How are Idaho school districts, schools and we parents doing in preparing student athletes to succeed beyond the playgrounds or courts?
During the last March Madness, CNN reported a study that presented the race and gender disparity of graduation rates for college basketball players. The study found that in some schools fewer than 40 percent of players graduate from college.
On average, the study reported that the graduation rate of African-American males was 28 percent lower than that of white players, while the disparity between black and white female players was only 8 percent, with whites doing better. The NCAA has graduation expectations for student athletes and schools, and those that don’t meet the requirements receive punitive measures.
What the study did not address is how high schools are preparing athletes to excel academically in college. As a parent of a student athlete in the K-12 program, I am bothered by a disturbing reality in Idaho. Our school districts do not emphasize or promote high academic requirements for students to participate in sports. In one of the largest school districts, all a student athlete needs is a “D” grade to participate in athletic contests.
The district states in the student handbook that, “Any student with an ‘F’ in any subject will not (be) allowed to participate in any athletic activity contest.” Another large district states that a student must have passed in at least five subjects — a D is passing. How much effort does it take a student to get a D? For some other districts, the only requirement is to be in school for a whole day in order to participate in practice or games.
We know the realities of sports in America. Only a few people make a livelihood from it. An outstanding basketball player from one of those elite colleges talked about how he had expected to join the NBA. He had focused his efforts on basketball more than on academics. He was not recruited and his eligibility to play expired before he had enough credits to graduate. But the major problem he discussed was lack of motivation and the discipline needed for college studies.
Coaches, teachers and parents need to instill in players the realities of sports. I believe the major responsibility is ours as parents. Fewer than 1 percent of high school players will play in the NBA, the NFL or Major League Baseball. And even those who end up playing professional sports need knowledge to become men and women of value.
Tony Dungy, the former Indianapolis Colts head coach, says in his book “Quiet Strength” that more than 70 percent of players either declare bankruptcy, get divorced or go to prison within a few years after retiring from sports. There is more to life than shooting hoops, hitting home runs or sacking a quarterback.
This brings into focus the role and involvement of parents in our children’s academic and extracurriculur activities. The bottom line is that it is our children’s future. Achieving a D is not preparing them for the rigorous college academic programs required to graduate. We are not only the taxpayers for their education, but also the providers of everything necessary they need to succeed. We need to demand better than D performance! No one achieves high results by aiming low.
Dr. Vincent Muli Wa Kituku, motivational speaker and author of Overcoming Buffaloes at Work & in Life, is an expert who works with organizations to increase productivity through leadership and employee development programs. Contact him at www.overcomingbuffaloes.com or (208) 376-8724.