Courtesy: Donna Hale
Every week and sometimes every day there is another announcement about sports in our new reality of uncontrolled COVID. Colleges are not only announcing the elimination of sports at an alarming rate but they are closing.
Several months ago I wrote a piece on the programs we are losing. The losses are tragic but some of the reasons are alarming. One well-known school suggested they wanted more of a focus on academics, failing to mention that swimmers often have the highest GPAs on campus.
First of all, all parents care about the health of their athletes. Let’s clear that up right now. But we also realize the amazing dimension college sports bring to an educational experience for our students. You learn things that you can’t always get in the classroom. Teamwork. Time management. Sacrifice for the greater good. Pushing beyond limits of what feels probable to what is possible. This is the stuff that creates leaders.
We need to protect the health of all. But at the same time realize we may be eliminating experiences that become the core of whom our students become. College is all about that journey that defines who a student becomes.
So here is my challenge to all. The seemingly easier choice to postpone or eliminate may be so profoundly wrong. Think of the culture of your campus. I have been around swimming long enough now to see what athletes contribute to communities far and wide. Many are role models by their sheer work ethic. Will your campus still attract the same unique student without swimming or soccer? The answer is no.
There are hidden costs of eliminating key campus experiences. They go beyond money.
It will be years before we know the emotional toll of this virus. Maybe even decades. Yes, people will get through it. A lost season is better than a lost life. But if it can be done safely just think about what is being lost. You do not get to be a college athlete without a lifetime of sacrifice. I know what my own daughter has given up to be a swimmer. Working out six days minimum a week. Foregoing junk food for good fuel for her body. Fighting through injury and drama.
When a school makes a commitment to an athlete it should be a two-way street. “I will give you all I’ve got for the opportunity to do what I love.” We are being challenged now in ways we might have never imagined. But there are lessons to be learned and victories to be realized with how we meet these crazy times.
College athletics matter. They are worth fighting for.