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Student-athlete

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Student-athlete

A student athlete (sometimes written student–athlete) is a participant in an organized competitive sport sponsored by the educational institution in which he or she is enrolled. Student athletes must typically balance the roles of being a full-time student and a full-time athlete.[1] Due to educational institutions being colleges, they offer athletic scholarships in various sports.[2] Many student athletes are compensated with scholarships to attend these institutions but these scholarships are not mandatory to be considered a student athlete. In the United States, athletic scholarships are largely regulated by either the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) or the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which sets minimum standards for both the individuals awarded the scholarships (in terms of GPAs and standardized test scores) and for the institutions granting them (in terms of the form and value of the scholarships and the proportion of recipients who must ultimately earn degrees).

When making the ultimate decision of choosing his or her college they may sign The National Letter of Intent. The NLI is an agreement between the athlete and their school they have chosen to certify that they are entering a four-year institution for the first time. In order to sign the school has to have offered financial aid and the student has met the institution's admission requirements.[3] It is a belief that student athletes comprise one of the most diverse groups of people on our college campuses today, particularly with regard to factors such as personal history, academic preparedness, life goals and expectations, physical and psychological skills, and developmental readiness.[4] Student athletes are likely to come into contact with important and influential alumni who can help them during their college years and - most importantly- after college.[5]

Description

Student athletes typically receive athletic scholarships from a college or university, though they may also be attending secondary school. An athletic scholarship is a form of scholarship to attend a college or university awarded to an individual based predominantly on his or her ability to play in a sport. Athletic scholarships are common in the United States, but in many countries they are rare or non-existent. Athletes are subject to eligibility rules that may require them to maintain a certain grade point average[6] and may bar them from participating in professional competition. Aside from scholarships, many are also prohibited from receiving special treatment or incentives based on their athletic abilities .[7] However, institutions may give student athletes additional assistance in academic support areas such as tutoring and library services.[8]

Many coaches hear from hundreds or even thousands of students each year who are looking for athletic scholarships and/or an opportunity to compete in intercollegiate athletics.[9]

Historical Perspective on Student Athletes

Competitive intercollegiate sports were not introduced into post secondary education in the United States until the nineteenth century. The first popular collegiate sport was crew but this was short lived as high media coverage and scholarships made football a lucrative industry in the late 1880s.[10] As interest in football grew so also did its aggressiveness and thus its resulting injuries. The NCAA was born out of President Theodore Roosevelt's demand to reform college football. He wanted this because football was an extremely rough sport which caused many serious injuries.[10] Since the 1930s the relationship between sports and universities have been turbulent.

Since the 1930s the media's coverage of sports has proven to be a big time revenue earner for schools' sports programs. This coverage of sports draws attention towards the schools and this in turn not only affects the financial capabilities of the institution but also its enrollment.

Student athletes in high school

Student athletes in high school (and junior high or middle school) are also expected to meet or exceed the requirements in order to play sports in high school. Many states enforce strict rules for their student athletes which are sometimes called "no pass, no play". Arizona, for example requires a passing grade in every class. California, for example, expects a "2.0" GPA or a "C" average in every class.[12] College athlete Eligibility Requirements for U.S Colleges The NCAA gives a guided list of prerequisites for potential collegiate athletes divided by school divisions:

Division I Academic Eligibility

To participate in Division I athletics or receive an athletic scholarship during the first year of college, a student-athlete in high school must: Complete the 16 core-course requirements in eight semesters: 4 years of English, 3 years of math (Algebra 1 or higher), 2 years of natural or physical science (including one year of lab science if offered by the high school), 1 extra year of English, math or natural or physical science, 2 years of social science, 4 years of extra core courses (from any category above, or foreign language, nondoctrinal religion or philosophy); Earn a minimum required grade-point average in core courses and earn a combined SAT or ACT sum score that matches the core course grade-point average and test-score sliding scale. (For example, a 3.000 core-course grade-point average needs at least a 620 SAT).[13]

Division II Academic Eligibility (2009- July 31, 2013)

To enroll in a Division II college between now and July 31, 2013, and to participate in athletics or receive an athletic scholarship during your first year, it is necessary to: Graduate from high school; Complete these 14 core courses: 3 years of English, 2 years of math (Algebra 1 or higher), 2 years of natural or physical science (including one year of lab science if offered by your high school), 2 additional years of English, math, or natural or physical science, 2 years of social science, 3 years of extra core courses (from any category above, or foreign language, nondoctrinal religion or philosophy); Earn a 2.000 grade-point average or better in your core courses; and earn a combined SAT score of 820 or an ACT sum score of 68.[13]

NCAA Eligibility Center

Every year, 180,000 prospective student-athletes register to have their academic credentials and amateurism status certified.[14] The NCAA Eligibility Center’s staff must explain what’s expected, when and why. The staff works to deliver reliable, consistent, timely and accurate decisions on the academic eligibility and amateur status of every prospective student-athlete for which an institution has requested certification.

The vast majority of prospective student-athletes placed on a Division I or II institution’s request list (IRL) are certified, most within days of submitting all of the required information and requesting final certification. About seven percent every year are deemed academic non-qualifiers. They don’t meet academic standards set forth by the membership in the division in which they desire to compete. About 600 prospective student-athletes are not certified because of amateurism issues (mostly international recruits).

Throughout the process, the NCAA Eligibility Center must rely on the accuracy of the information provided by the prospective student-athlete, the member institution interested in that prospective student-athlete, the collegiate testing agencies, the 30,000 high schools in the U.S. and the educational ministries in 180 different countries.[14]

Athletic Scholarships

In the United States, athletic scholarships are largely regulated by either the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) or the National Collegiate Athletic Association. These bodies govern the eligibility of student athletes to receive scholarships as well as stipulate scholarship rules once the scholarship has been given. The type and amount of scholarship money received depends on which one of these governing bodies a school is affiliated with.[15]

For athletes, wanting to enter a Division I university, participate in a varsity sport and receive scholarship money, they will have to be cleared by the NCAA clearing house. The NCAA Eligibility Center certifies whether prospective college athletes are eligible to play sports at NCAA Division I or II institutions. It does this by reviewing the student-athlete's academic record, SAT or ACT scores, and amateur status to ensure conformity with NCAA rules.[16] In order to be eligible for an athletic scholarship there are four main requirements by the NCAA. These requirements are: 1)Graduate from high school, 2)Complete the required number of core high school courses i.e. for Division 1 four years of English,three years of math (Algebra I or higher),two years of natural or physical science (including one year of lab science if offered by your high school),one additional year of English, math, or natural or physical science,two years of social science,four years of extra core courses (from any category listed here, a foreign language, or non-doctrinal religion or philosophy) and Division 2 three years of English,two years of math (Algebra I or higher),two years of natural or physical science (including one year of lab science if offered by your high school),two additional years of English, math, or natural or physical science,two years of social science,three years of additional core courses from any category listed here, a foreign language, or non-doctrinal religion or philosophy. 3)Earn a minimum GPA on a 4.0 scale in required core academic courses. For Division I, the GPA you must earn depends upon your SAT or ACT score, and is specified in a GPA/test score index published by the NCAA. For Division II, the minimum required GPA is 2.0. 4)Achieve a minimum SAT or ACT score. For the SAT, the NCAA looks at your combined best scores on the SAT critical reading and mathematics sections. For the ACT, it's the sum of your best scores on the English, mathematics, reading, and science sections. For Division I, the score you must meet or exceed depends upon your GPA, and is specified in a GPA/test score index published by the NCAA. For Division II, the minimum SAT score is 820 and the minimum ACT score is 68.[17]

Athletic scholarships help athletes to participate for their institutions athletically and academically without the burden of trying to finance their own education. Without athletic scholarships student athletes would not have this opportunity. Scholarships give many student athletes the opportunity to use their athletic talents and get an education. This may or may not put additional pressures on student athletes to perform because coaches have invested so much money into them. Scholarship athletes do not have the luxury of quitting their sports teams without consequence of losing the money that had been previously given to them and so they may have to carry the burden of pressure for longer than they would want and this can possibly become unbearable. These athletes also have to perform because their scholarship isn’t guaranteed for 4 years. Athletic scholarships must be renewed each year and that's at the coach's discretion. The pressure to maintain athletic scholarships can distract stressed students from what should be their main goal—earning a college degree.[18]

Student Athlete Pressures

Student athletes put a great deal of time into their studies and in their sport. student athletes face high levels of stress related to their performances both in their sport and in the classroom. This stress is heightened by the expectations placed on the student athletes, by their coaches, administration and teammates to perform at a very high level.[19] According to Kissinger, student athletes generally face six distinctive challenges: 1) balancing athletic and academic responsibilities, 2) balancing social activities with athletic responsibilities, 3)balancing athletic success and or failures with emotional stability, 4) balancing physical health and injury with the need to continue competing, 5) balancing the demands of relationships with entities such as coaches, teammates, parents and friends and ; 6) addressing the termination of one's college athletic career.[19] Another challenge student college athlete’s face is pushing their self to be their best every day. Being a collegiate athlete you have a lot of expectations such as coaches wanting athletes perform at your highest level every day, and your professors expect you to complete all your work, study, and doing loads of homework.[20]

Pressures such as time constraints, use of drugs and alcohol consumption and student athlete identity among others can affect the ability of student athletes to function within regular society. Student athletes are likely to face great challenges in addressing identity. College athletics may form an ego identity for athletes as parents, peers, and even strangers give praises and accolades to athletes for their performance. This support and encouragement might seem positive—but when recognition comes only for athletic competence, a person’s entire sense of self-worth hinges on making big plays and winning the game. When an athlete is unable to deliver at such a high level he/she may come under tremendous pressure. This pressure can be self-inflicted or often media driven. Student athletes typically experience different levels of stress based on various things that happen during their college lives for example pursuing a degree, time management and fluctuations between new experiences and transitions among others. All the experiences are heightened because everyone expects them to perform well at a high level all the time both inside and outside of the classroom. The consequences of not performing are very intense and can be severe and could even take the form of ridicule or even worse.[19]

This may be viewed as problem because students should be making tangible steps toward a future that focuses on all of their strengths, not just their athleticism but things such as professional contracts entice student athletes to put more effort into their sport. Ego identity can become fragile when society defines a developing personality based upon superficial values. This pressure can become overbearing and students have committed suicide. Sarah Devens, a three sport star and all American went to Dartmouth, an ivy league, high academic institution, committed suicide, taking a .22-caliber rifle and shooting herself in the chest. She had a mental breakdown as the pressure became too much for her to handle. She had always lived up to the expectations of her coaches and peers but she was not completely happy.[21] For coaches the sport comes first but they are very understanding to the academic rigors that especially non scholarship athletes go through. At times coaches will ask athletes to make them aware of pending tests or assignments.[21] Student athletes experience complex developmental issues that should be addressed in the programs and policies created by the institution. There are tremendous amounts of responsibility and high expectations placed on the shoulders of all the young athletes who come to our institutions. If what is expected of them is success in the classroom as well as on the court or field, it is imperative that support be provided at all levels of the institution so that they can be intellectually, emotionally, and physically fit.[10]

Student Athlete Performance

Even with all the pressures that student athletes face throughout each academic year, many seem to still perform at a very high level in both their sports and academics.The student athlete performance rating (SAPR) is combines elements important to a college athlete who wants the best showcase for his/her athletic talent and academic prowess.[22] One way in which student-athletes' academic performance is predicted is by use of the Academic Progress Rate (APR). Academic Progress Rate is an NCAA tool that measures the success of a program moving its athletes toward graduation. It takes into account academic eligibility and retention — whether the athletes stay in school.[23]

Division I sports team calculate their APR each academic year, based on the eligibility, retention and graduation of each scholarship student-athlete. It also serves as a predictor of graduation success. A prime example of this is that Northwestern led the Big Ten and broke its own school record by earning 75 Academic All-Big Ten honors in six fall sports in 2008. The Wildcats led the league in honors per sport. The Wildcats' 75 total honors in one sport season breaks their previous school mark of 68 set in the fall of 2007. Northwestern's football program bested its previous high of 18 awards in 2007 with a whopping 26 Academic All-Big Ten honorees in 2008. Overall in 2008-09, Northwestern has won 116 Academic All-Big Ten honors through the fall and winter sport seasons, while adding five ESPN The Magazine Academic All District V and three ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America accolades. Student athletes continue to do great things both academically and athletically.[24] Another important measure of student athlete performance is known as the academic success rate (ASR). The ASR uses the number of team wins in the last 5 years,the team’s all-time winning percentage,number of conference championships in the last 5 years,total attendance at recent home games,number of bowl games in the last 5 years, number of national rankings 25th or above in the last 5 years and number of program players currently playing in the National Football League or National Basketball Association.[22]

Title IX of the US Education Amendments of 1972

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, now known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in honor of its principal author, but more commonly known simply as Title IX, is a United States law enacted on June 23, 1972 that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was designed in part to balance the amount of money spent on men's and women's sports. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy had a huge impact on women's athletics and the overall sports scene in this country. Kennedy led the fight throughout the years against efforts to overturn or water down the legislation.[25] "Over the course of time, he played the leading role in keeping Title IX strong through the Senate, using his stature and his savvy to ensure that it remained strong protection for women in athletics," said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center. "As his leadership in the Senate grew, his responsibility for ensuring that Title IX remained strong and enforced grew. He became the chief force behind the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, which virtually re-enacted Title IX after a devastating, narrow Supreme Court decision, which among other things removed Title IX coverage from all intercollegiate athletics in this country." Greenberger contends that Title IX might not have survived without Kennedy's guardianship, and thus the sports world as it is today might be vastly different. The increased opportunities for female athletes can be witnessed in college and high school athletics programs, and in turn have helped spawn professional leagues and greater participation and success at the Olympic level.[25]

Graduation Rates for Student Athletes

There is a proven correlation between playing sports and academic performance, this may be in part due to strict guidelines that require athletes maintain a certain GPA to be eligible for sports. Because of this many teens that previously were at risk for dropping out graduate, many times with honors. These students often continue to college after high school. Recently the, federal law mandated that universities reveal their graduation rates purportedly to inform policy makers and constituencies about efforts to support educational attainment for students and athletes.[26] Revealing the graduation rates of student athletes allows prospective student athletes to estimate the course load and amount of practice and game time that will consume their schedules by looking at student athletes that have already attended the institution. Universities with more selective admission policies graduate both students and athletes at higher rates, although their athletes graduate at lower rates, relative to their student cohorts.[26]

Rates Between Scholarship Athletes, Partial Scholarship and non-athletes

Not only are there significant differences between student athletes and non-athletes, but there is also a noticeable difference in graduation rates between scholarship and non-scholarship athletes. The athletes who attend universities on scholarship have typically fared worse than non-scholarship or partial-scholarship athletes in academic achievement.[26] Many scholarship athletes feel obligated to put the varsity sport before academics because their tuition is essentially being paid by the coaches. Student athletes are at times disadvantaged by their full-time involvement in a varsity sports. According to the table of Demographic and Academic Information for Athletes and the General Student Population, it is evident that non-athlete students on average have higher GPA’s than student athletes. The national average high school GPA for athletes was 2.99 and 3.31 for non-athletes. The national average college GPA for student athletes is 2.56 with a national graduation rate of 34.2% where as non-athletes average GPA is slightly higher at 2.74 with a national graduation rate of 46.8%.[26] The GPA averages are not too far off but the education received by non-athletes is far greater than a student athlete because of the lack of time the student athlete has to study. The highly popular athletes, like basketball players, are normally focused on the next game or the pressures to win instead of the school work but they get the work done. Although this is only an average and other factors such as the institution, sport, resources and division should be factored in, on average student athlete’s do graduate at a lower rate particularly because of their rigorous sports schedule.

See also

References

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