We’ve all heard the cliché, “Nothing is guaranteed.”
And it’s 100% true, especially in the world of sports. Anything can happen at any given moment. Just take a look at Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has decided to enter the NFL Draft. While I’m certainly not in Tagovailoa’s mind, the uncertainty of possibly being injured again if he returns to Alabama and having his draft stock decline even further is something that weighed on his decision. He, more than most, knows nothing is guaranteed.
That’s why getting a good education is so important.
You could be the next Tom Brady and be set up to make millions and millions of dollars in your career, but one wrong step — or not even wrong; we all have heard about ACL injuries being just simply freak accidents — and all of that could be taken away.
It’s so important to have something to fall back on.
At the high school level, putting an emphasis on academics isn’t just important for those reasons but it’s also a key factor in getting recruited. The NCAA has standards at which a student-athlete cannot play if he or she does not meet those requirements. And even if you do technically meet the minimum standards, having a high GPA or a good ACT score makes your resume that much more attractive to college recruiters and coaches.
If you talk to Reeltown coach Matt Johnson, I’d be willing to bet the thing he’d tell you he’s most proud of about Cameron Faison’s journey to the next level is the academic side. Sure, Johnson loved the fact Faison could run fast and score touchdowns and intercept balls like they were meant for him, but what gave Johnson a glimmer in his eye was how Faison made a decision to get on the right academic path.
Even Faison is willing to admit the toughest part about his recruitment was making sure his academic standards were up to snuff, but he made up his mind he wanted to play at the next level and he made it happen. Now he’s headed to a top JUCO in Dodge City, Kansas, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Faison playing alongside (or maybe against) Division I-bound Eric Shaw in the coming years.
Coaches and administrators, especially at the high school level, need to make sure they’re putting an emphasis on education. It’s tough being a student-athlete. Especially schools around Tallapoosa, Elmore and Coosa counties, a ton of players are multi-sport athletes. They’re running from one practice to another and barely get a break for 10 months — or more — out of the year. Even if they’re playing basketball, they’re still doing weight training and conditioning for football. And even if they’re football players, they’re still throwing around a baseball when they get a chance.
Combine that with travel time and games and team activities, and it becomes endless. And on top of all that, these kids need to make time for their studies and, well, being kids.
That’s why coaches, administrators, teachers, parents, all parts of their support systems need to make education a top priority because it can be easy to have something fall through the cracks. Don’t allow student-athletes to settle for less than their best; challenge them to be better in the classroom just like you challenge them to be better on the field or the court.
Most important, athletic careers don’t last forever — even ones like Tom Brady’s. Kids need to be allowed to find their passions outside the football field or basketball court and nurture that. Having something to fall back on can be only a positive.
Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor of The Herald.