Many of us have been down that road - adjusting to college courses, life in college, becoming a young adult.
If you’re an athlete adjusting to those things, there are factors that don’t come with a campus brochure: Practice time is longer, practices are more intense. The competition for playing time is more intense.
But for college athletes, there is another adjustment, handling the business side of college athletics and discovering what help is available for student-athletes.
College athletics and a business
“Both high school and college should be treated as business if you have aspirations of making it far,” said Dakota Pruitt, who is playing college baseball at Otero Junior College. “But it’s definitely a different animal in college. They basically pay you with schooling to ensure you’re playing your best. If you aren’t, then - as if it were a job - you’ll lose it.”
Former Frederick basketball player Izayah Elize, who played college ball at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, Wyoming, left no doubt. College sports is a business.
“But it feels like any other team,” he said. “However, you’re taken care of very well and differently than high school.”
His former classmate, Ryan Chacon, who runs cross country at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas, said college athletics can feel like a business.
“If you’re not fast enough to score points or compete at a high level, then you will be pushed to the bottom of the depth chart,” he said.
Gerardo Caldera, the former Adams City multi-sport athlete (he chose to play football at Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa) took the same approach as Chacon.
“College is like a business in a way,” he said. “One wrong move or one missed assignment can cost you your spot as a starter or, possibly, on the rotation.”
Former BHS football Eli Bowman, who’s playing collegiately at the South Dakota School of Mines, agreed.
“It’s different seeing your coaches actively recruit guys at your position that could either be your replacements or steal your spot,” he said. “It’s just like in the workplace. We also basically get paid to play football, so it doesn’t feel like I’m voluntarily playing football sometimes.”
Stargate School alum Emma Kulbida, who swam for Legacy High School and now swims for Carnegie Mellon, said the world of college athletics feels more serious to her.
“College athletics has felt a little bit more like a business because of the structure and requirements,” she said. “Practices and meets are mandatory in college. Although I attended as much as I could in high school, this inflexible structure has been harder to manage.”
“I would say that professionalism is highlighted more in collegiate athletics,” said Madison Roecker, who is a cheerleader at Nebraska Wesleyan. “However, no, I wouldn’t describe it as a business”
Former Brighton High School running back Vershon Brooks, who goes to school at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, said he could feel the business side of college sports.
“It didn’t really shock me,” he said. “I knew about it coming in.”
In Chase Prestwich’s case, it didn’t affect him at all.
“No, not really,” said the former Brighton and Frederick high school pitcher who’s toiling for Northwestern State University in Louisiana. “I’m doing something I enjoy.”
Stargate School alum Erica Derby, who played soccer at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska, described being a college athlete as “a job.”
“I am up at college for one reason: to get a degree,” she said. “I am lucky I am able to play soccer on top of that, so I take both my education and soccer very seriously. If I am not playing soccer, I am studying, doing homework or something school-related. I put my focus into school and soccer because if I don’t have good grades, I can’t play soccer. So school comes first and then soccer.”
Former Brighton High School swimmer Jespyn Bishop, who played water polo at McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois, didn’t think college athletics amounted to a business.
“It just kind of feels like a professional sports team to me,” he said. “There is just more of a serious aspect to it. You have to be a professional in and out of the water. It’s not like a high-school sport where anyone can try out. Everyone was recruited to be here, and we have to show that we deserve to be here. I’m not trying to make it sound all that bad though because it’s not. You just have to take it seriously while still having a good time.”
As exciting as the new-found freedom can be, the basic reason to go to school is an education. Playing a college sport takes away some of the available time to pursue the degree. But the former athletes we talked to say their schools offer some form of academic help. In some cases, it’s mandatory.
“Academically the team does meetings with coaches and does grade and organization checks,” Brooks said. “For organization, our coaches have us fill out a chart of upcoming assignments and their due dates.”
Ex-Brighton and Frederick high school pitcher Chase Prestwich said athletes at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, have access to their own study halls rooms and computers.
“We can request tutoring whenever we want,” he said. “The athletes also have academic coordinators who manage the study hall times, check our grades regularly, help us schedule classes, advise us when our grades are not good and just overall give us whatever support we need.”
Stargate grad Kulbida said upper-classmen at her school are a great resource.
“Everyone is so willing to help you out. If you are taking a class, there are probably 10 other people on the team who have taken the course and who can help you out with concepts and homework,” she said. “They’re all super encouraging and recommend other resources that they found useful throughout their time at CMU.”
Former Brighton football player Bowman said South Dakota School of Mines “is great” about supporting student-athletes.
“Academics is the No. 1 priority for all of us, and they know that,” Bowman said. “There’s always tutors for every class at any time, so it’s easy to find help in school.”
Adams City grad Caldera said his team at Waldorf University in Iowa has a study hall for anyone with a grade point average of less than 3.0 must attend. Anyone with a higher GPA is welcome to attend, too.
“In the academic portion of the school, we need to push each other and hold each other accountable,” the former Frederick cross country and two-time state track champion Chacon said. “If we don’t do that, some relays may not be a full power. And some points may be missed.”
Stargate School alum Erica Derby said athletes at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska have to attend a certain amount of study hours each week.
“These hours allow us to get our homework done and study,” she said. “There are also tutors for certain subjects. So if you need help, our coach will help set us up with a tutor. Our coach always tells us school comes before soccer.”
High School basketball player Elize said his team at Eastern Wyoming College didn’t have academic issues this season.
“Everyone on our team is required to go to class, and there are always tutors available for our team,” he said.
“Our team has really strong chemistry and we all just hound each other if we are struggling,” said former Riverdale Ridge athlete Dakota Pruitt. He’s playing baseball at Otero Junior College in Colorado. “It is nice to have someone who keeps you honest and makes sure you’re on your stuff.”
Nebraska Wesleyan Madison cheerleader Roecker credited her coach for some academic structure.
“My coach reminds us to prioritize our academics and encourages us to excel in school,” Roecker said. “I think that my high-school experience of being involved in sports and clubs, academics, having a job, and other responsibilities helped to prepare me to manage my schedule now in college.”
“My coaches get grade reports every so often,” said former Brighton High School swimmer Jespyn Bishop. “And if your grades aren’t the best, then they schedule a meeting with you to talk about and see if they can help you or get some help for you from a on campus tutor. We also have weekly study halls that are mandatory to attend.”