Aspiring Pro Athletes & Academia: Where do Athletes Get Their Smarts?

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Despite the potential of professional glory, young athletes need to make sure they get the necessary education to make it in the real world

Pro athletes perform amazing feats of physical valor. They jump, they dive, they salchow, they jib. And on top of training for years to hone their athletic skills, they still have to keep up with the rest of the world.

All athletes, especially young ones, have to work double-time to get a proper education.

When pursuing a job in the sports world, it’s valuable to be aware of all the different avenues athletes take to complete their education. Whether your dream job is caddying on the PGA tour, designing team logos, or managing a MLB team, having insight into the lives of the people around you will pay off.

For most high school students, and many college students, school is their full-time job. But that’s far from true for students with professional sports aspirations.

Here are the most popular routes that aspiring athletes take to reconcile their athletic aspirations with the academic necessities of today’s world.

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Online Education

Online coursework is at the forefront of sports education. It gives athletes the ability to be flexible and focused in their training regiments and not leave their education in the dust. It’s useful for athletes whose sport of choice isn’t traditionally supported – like football and track – by academic institutions.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, table tennis prodigy Kanak Jha was the youngest athlete ever to compete in his sport. During his training, he attended online courses to stay on track and not fall behind his high school peers.

Most athletes – especially those in sports that are ruled by youthful agility, like gymnastics for example – have accepted the fact that their sport will not sustain them into middle age. It’s a matter of cause and effect. If an athlete pressures her body at the level required to excel in professional gymnastics, it will simply begin to deteriorate when she’s still young. Repeated stress means bones fracture. Tendons tear. Knees give out. All things an athlete does not want to live with as she ages and matures.

So they live a sort of double-life: putting their hearts and souls into their sport while also gathering enough skills to build a career later in life. Online coursework is not just for high school athletes anymore. It’s for everyone who wants to have a future after their sports career.

Not every athlete can support themselves giving interviews and plugging brands into middle age.

We can’t all be like Mike.

Education forerunners like Arizona State University are making college degrees obtainable for athletes around the globe by refining their online education programs. In online coursework, athletes can build their academic schedules around their training schedules, they can participate in online community, and they can lean on academic advisors and coaches to help ease them through the tough moments one encounters in any degree program.

According to ASU’s online coursework breakdown, a four-credit course load results in about 24 hours of coursework a week. That’s about three and a half hours of studying a day. Much more manageable than 6-8 hours a day in a classroom.

Private Tutoring and Make-up Classes

Perhaps I’ve been watching too many British period dramas with nannies and private tutors, but it seems to me that full-time tutors are a thing of the past. Who wants a stuffy old guy with a cane and top hat to be in charge of teaching the minds of tomorrow?

That being said, private courses are still a valid way for athletes to get an education. And I’ll admit to having a weird frame of reference for tutors. Most of them are perfectly pleasant, non-stuffy folk.

Students can benefit from having a person there to motivate their coursework. And if the student athlete travels often, it can be nice to have a familiar face around.how to prepare for your sports job search ebook

At the very start of Lance Armstrong’s cycling career, he had to take private make-up classes in order to graduate from high school in time in 1989.

Sports Scholarship Programs

Collegiate sports scholarship programs are a great avenue for young, talented athletes to be recognized and supported in their education. They gain valuable experience in their sport as well as earning a degree.

The drawback to these programs is that they’re not all-inclusive. A kid who is destined to be a badminton legend won’t likely land a college scholarship. (Unless he’s a student in the UK, India, New Zealand, or Australia where badminton is apparently really hot right now.)

There is some interesting research out there showing that recruited college athletes do not perform as well as their academic peers. That being said, athletes are more likely to graduate than their non-sporty peers.

So what’s more important?

Everyone makes assumptions about the people around them. It’s just human nature. There’s one stereotype that’s more than ready to be tossed aside though: the “dumb jock.”

With the plethora of education options accessible to athletes today, there’s no reason for any athlete to fall into that black hole. Next time you interact with an aspiring or professional athlete, ask them about their education. You might just learn something new.

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