by Jordan Kobritz
“You can do anything you want to do.”
How many of us have heard those words spoken by parents, teachers, coaches and peers? But as I tell my students, those words should be taken with a healthy dose of reality. And that admonition is especially true for college athletes. Why? According to data compiled by the NCAA, far too many college athletes in every sport have an unrealistic view of their chances to play pro.
Every four years, the NCAA conducts what it calls a GOALS Study (Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students in college). The detailed study is a survey of student-athletes in a variety of sports – men’s and women’s – across all three divisions. Student-athletes are asked a broad range of questions about their college experiences including their future expectations to play sports professionally.
The results of the latest study, conducted last fall, won’t be released until later this year. However, no one is expecting major changes from the results of the previous two surveys conducted in 2006 and 2010. Those surveys found that far too many student-athletes were overly optimistic about their chances of playing pro. The most unrealistic among them were Division I men’s basketball players. More than three quarters of respondents believed they would play pro ball. Yet according to the NCAA’s latest figures, compiled in 2013, only 1.2 percent of Division I basketball players actually get drafted by an NBA team.
Men’s basketball players aren’t the only college athletes who expect to cash in on their athletic talent. Approximately 60 percent of Division I hockey and baseball players think it’s likely they’ll play professionally. The reality? Less than 1 percent of hockey players get drafted by an NHL team. There’s better news for baseball players. Their odds of playing professionally far exceed those of student-athletes in any other sport. Approximately 9.4 percent of Division I college baseball players will get drafted by a MLB team.
Lest you thought women collegians were immune from unrealistic expectations, approximately 44 percent of Division I women’s basketball players expect to play professionally. But less than 1 percent of them will actually be drafted by a WNBA team.
In fairness, there are professional basketball leagues around the globe and a number of college players will play professionally in a foreign country. The NCAA says it is currently compiling data on the number of student-athletes who take that route. In addition, several sports, most notably baseball and hockey and to a lesser extent, basketball, have Minor Leagues where players are paid to play a sport. But European and bush leagues aren’t the sugar-plums student-athletes have dancing in their heads when they respond to the GOALS survey.
It should be noted that substantial numbers of student-athletes in Division II are also afflicted with unrealistic expectations. While approximately one-third fewer of them, percentage wise, in the four major sports of basketball, football, hockey and baseball expect to play professionally, their odds of attaining that goal are even longer than their Division I counterparts.
So who is responsible for creating and fueling these wild-eyed dreams? There are a number of factors in play. First, schools aren’t shy about flaunting the names of alumni who have played professionally, a successful recruiting tactic that fuels unrealistic expectations in new recruits. Second, coaches are quick to mention professional opportunities in an effort to motivate student-athletes to perform better. Third, the media hype surrounding college sports, particularly football and men’s basketball, is an intoxicating elixir that student-athletes find irresistible.
To its credit, the NCAA makes an effort to dampen unrealistic expectations. In its advertising and promotional campaigns, the governing body emphasizes that “there are more than 400,000 student-athletes and almost all of them will go pro in something other than sports.” But those aren’t words most student-athletes want to hear, especially after being praised and coddled since childhood for their athletic ability.
The NCAA GOALS Study also confirms what the Northwestern University student-athletes alleged in their request to unionize: Participating in college sports is a fulltime endeavor. Most student-athletes spend upwards of 40 hours per week – 43.3 for football players – on in-season athletic activities and even more during the offseason.
Those of us who spend that amount of time on our profession certainly have high expectations. Why shouldn’t college athletes?
Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is a Professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog: http://sportsbeyondthelines.com Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2015 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed