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The Subculture Of Student-Athletes

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The subculture of Student-Athletes within the daily scheme of academics, there are a variety of subcultures existing within the student body. One of those subcultures is student-athletes. The student-athletes group is comprised of individuals participating in sports while taking classes at a college or high school. A common goal which unites them is the determination to be the best they can be at their sport, and to help the team they are a part of to achieve the highest goal it can achieve. These students must dedicate many hours to practice and playing their chosen sport along with others who are their teammates. The intensity and hard work of this endeavor creates a type of close connected bonding among fellow athletes.

As a result, much of their social life outside of the sport is interconnected as friendships and similar interests form. This subculture exists primarily in college and high school, though it likely begins in elementary school. Sports and school are essentially synonymous, as is the presence of student-athletes. Fellow students either love or hate sports and express similar regard for those who play them. Existing controversies are a result of strong stereotypes like athletes being given passing grades, easy classes, and a free academic ride so they can play sports, has created a great deal of anger among non-athletic students.

The other common stereotype is male athletes are popular jocks who are rude, arrogant, ignorant, and condescending. These stereotypes create an even greater distance between student-athletes and not athletic students. Surprisingly, there are a variety of studies indicating these stereotypes as false. In a 2015 Time Magazine article one researcher, who is also a university professor, found the opposite to be true. His findings and personal experience found most student-athletes cared greatly about their academics and in earning good grades. When students performed poorly it was related to a phenomenon called pluralistic ignorance, which is where a group acts a certain way due to their perception of what they believe others in the group believe. In numerous instances, student-athletes say they hate school because they believe their peers hate school, and they decide to take easy classes because they do not want to be viewed as an exhibitionist. Unaware to most of the group, is that the majority of them indeed cares about academics, so they continue to behave in such a way that will keep them from standing out. What follows is a self-perpetuating cycle of actions continually based on false beliefs. (Square, Zocalo Public) To individuals who are skilled and committed it is relatively easy to enter and become part of this subculture. Skill and hard work are widely respected amongst student-athletes and they are seeking people who have a good team mentality and are committed to working together for the common goal of victory. Student-athlete lives are demanding.

According to one newspaper article on student-athletes, their schedules are highly demanding. Full class loads combined with practice, playing, and other responsibilities leave them with an average of only 4. 5 to 6 hours of sleep per night. Travel to play games creates havoc in trying to keep up with their schoolwork and to maintain a good GPA. (Zak, Sean) With such a demanding schedule, there is little tolerance for people who lack similar commitment. My friend, Daniel, is a student-athlete who has been participating in sports since he was in 6th grade and he has always loved sports. In an interview, I asked him what it was like to be part of that subculture. He was excited to talk about this aspect of his life and how the love of it has kept him playing sports in college.

As a student-athlete, he has found it is a small but committed group of people who work hard to balance school and practice. He routinely practices over 30 hours a week in addition to his time competing. This means a great deal of his life is engrossed in this subculture. Being in this group has had both positive and negative effects. One benefit he appreciates is having first priority in selecting classes to avoid missing classes due to scheduling conflicts. However, the most meaningful benefits are on a more personal level like the lasting, deep, and meaningful friendships established with fellow teammates. Experiencing the elation which comes with winning after so much hard work is another benefit. Negatively, he has found there are definite stereotypes associated with being an athlete that makes his interaction within the student body more difficult. A widely-held misconception is athletes are not interested in academics and are essentially ignorant jocks. Student-athletes become isolated due to the misconception they only want to socialize with their own kind. Being a part of this group, he says most of the time these stereotypes are not accurate. Daniel says he knows several student-athletes who are intelligent and greatly interested in academics. Additionally, they are polite and would gladly include others in their group, but due to the extensive connection with their fellow athletes, they naturally form closer bonds with their teammates. The college he attends has a large sports interest so there are quite a few athletes on campus, which allow for a greater range of friendships. (Interview with Daniel)

When Daniel reflects on the level of commitment he has in participating in sports he likes to view it as a hobby because it is an activity he enjoys doing. As with any hobby to become proficient he spends at least 3 hours a day practicing. His running schedule is 7 days a week and 3 to 4 days a week he doubles his running. Occasionally, he will have to miss a class due to a meet. There is little free time and he acknowledges it is extensively time-consuming, so it is also a lifestyle. (Interview with Daniel) Being a student-athlete is something my friend would highly recommend for anyone interested in sports. Participating in sports is a great way to get into shape, meet new people, and be active in the community. Making friendships that will last forever is a lifelong benefit. Having to face and work through obstacles and hardships has developed a strong work ethic. Athletes can work hard and do well in school and sports. The challenge is great and time-consuming, but the rewards are worth it, especially if you truly love your sport. The sports’ industry market is anticipated to rise to an unprecedented $73. 5 billion dollars by 2019. (Heitner, Darren) Sports, aside from being a popular pastime for many around the world, are a large money maker. Professional teams will continue to seek out new talent. As the industry continues to grow more money is being made available in the form of scholarships to student-athletes. The first recorded Olympics were in 760 BC and have only increased in popularity. (Wood, Robert) This suggests we can confidently say sports and student-athletes are here to stay. The subculture of student-athletes is one which is subject to strong negative stereotypes regarding intelligence, elitism, and favoritism resulting from the damaging portrayal of athletes in film, news media, and long-held fallacies about student-athletes. Misconceptions about this subculture have resulted in harsh criticism, alienation, and a seemingly rigid divide between sporting and non-sporting individuals.

While it may be true, sometimes these stereotypes are accurate and unfair exceptions have been made, especially in academics, to allow some individuals to play sports who are not fulfilling their academic obligations, this is the exception and not the rule. The student-athlete subculture includes a variety of individuals who commit their lives to the pursuit of excellence within their chosen sport. Studies show most student-athletes take academics quite seriously and often pursue them with greater diligence because of the high demands of being in sports. A similar lifestyle and goals are what bonds this group making it a unique subculture existing within schools. However, this close bond is often mistaken as elitism. Benefits of a being a student-athlete includes being proficient at a sport, physical fitness, development of diligence, character, determination, and forming friendships that last a lifetime. Popularity and the lucrative nature of sports suggest that it will continue, therefore, the subculture of student-athletes will persist.

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