Picture this: 18 years old football player from Oakland, Ca. Has dreams of playing college football and beyond. Has all the talent in the world and every college looking at him.
Fast forward six years later: That same football player is back in Oakland. His college days are over. Trying to find work every day is a struggle. He suffers from bad shoulders and blood clots. Playing in the NFL is only a distant after thought.
That was the journey for Kelly Mitchell and millions of other student athletes who find themselves lost after there playing days are over. The college experience can provide young adults with the tools to be successful in life and find a career. Just to be a student athlete takes a great amount of skill and patience but can be worth it. Or is it? A major issue when getting out of college is trying to find a stable job that you can survive off of but as a student athlete the pressure to live a stable life adds more pressure.
Playing college sports comes with a lot of risk and consequences. As soon as you sign that letter of intent, you have made that commitment to a year-long of long practices, traveling all around the country for games, and the pressure to perform in the classroom. I mean don’t get me wrong, being a student athlete can be a great experience if you plan it right but when it’s over where do you see yourself in 5, 10, or maybe 20 years? The NCAA spends about one billion dollars on their athletes but when it comes to taking care of them outside of them after there playing careers are done its merely an afterthought. Not everyone is going to be a professional in their sport so the question becomes what do I do with my life now?
In a study back in 2014 by Al-Jazeera, less than two percent of students athletes go the professional route in their respective sport. That leaves 98 percent of them to find another career. That can have great physiological effects on someone who has been playing sports there whole life. Even though life moves on, being forced to find a new way of living. Talking to Kelly Mitchell, the preparation to transition was a tough due to his grueling schedule as a football player. He started out as a freshman at Humboldt State but saw his season end due to a torn ligament in his shoulder that required surgery. He would end up transferring to number of schools only to find out had a serious blood clot problem that would end his playing days. Mitchell says that by the time he had to stop playing football adjusting to the real world was almost impossible.
“Coaches will hate this but athletes spend too much time either practicing, watching film, and lifting to live a normal life. By the time I decided I was done playing football reality struck me that I basically had zero job experience. Being a student athlete on a resume, isn’t necessarily a career builder”, said Mitchell.
Playing sports in some sense can seem as a career builder but with a college degree devaluing recently, there must be more resources to help student athletes succeed outside of the arena. Having more internship programs and counselors who can put student athletes in positions to succeed. Some may not have received full scholarships so paying out of pocket or receiving loans might have been the way to get through school. Having that financial advisement as a young adult is needed in this society because there are too many students spending years to pay back loans.
Although many students attend college to find out what career would best suit them, those who participate in sports may not have the time or the effort to really prepare for what comes after graduation. Being the huge market the NCAA produces, they should provide efforts to help those who contribute to make college sports what they are. These are future leaders of the world. Let’s protect them the right way.