By: Andre’ Walker
Now more than ever, African- American parents have placed a greater emphasis on their children’s success in sports. They often believe their child has the making of the next great athlete, causing African-American children to have the highest aspirations for athletic careers. They somehow narrow their focus and concentration only on sports; in return negating other very important skills that are essential in assuring they become complete individuals. African-American children are led to believe that a career in sports is the only exit out of poverty and into respectability.
These stereotypes must be broken to allow African-American children to reach their full potential in life. African-American children also limit the types of sports they participate in. While this partly explains the over representation of Blacks in particular sports, it means they may exclude participation in sports they have not been explored to playing. Despite tremendous odds against reaching professional athletic status, many young people who have such aspirations may devote little time and effort preparing for alternative careers which require abilities and skills gained through successful academic performance. Involvement in sports can contribute positively to the overall development of young people in terms of their health and social status. The truth is many will not ever become a professional athletes. Research shows that African-Americans make up 12 percent of the population.
They make up 78 percent of the National Basketball Association, 67 percent of the National Football League, and 63 percent of the Women’s National Basketball Association. In fact, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) shows that less than 1 percent of all student athletes will become professionals. The focus of African-American children must be placed on much more than just becoming a professional athlete. Their parents, coaches, teachers, and their entire community must help them understand that education will be their key to success.
It is certainly true that sports address educational and social problems faced by many African-American students. It is also true that many people allow sports to meet their social problems and never take advantage of the educational component. Television may continue to show young people examples of athletic superstardom, but the classroom needs to put the emphasis back on more attainable versions of success.
Again playing sports can and does teach interpersonal skills, place athletes in positions to meet people with power and influence, allow athletes to use their reputations to obtain and succeed in certain jobs, and connect athletes with others who can help them get good jobs after retirement. We must tell young African-Americans the truth about what it takes to become a professional athletic versus what it takes to become an educated professional person. The NCAA shows us the true facts about the amount of students that get the chance of playing a professional sport.
The emphasis on sports has and will continue to cause many African-American children to fail. They are often set up by the mindset of their parents, coaches, teachers, and community. They are told at an early age that they will become a great athlete one day. There must be more interest to steer African-American children toward attending college to become student-athletes, not athletic students. It simply doesn’t work that way.