There is a constant dispute within academic circles about the value of competitive athletics in colleges and universities. Many academics see the activity as a waste of time and resources, however that argument is not fact based. Do you have to be a student athlete to be a good doctor, lawyer, banker or anything else? The answer of course is no but, there is increasing evidence the best of each of those professions has benefited from their experience as a student athlete.
As a treasurer of a bank I always leaned to former student athletes when I hired… all other things being equal. Successful student athletes learn the skills of time management and teamwork. I couldn’t care less what team sport the applicant played but the demonstrated ability to juggle sports and academic requirements was a valuable skill to consider in a prospective employee.
There is now additional studies available that confirm my more intuitive findings. The “Association of American Medical Colleges,” in an article published on February 8th in AAMCNEWS written by Jen A. Miller answers the question, ” Athletes are known for their drive and determination. So are doctors. But can you excel at both?”
Miller relates the story of Brian Hainline MD as he interviewed for a neurology residency at New York Presbyterian/Wiell Cornell Medical Center. The last part of the interview focused on a perceived conflict between his obligations of a students athlete and need for study. In the end,” he was going to be the person who teaches everyone the sense of discipline and persistence.” Hainline is now the chief medical officer of the NCAA and wants to formalize the pathway from student athlete to a career in medicine. He is partnering with the NIH to discuss a pilot project that encourages student athletes to consider professions in the medical field and attract a more diverse group of students to medicine.
There is data to suggest that students athletes who studied medicine became very successful clinicians. A 2012 study is pointed out by Miller done at the Washington University School of Medicine that studied clinicians ranked by the faculty. I am quoting from the article, ” those who got the highest faculty ratings were those with an established excellence in a team sport.”
The AAMC Executive Vice President writes, ” So much of medicine is really about personality, or the ability to deal with people effectively, and the ability to lead people. Those are characteristics we see in student athletes who have been successful in team or individual sports.”
However, these same attributes are valuable in most any profession. A 2015 study by espenW and EY found that 80 pct of female Fortune 500 executives played competitive sports at some time in their lives , and that 65% of those on the 2017 Fortune List of Most Powerful Women played sports competitively in either high school, college, or both. Only 1% of student athletes go on to play professional sports. They become leaders in many professions.
Hainline states, “Some people believe you can’t be pre-med or be a STEM major and be an athlete at the same time.” Hainline would be glad to know that at Lafayette we disprove that statement every graduation. It does however, beg the question are we doing our best to provide athletic experiences equal to our academic experiences? Are colleges in general providing the resources to hire and retain excellent “coach-mentors” and is there a cooperative effort between the academic and athletic side of the institution to make the student athlete experience a valuable one? Is care taken that coaches are the equal to ALL faculty- teacher mentors?
Strong graduates eventually make strong and generous alumni, a benefit to the entire institution. This is a lesson administrators and BOT members must take to heart.