By Maria Ortiz
Athletics can teach fair play, character and a form of enhanced intellect, as student-athletes are forced to mature individually while also being responsible to the group. They develop self-esteem, learn to develop healthy relationships as well as healthy lifestyles and learn to manage emotions.
Campuses should be committed to providing opportunities for student-athletes to excel in the classroom and be leaders on campus and in the community. It is important to recognize that athletes need to get out into the community as often as possible with an emphasis on scholarship and the importance of academic excellence.
A challenge to student-athletes should be to give back to their communities and to individuals in need. This form of engagement may encourage more deliberation in decision-making in order to mitigate potentially poor judgments in compromising circumstances. Instead of getting involved with drugs, alcohol, or gambling, the student-athletes may have built up a foundation of beliefs and core values to withstand peer pressure or boredom. Participation in an institutionally controlled community service program has the potential to produced notions of social responsibility, personal improvement, and future intentions to volunteer beyond college.
Sports have the ability to bring people together. Athletic involvement is at the core of student and community life and is a powerful tool to strengthen social ties and networks, as well as promote the ideals of peace, organization, solidarity, non-violence, tolerance and justice. It’s not enough for these institutions to just dispense knowledge and do research. The goal should be to become an integral part of the community and the world.
As the word gets out to the public that student-athletes are volunteering and doing good deeds in the local areas, more community members will want to associate with the teams, or will be more loyal than they previously were. The increase of fans, and more loyal fans, means more ticket sales and more merchandise sales, which ultimately translates to more revenue for the schools. While the athletic department does have to expend funds to support the community service programs, the positive effects experienced by the student-athletes, the communities, and the school, have the potential to far outweigh those preliminary costs. This in the end is a mutually beneficial relationship, where all parties are reaping the benefits of living, working, and being in community.
Examples of college athletes engaged in their communities
- Macalester College – The Student-Athlete Advisory Council supports civic engagement work through a point system
- University of Minnesota Crookston – Community Engagement
- University of Minnesota Duluth – Bulldogs in the community
- University of Minnesota Twin Cities – University of Minnesota Athletics Department Community Service Outreach
- Winona State University – Student Athletes involved their community