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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Academic rigor leads to high drop-out rates in sports

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I think we can all agree that Carleton has the best mix of athletic and academic prowess in the MIAC. When mixed together, it gives the student-athletes here the best balance of work and play. But, for some athletes, balancing the Carleton student atmosphere and devoting hours upon hours to a sport, proves too much to handle. Without any money in terms of athletic scholarships available at the Division 3 level, athletes are not burdened by deciding to stop competing. As sophomore Nick Cohen says, former member of Carleton baseball, “Especially at a D3 school, I don’t think anybody comes here with the intention of going pro after their collegiate career.” But, what are the real reasons Carleton athletes stop competing? Cohen, and former baseball player and sophomore Josh Johnson, weigh in on the reasons for their absence from the diamond this year.

The time commitment for athletes is extremely substantial. With Carleton’s academic rigor, it is difficult for students to keep up on their coursework. For example, this fall, only one Carleton football player received All-MIAC academic honors, for playing football takes up an enormous amount of time and energy that could be focused on coursework. Johnson is a prime example of this, for one of the reasons he stopped playing was that his “grades took a hit during traveling in the winter.” Johnson said, “it’s worthy to note I came out with a great GPA fall term, so the effect that baseball had on my grades were pretty clear.” Athletes have to devote time on the field, track or pool, as well as in the weight room. This could take over 20 hours per week during respective seasons, which undoubtedly affects the amount of time athletes can take on their coursework. Cohen also asserted that the biggest difficulty about being an athlete is the time commitment. “It is a major time commitment,” he said. “Once you get into the season itself, come February 1, you’re practicing 6 days a week, 3 hours a day, not including changing, eating and showering. Once you get into the spring, you have 8 hour days on the field.” Luckily for Carleton athletes, we aren’t a division 1 school. If so, even more time would be devoted athletics, and it would be extremely difficult to maintain a high level of academic success. But, there are plenty of students who do not feel the effects of Carleton’s athletics on their academics. It goes on a case by case basis.

Also, being an athlete hampers on a student’s ability to get involved in other things on and off campus. Being an athlete is pretty much a part-time job, and it is difficult to find the time to take advantage of Carleton’s amazing opportunities. One has to enjoy taking part in a sport if it really continues to be worth it. Cohen felt that “it is worth it if you really enjoy going out there every day, and enjoy playing the game.” Unfortunately, he “felt that the game didn’t do that for me as it had before, and [he] wanted to get involved in other things.” For Cohen, he found his place doing Carleton OCS programs. He explained, “I decided to study abroad in Berlin in the fall, and DC in the spring, so just logistically speaking, it didn’t make a lot of sense for me to stay and use up my time during practice in the winter, to not play.” He believes that OCS programs are “probably the best thing a student can take advantage of here.” With athletes training throughout the year, even in the offseason, there can be pressure to stay fit and ready to compete. It is tough for baseball players to leave campus at any time during the year, so Carleton’s stresses on studying abroad can pose a problem for these athletes.

Johnson had a tough time giving up playing baseball for the Knights. He explained, “It was the hardest decision of my life, and it was not one that I made overnight. […] Every person I talked to knew how much I loved the game of baseball, and how it has always been a key part of my life.” But, he decided to focus his time and energy on a “40 year plan rather than a 4 year plan.” Johnson plans to go to medical school, and we all know how hard a pre-med track at Carleton can be. Playing baseball was only going to make it that much more difficult to maintain good grades and manage labs. He said, “I’d be living in a perfect world if I could play baseball here and kill it in academics,” but in reality it is extremely difficult to accomplish. Thus, the only way he could do that was to stop playing. It was an extremely difficult decision for him, but luckily, both his coach and teammates were extremely supportive.

Being a Carleton athlete can put a lot on one’s plate. It is a reality that athletes have to deal with, and there isn’t really a perfect solution. The only thing to do is be supportive of a student’s individual decisions, and although it could hurt some teams because great athletes stop playing, it gives another athlete an opportunity to step up and take his or her place. It becomes a benefit to all.

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