Being Honest about and to Athletes

By Turner, M. Rick | Black Issues in Higher Education, July 23, 1998 | Go to article overview

Being Honest about and to Athletes


Turner, M. Rick, Black Issues in Higher Education


Having raised three children (a daughter and two sons) who are currently Division I student athletes (basketball), having been involved in sports practically all of my life, and having worked as an educator for the past twenty-five years, I have been intimately involved in the counseling and advising of student athletes and their parents -- particularly African American students. I also have worked closely with coaches and athletic administrators at several institutions.

These experiences -- and my strong advocacy and love for students and athletics -- compel me to share my thoughts on the issues of crime and antisocial behavior in intercollegiate sports.

Although statistics show that college athletes aren't involved in crime or antisocial behavior any more than other people their age, it has become quite apparent that we as a university community must address this behavior now. We can no longer merely slap these athletes on the wrist or suspend them until practice begins. Serious steps must be taken to implement creative, preventive solutions to this problem that threatens to cause irreparable damage both to student athletes and to our institutions.

First of all, we need to ask questions. What do we know about the student athletes we are recruiting? Have we been so focused on their athletic talents that we have overlooked other important characteristics, such as attitude, citizenship, and personal responsibility? What are our expectations of these young men and women? Do we want them to graduate or merely to maintain their athletic eligibility? What is and should be the role of the student athletes' families? How do we get coaches to really care about the academic part of student athletes' lives?

Of course, student athletes are ultimately responsible for what happens to them on the field or court as well as both in and outside of the classroom. They must develop an interest in going beyond maintaining eligibility and begin to focus on getting a quality education.

But all, we need to be honest about the issue of student athletes' overall preparation and about the attitudes they bring with them. We cannot continue to pretend that these young people who have been singled out as "special" all of their lives do not also have "special" needs. The fact that they are teenagers and young adults with two full-time jobs -- as both students and athletes -- should tell us that we need to provide them with quality resources that other students might not need.

African American athletes often feel that no one really cares about their academic experiences. Many feel that as long as they are eligible to play, everything is fine. …

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