Graduation Highlights Hidden Challenges for Athletes
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As graduation season hits at universities and colleges across the country, a reminder of what student-athletes have gone through in order to achieve those degrees is in order. For the vast majority of their time in school, fans (and we in the media) focus almost solely on their exploits on the fields and courts of play. Only rarely does that narrow vision get broadened, and unfortunately when it does it’s usually for a transgression or shortcoming that removes them from competition.
It’s refreshing, then, to get a glimpse of the other side of the student-athlete’s life, and we use that term intentionally. While some detractors laugh at the term, thinking that those in the collegiate ranks have a cushy time with easy classes, it’s simply not the case. Road trips, practice, recovery and game preparation eat up a ton of time no matter the sport, and that’s before (or more accurately, alongside) the time that must be spent on academics.
“It’s not easy,” West Virginia senior pitcher BJ Myers detailed after pitching his last home game on Saturday and graduating to boot. “Travelling on the road, seven weekends of the year, missing Thursday and Friday classes and having to make up tests on Monday when we get back, I think people lose sight of that. We try to take easier classes in the spring, but they’re all college courses.”
Myers and teammate Shane Ennis also missed the commencement ceremonies at the WVU Coliseum the weekend prior, as they were on a road trip at TCU. Thus, both greatly appreciated the ceremony held in conjunction with Senior Day. The duo walked from the dugout in caps and gowns and received their diplomas from WVU associate provost Paul Kreider, providing a great visual illustration of the marriage of athletics and academics they have had to manage.
“It was pretty special,” Myers reflected. “We didn’t get to walk (during WVU’s traditional graduation ceremony), so getting that diploma was a huge accomplishment for me. It sets me up great in life, and will let me do anything I want to do. It was special to have my family here, and everyone around, and have that moment with me.”
Those achievement and accomplishments extend to the high school level too. Incoming WVU football commitment Sam James summed it up neatly on the occasion of his high school commencement.
Y'all don't understand what I accomplished I graduated high school, I don't have any kids, I'm not on drugs, I haven't been arrested, and I'm getting a free education #blessed pic.twitter.com/J2ZZMwgfCq
— SKJ_10 (@SKJ_10) May 19, 2018
We’ll likely forget that when James arrives at WVU. He’ll be judged on how many passes he can track down or how many times he crosses the goal line, and while that is one of the reasons he has a football scholarship, it’s important to remember everything that went into getting him into that position in the first place.
Myers and James are just two of the thousands of student-athletes across the country that are doing, and have done, it right through their careers. It’s worth the time to share a few minutes of appreciation for that, and for all the hard work that went into it, as they and others make the commencement walks this spring.