Student Athletes: What About Us?

I had the honor to speak to the female student athletes at Wake Forest University. This presentation was special for me because the young ladies that sat in front of me was me! I was once a student athlete on a college campus. I went to college on a full ride tennis scholarship and that fact alone is the reason that this speaking engagement was one that hit close to home! I speak on campuses all over the country and speaking to student athletes is different than speaking to non athletes especially when it comes to finances. Student athletes deal with a lot of outside issues that not only affect their finances, but also affect how they are able to take advantage of offerings on campus that so many of the students who are not athletes get to experience. For example my event was not at 7pm at night like it usually is because that time for many student athletes is practice or study hall time. When I played tennis 4pm-8pm was off limits for anything outside of my sport unless it was a class that was not offered at any other time that semester. If student activities bring events to campus and schedule the events in the evening it is pretty much guaranteed that student athletes will not be there.

Student athletes and their schedules effect their finances. Many people who don't understand the life of a student athlete will often say they are getting a full scholarship what else do they need? That sentence alone points out that the person doesn't understand the ins and outs of being a student athlete. There are different divisions within the NCAA (Division 1-3) and all the divisions don't offer athletic scholarships. Division 3 student athletes don't receive athletic scholarships, but instead receive academic and third party scholarships which usually don't cover the full cost of attending the institution. Also the NCAA is not the only game in town for student athletes, but there is the NAIA, NCCAA, USCAA, NJCAA, CCCAA, NWAC, and the ACCA. All these conferences have their own rules and regulations so being a student athlete does not mean that it is a full ride and everything is taken care of, it is more complex than that!

When I spoke in front of Wake Forest student athletes I knew I had in front of me some who were on full rides, some who were on a combination of scholarships and loans, and maybe some there that were on loans only. I didn't know which ones had what, but I all knew they faced the same problem: money and how to control it. Understand that being on a full ride scholarship doesn't mean that you don't have financial trouble. Many students come from different financial backgrounds and may not have extra money each month to take care of the necessities not covered by an athletic scholarship. Think of a student who is not an athlete, but is on full academic scholarship. If that student comes from a low or middle income family who doesn't have the extra money to send to that student each month then that student has to work to make up the difference.

If the student who is not an athlete can work then the student athlete from the same financial background can do the same. WRONG! This is where the student athlete hits the wall with their finances.

Student athletes schedules are full to the point that if they ever had the time to apply for a job they would never get hired because of their schedule. Student athletes have workouts in the morning, class throughout the day, practice in the afternoon, and study hall in the evening so no manager is ever going to hire them! I know this personally because I tried every restaurant in the city where my college was located and it was always the same reason: you will never be available when I need you to work. I had to rely on the little money my mother sent each month and since I was irresponsible with money it was gone in seven days! Majority of student athletes can't work during school breaks because they are still in season and don't get to go home like everyone else. This financial conundrum is even worse for those student athletes not on full rides because they have the same schedule, but not the money to cover tuition, room and board, food, and books! They have financial gaps and those gaps add up in debt!

That is why it is just as important that student athletes receive REAL financial literacy just like the rest of campus. They are STUDENTS FIRST and have to go out into the real world just like every other student. When I looked at those young ladies that day I seen future physician assistants, architects, CEO's, university presidents, college coaches, and entrepreneurs. All any student needs to be successful is hope.

Hope that after they cross that graduation stage that they are able to take on the world not only intellectually, but also financially! These Wake Forest student athletes now have the financial part handled and it is now up to them to hold the rest of the university accountable by taking the initiative to go to the career services office and get their professional headshot done so they can complete their LinkedIn profile. Go to the student activities office and ask for relevant programs that will help them advance personally and professionally to sometimes be held at a different time so they can attend. There is no doubt in my mind the young ladies that I spoke to at Wake Forest University are going to take this world by storm both professionally and financially! Like majority of student athletes they are excelling in the classroom and all they needed was what is not taught in classrooms. How to behave with money! Now that they have the money part down they are going to win at the game of life! I can't wait to watch it all happen!

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