FRANKFORT Ky.- Who is the student athlete? The NCAA encompasses over 460,000 student-athletes each year and for each athlete, the answer will sound just a little different each time. There are so many unique situations that bring us to playing sports at one of the highest levels possible. Even with the 460,000 plus different possibilities, there can be some common ground found that many student-athletes can attest to.
First things first, student athletes at any level can expect to be some of the busiest students on campus no matter what level they are competing at. Some examples can be pulled off the internet as many student-athletes have given us a snippet of their days in “Day in the Life of a ___ athlete” videos on YouTube or other platforms. But student-athletes athletically have busy schedules that can include multiple practices/workouts throughout the day. Along with that, students can expect to be sacrificing many free weekends that normal students may enjoy to go compete throughout their season. This doesn’t include any games, matches, or meets that are occurring throughout the regular Monday to Friday school week.
Dual-threat is another good term to use when describing student-athletes. Speaking on the first half of the word, the student is expected to work just as hard as each student strives for excellence. As many may know fewer than 2% of athletes go pro in the sport of their choice according to the NCAA. It is imperative students take academics very seriously with the intentions of pursuing a career outside of competition. Students have answered the bell, looking at Kentucky State University, in the 2019-2020 academic year 160 student athletes achieved a grade point average of 3.0 or higher with 29 of them earning 4.0’s that spring semester. Some steps are taken by universities to help guide the students in the right direction including mandatory study halls and available tutoring, but it is up to the students to use those tools to become the best students possible. Now going to the other half of the word, athletes are looked at as “investments” programs make whether on scholarship or not programs make, scholarship or not. Coaches are on borrowed time to either turn programs around into a winning program or continue a line of success already built by predecessors. This pressure on the coaches is then thrusted upon the athletes to perform above the level they were recruited at whether the high school or junior collegiate level. Athletes are constantly working hard to perfect their craft to not only be the best they can be, but to beat out the competition in the hopes of playing at a higher professional level.
More than anything else that has been mentioned before, the modern-day student athlete is resilient. Student-athletes face more stress now more than ever with the world rapidly changing around them. With mental health on the rise, many student-athletes can speak up on the issues that plague many including performance anxiety, panic disorder and phobic anxiety according to the NCAA as the most prevalent of mental health issues. Athletes are expected to be the dual-threat I mentioned earlier with being just as proficient as their other counterparts in the classroom while competing to the best of their ability on the field/court etc.
Student-athletes are investments that coaches and programs have made, and it is incumbent upon those students to deliver upon that investment. Whether an athlete is on scholarship or not, those students must have a work-ethic like no other. So, to answer the question who is the student athlete? It should be the dedicated dual-threat individual who has what it takes to pursue the highest level of education while competing at one of the highest levels in all sports.