I just finished reading John R. Gerdy's article "For True Reform Athletic Scholarships Must Go." I found it very interesting and really got me thinking. I had never before attributed the negative consequences of sports to something as simple as athletic scholarship. The points Gerdy makes, are very clear and make sense, but I think it goes further than athletic scholarship. I feel the real route to the problems in sports are money. By problems I mean doping; fighting among parents, referees, and coaches; lying and cheating.
From the time a child can walk parents can now have them participate in sports. They want them to grow up and be the next athletic superstar. Parents will not hesitate at the chance to pull their child out of school so they can focus solely on their athletic pursuit. According to http://usa.usembassy.de/sports-youth.htm, in 2003, 58% of boys and 51% of girls in high school played sports. This is an outstanding number. Not all of these student athletes can go on to be professionals, but I am sure almost all of them have dreams of being the best. This has caused the "win at all costs motto" children abide by. This dreams of stardom leads to the crazy parents on the sidelines screaming at their kids and starting fights with rules officials. Is this what sports should be about? Absolutely not!
I firmly believe sports are great for kids. Its an easy outlet for their built-up energy, builds cognitive skills like problem solving, and teaches dedication. Sports should also be about (which at current times I feel they aren't) honesty and learning to work together as a team. If every athlete is in it for himself, to win and accept nothing less, they lose these essential values. Setting goals and achieving them builds confidence. Winning is not the problem. Its that poor idea stuck in the kid's mind that if they lose all hell breaks lose that is wrong.
From the points presented above, I think too much emphasis is placed on the money aspect of sports. Eliminating athletic scholarships in favor of need-based financial aide is a radical, awesome idea. I feel one of the biggest critics of this idea is that little money will be given to minorities who use sports as an outlet to escape the poor conditions they grow up in. This is where people are wrong. If it is still need-based, the poorer students (many who are of minority status) will still be given financial assistance. The only difference will be academics must come first. If athletes are held to the same standards as the rest of the student body they will grow up knowing they must work hard in high school to go on to play collegiate sports. These student-athletes who succeed will be more well-rounded because they know how to handle schoolwork and sports.
The athletic scholarship requires a player to play, be the best no matter the circumstances. Players can miss time on the athletic field or their scholarship could be dropped. This leads to players playing when they are injured and would be better off resting. The athlete believes they are at the school only to play ball and quite frankly when athletic scholarships are given that is their sole purpose. The stereotypes around jocks assume they have no expectation to make good grades are even have more than minimal intelligence at that. If colleges switch over to need-based financial aid, athletes will feel they have other options at the school. If they do not like the college coaching tactics, they do not have to play and their financial assistance will not be revoked. I understand this is hard concept for Americans to accept, but I believe the sporting world is in need of a desperate makeover.