Even for pro athletes, a degree does matter

Sam Isdale/Sports Columnist

Sam Isdale/Sports Columnist

The semester is coming to a close and before we know it the summer will be in full swing. For me, this means graduation and goodbye to Illinois State. As I welcome myself into the real world, where staying out past midnight on a week night after a big game may be frowned upon, I feel very grateful for my education.

There are many people on different paths in life that may not be obtaining a degree quite yet. This recognition reminds me of all the college athletes who are entering the NFL and NBA draft before earning a college degree. Some athletes may think their skills, passion and dedication for a sport are far more important than a degree. I believe in following your dreams, but I also believe in earning that degree.

There’s some controversy with this topic, but considering today’s workforce, most employers won’t even take a second look at you if you don’t have a degree. If you’re a young athlete who thinks you’re “going pro” you may want to consider getting a degree first.

The infamous Charles Barkley appeared on David Letterman in 2011 explaining why it’s so important for athletes to get a degree.

“You’re talking about young kids who all think they’re going to go to the pros and a very tiny percent — less than 1 percent — [will],” Barkley said.

With so many young athletes striving to play in college, some of them who make it that far may barely see any playing time. When it comes to college star athletes, maybe they get drafted, get injured and their shot at a career in professional sports is over. When it comes to sports, injuries are not far-fetched whatsoever and that’s why receiving a degree is so important. You may plan to play professional baseball, but you never know what curve ball life may throw at you.

If your dreams of going pro don’t become reality, you still have your education behind you. And it’s not like you have to give up your passion for the sport completely just because you may not be playing anymore; there are so many options out there to consider if you want to keep sports in your life. A career within the sports industry such as reporting, broadcasting and announcing are just a few. Then you have coaching and training camps. The possibilities are definitely at hand.

Many athletes that left college early to enter drafts have actually returned to school to get their degrees. For instance, Michael Jordan received his Bachelor of Arts degree in cultural geography two years after he entered the NBA. Venus Williams got her associate’s degree in fashion design from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Not only did she make time for her degree, but she graduated with honors and  a 3.5 GPA. It paid off for Venus, as she has her own clothing line today. A few others who went back to get their degrees are Troy Polamalu, Shaquille O’Neal, Bo Jackson and Michelle Kwan.

No one but the athlete can make the decision, but there are many things to consider. Who would they be without their athletic capabilities? In a blink of an eye an illness or an accident can change their lives forever and what if playing professional sports is no longer possible? The degree will benefit them in the long run.

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