many people believe that football is sometimes too physical, but that’s why the players love to play the game, despite the high risk of injury.
Moving from one physical aspect of injuries to another of energy, athletes are expected to have high energy levels. I don’t care who you are, being energetic for a workout at 5:50 in the morning is beyond possible. This is what is expected of the University of Kentucky’s baseball team. With a workout that lasts until 7:10 in the morning, many people are still sleeping by the time the team is done getting better. As college students, everyone knows that they aren’t going to bed earlier to get their good night’s rest, but instead staying up watching TV or doing homework seems about right. This lack of sleep leads to illnesses and stress which can minimize the ability to perform well in academic and athletic careers. Nonetheless, the experience in being a student athlete provides a number of commitments through the CHAMPS program that guides the student athlete in their college experience (Carodine, Almond, Gratto 25-27).
Injuries may occur frequently, but a perk as a student athlete at the University of Kentucky is that student athletes at UK benefit from the health care system provided by UK Athletics to its members (Thomas, 2011). The system covers the bill of the medical injuries and illnesses that a student athlete have, in addition to, the student athlete doesn’t have to schedule an appointment with any doctor, clinic, or hospital, because their trainers will do that for them. This is beneficial to the student athletes because they get treatment the regular student won’t have for free (Thomas, 2011).
Many other benefits are extracted from being a student athlete, like the benefit of having a healthy body which leads to a healthy brain, having such a benefit can never go wrong. Being physically fit is a benefit that anyone would take. Athletes are always well conditioned and their bodies are healthy. Since a student athlete exercises daily, some of the payoff is in the long run. Aging athletes, in comparison with non-athletes, the athletes are more resilient (Thomas, 2011).
Every student in college goes through a time where their school work is overwhelming and causes stress. The stress caused by academics on a student athlete is greater than stress caused on a non-student athlete. This is because student athletes in the class room don’t get much slack from their peers. The preconceptions from non-athletes are that student athletes are “jocks” or are found to be dumb. These misconceptions about athletes being dumb can hurt self-esteem of athletes and can lead to stress in the classroom yet the development of self-esteem is a result from the isolation of student athletes from the regular students, which is showing that isolation for a student athlete is becoming an upside that also payback a number of benefits. Statistics were made by the NCAA comparing the graduation rates of student athletes with non-athletic students. The statistics revealed that student athletes in all three divisions, in either gender, or any race, are more likely to graduate than non-athletes (Watt, Moore III 10). The truth is that athletes are not dumb and work just as hard as normal students in the classroom with their teachers.
To avoid the negative stereotypes, student athletes have their perks that allow them to stay on top of their school work. At the University of Kentucky the service provided is called the CATS program support. This program is run by UK Athletics department that requires the student athlete to complete a mandatory number of hours of study with a tutor or without a tutor. Study hours without tutoring are called silent study hours. Silent study hours are done in the CATS building, where the use of cell phones and electronics is not allowed. Even the use of personal workstations is not tolerated; in return, a computer lab is available which is programmed not to access any website without the permission of the lab instructor (Thomas, 2011). The beauty of having such strict rules that are set by someone else makes it easier to follow and adapt to, especially if the requirements of fulfilling the study hours in the CATS building jeopardize the student athlete’s status on the team (Saifallah, 2011).
I later asked Drake how being an athlete has affected his schoolwork and because of schoolwork how it has restrained him from going out socializing. “I’ve been able to get work done during the week, but the time it takes for baseball doesn’t allow for the normal college activities most students participate in during the weekend. I know it’s ‘good’ for me, but everyone would like to go out and be able to live it up during their college days” (Drake, 2011). This shows the lack of time for free time or down time where a student athlete can relieve stress.
Unlike regular students, student athletes are required to use their creativity and their critical thinking abilities on a daily basis. The use of creativity is being used through everyday practice, and critical thinking is used through academic courses, which implies convergent thinking. Since the brain has two sides, right and left, each has their own purpose. The right side of the brain does a divergent thinking process that relates to creativity, while the left side of the brain does the convergent thinking process. The use of the left side of the brain usually takes action when solving mathematical problems or science.
No doubt that a student athlete experience and trains their left and right sides of the brain, and being a UK athlete helps expand the use of the brain resulting in maximizing what the brain can accomplish mentally. Not to mention, most of the benefits gained from being an athlete are mental abilities or skills.
As anyone can tell, the negativities of a student athlete are numerous. These negativities however are somehow outweighed by the positives, or there would not be any student athletes. Either way athletes go through scrutiny that causes stress that no one wants to be a part of. This stress was caused by under-performance on the field or in the classroom, lack of time with relationships, and the physical stress caused on the body. Student athletes are heroes, idols, role models to many people, but remember that they go through stressful situations just like anyone else does.
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