Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Student" Athletes

I have often heard people talk about athletes at large D1 football or basketball schools and how classes are secondary to everything they do. There are complaints as well that even the non-athletic students get so wrapped up in the sports mania at their university that they choose watching or attending a game over completing their scholastic obligations. It's a problem with no easy fix and because the financial stakes are so high for both the universities and the players, there is little incentive for either to make a change. Do we need our NBA or NFL players, for example, to have a good education? Would they take it even if it was offered? Who knows?

Unfortunately, I think this culture of big name programs has more diffuse side-effects than the ones most often debated. In my new capacity as an advisor, I met with a Student Athlete to go over their schedule for the spring and chose classes. SA is a bright kid who is double majoring in two sciences, earning a very respectable GPA and playing a sport that has no professional league to go into post-university. It is not clear to me whether SA is earning a scholarship for their sport, but what was obvious is the problems these "students" can face. When we began talking about different classes I was informed by SA that classes on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons were bad because those are days they have games. In fact, Thursdays are bad entirely, because the team often leaves early Thursday morning for away games. Of course, Fridays were often missed as well for travel on Thursdays that extends through the weekend of a series of away games. Oh, and practice starts at 2:00, so after that any day is bad. Last spring SA took too many labs and ended up losing enough practice time to lose their starting position.

What the fucking what? So a promising student double majoring in two lab science majors is being discouraged from taking labs for half the year by their coach either directly by being told or indirectly by loss of playing time? Did I mention that this is a small sport with no professional league?

Basically, it looks to me as though the big U programs have made it okay for other sports to take up an incredible amount of scholastic time for sport. I'm sure the argument is "our sport is just as important!" but can we be realistic for a second? There are enough questions about the value of massive sports that garner enormous sums of money for universities, so let's not pretend that a small sport that no one is paying to watch should have similar claims to the sport/study balance in student's lives.

So far SA has been able to balance everything and pull off a near 4.0 GPA, but I would imagine that their success is rare. I am also concerned about the ambitious academic plan SA has before them and the chance of SA finishing in their intended time frame. Most of all, I want to find SA's coach and kick them in the shins for forcing a good student with lofty aspirations to compromise their studies

12 comments:

  1. I have a very big issue with the whole student athlete thing. I'm an outdoor/sport junkie myself but education is education and sporting pursuits should ideally be conducted outside of the college system or (at the very least) not interfere with the student's education - ie on weekends or in the evening. If a student is enrolled on a full time basis, classes should take priority and training and competing should fit in around the class/study schedule.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

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  2. Welcome to the NCAA where all coaches are gods (football and basketball more so), and professors are just some service group there to keep the players eligible.


    Odyssey wanders off muttering "I'm not bitter. No, not bitter at all. Well, maybe just a bit..."

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  3. Classes first. I'm on the bandwagon.

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  4. ps: And I'm always uber-annoyed whenever a student says, handing me some form that I've never seen before, "I won't be here for class because of [game, field trip, etc.] and it's been excused by [X, Y, or Z in some other department]." Grrrrrr.

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  5. It's been excused - fine. But the grade will be 0. And if you keep that up long enough they'll quit letting their "students" take your classes.

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  6. But I don't think it's right to punish the student for the system they are in. Either way you cut it, the students are caught between a rock and a hard place. I would prefer letting students or coaches know up front that attendance to all classes and labs is considered a requirement and not a bonus.

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  7. I agree about the attendance. I just don't think we should HAVE to say that.

    And I (this is back to my own little mini-rant, which goes beyond sports) cannot fathom why a professor would schedule something during another class and then have the students tell the second professor that it's "excused." Really? Howsabout I "excuse" the student from your final exam, Field Tripper? How ya like me now?

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  8. Even D3 schools have this problem. Here's the kicker: at my school 1/3 - yes 33% - of the students are on varsity teams. The absences that irritate me are when teams pull students out of class to go to a tournament early because there is a BANQUET to kick off the tourney. NCAA rules state that students cannot miss class to attend a practice, but they can for a game. I'm not sure how a banquet fits in there.

    I have blogged about how the faculty staff meetings here are somewhat worthwhile. One of the things that goes on is that the coaches explain to us every once in a while what they are doing to insure the success of our student athletes and what the NCAA rules say regarding them. It does a LOT to deflate tension between the coaches and the profs.

    And as for field trips, sheesh, chill out! I take my students on fabulous field trips in which they learn more in one day than they do the whole semester. Done rarely and well planned, experience-rich field trips are very worth missing one day of class.

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  9. I figure my teaching job as a faculty member is prepare and deliver quality course material. If students don't want to attend class, pay attention, or whatthefuckever, I really don't give a flying fuck.

    BTW, thank you for just using "they" and "their" to refer to your advisee gender neutrally. That horrible motherfucking "ze" and "hir" shit makes me want to go on a murderous motherfucking rampage!

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  10. "sheesh, chill out!"

    ?????????

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  11. No one is suggesting that field trips are not valuable, but I don't think scheduling them over other classes is a good idea. If they are a necessary part of the course, they can be done outside of class, either late in the day or on the weekend. Yeah, everyone's weekends are pretty full, but if you make it clear at the beginning of the semester that it is required and even cancel the class afterwards, no one should complain. Taking someone else's class time for your own indulgences, however, isn't going to win you any points because you are asserting that your class is more important than anything they might be doing on a given day where the other prof had no warning.

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  12. Oh, and CPP, anything I can do to keep your blood pressure down....

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