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The Athletic Dilemma – Don’t Take It Personal – Just Take It

I call this the Athletic Dilemma because it creates a dilemma in the world of academics from a tourist standpoint. The Athletic Dilemma is where “academicians get upset about the large focus that is put on athletics in an academic institution.” As a lifelong coach, educator and administrator I have a different perspective on this challenge that should be a Win-Win for everyone!

The real goal of education is to pass along knowledge that will personally affect the students in a positive way preparing them for the next phase of their life. The next phase may be work or higher education, regardless the job of the high school educator is to prepare them for that. Here’s the rub – students don’t come to school because of the teachers – teachers come to school because they have students that pay their salary.

Looking at it from that perspective means that we (educators) need to find the “hot buttons” of our students so that we can do the best job we possibly can at preparing them for the next phase of their life. If that happens to be using a sport as a catalyst to learn the subject that you teach, why is that a bad thing? If the student wants to use athletics as a springboard to get to higher education that is a perfect segway for you (the educator) to “get on their team” to help them reach their goal – while at the same time achieving your goal!

The big question is – does it matter WHY the student is inspired and motivated to learn or just that they are inspired and motivated to learn? I say that the desire to participate in athletics provides a common ground of connection that educators can use to “get on the team” with their students. Think about like this: if your childs room is a train wreck and you ask them to clean it up and it’s a struggle – BUT – they’re boyfriend/girlfriend is coming over so they clean it up – are you mad at why the room got clean or happy that the room got clean?

I suggest that instead of fostering the notion of the Athletic Dilemma, I encourage you to create an Athletic Partnership with the student. I specifically say the student because it is easy to use the coaching staff as the enforcer in your classroom. While this will probably work to get the work done you are not connected with the dreams and goals of your students. When they feel that you are WITH THEM in their journey instead of standing over them out in front yelling orders – you will be amazed at how quickly they become your star student!

If you would like too discuss strategies and concepts on building Athletic Partnerships with your student-athletes please email me at

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