Myra Bean Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Student-athletes hold their futures in their own hands

Recently, I was referred to as a “hack sports writer” because I have not written about the ratio of high school student-athletes who do not qualify to play for Division 1 schools.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Though playing for a Division 1 school would be someone’s greatest dream, I am just glad something motivated them to want to go to any school past high school.

I understand that it would be great for the high profile athlete if he/she qualified to play for the top schools, but it is not about us. It is about them.

Have you ever wondered how football, baseball or any sport got its first start? I do not mean the first organized game when it was recorded for posterity. I mean the first ever yard ball game, when some dad or some boy or some girl picked up a rock or stone and started throwing it around the yard. There were no rules on how far or how close you have to be to throw the rock.

Then a neighbor or brother or sister saw another having fun and decided they wanted to join in; to have some fun and relieve some boredom.

See, in the early times men showed off their horse and fighting skills in organized events and such. Those who did not have horses had to do something for recreational sports and quality family time.

When was the first child ever told he could not play sports with the other kids because of his grades? When did a mom first tell a child to do some chores and the chores were not done because the children were in the streets playing ball with each other? You know how you get caught up in something fun or exciting and time passes. People tend to forget what they are supposed to do or said they would do because of some other interesting activity.

Who was the first child ever penalized because his or her grades failed due to participation in sports?

Not the organized kind – the kind where you play with your friends in the yard after school and on weekends. The kind of sports where the kids never seem to tire and play on for hours and hours and forget they had homework or chores.

That punishment was probably never reported.

As sports began to grow more in popularity and become more organized, all sorts of rules for participation came along with it.

Why do you need a PhD to be able to play football? You don’t really, but it seems to be the way the industry is heading.

More and more rules and standards are being enacted to weed out who can play organized sports at the high school and college level.

Why can a student go to college to become a professional journalist but cannot say they are going to college to just play a sport?

As journalism is a calling to some, sports are a calling to athletes. But athletes are made to feel like they have to hide what they love.

Accusations come down about the schools not getting the student-athletes eligible for college.

In speaking with South Panola High School counselor, Shauna Myers, athletes have to have 16-core courses to meet NCAA eligibility. Students have to plan and make an extra effort to graduate eligible for admission into a four-year university. Upon high school graduation with the basic 24-required courses, students from South Panola are eligible to attend a junior college.

Many athletes in their early years may not plan to attend college. Then, lo and behold in their junior and senior years, they do well enough to earn the attention of major universities and are offered scholarships. Those who did not plan ahead may not have taken the four required math courses necessary to enter a university. The high school requires four math units, but pre-algebra and basic math are not recognized by the universities as fulfilling requirements.

South Panola does offer all the university required courses for students who plan to bypass the community college. It even offers AP (advanced placement) courses for college hours.

Therefore, it takes some time before entering high school by the parents and students to make sure students plan for contingencies.

The NCAA even makes it easier for athletes to enter the universities than non-athletes. Athletes can take the ACT four times, have their grades added together and have a higher score than other students. The problem is most athletes do not take the ACT but once and miss out on the opportunities presented to them by the colleges. Some universities even take lower high school GPA, but require a higher ACT score.

The counselors have all this information for the student-athlete, but they cannot hold the athletes’ hands all the way through school. In college, the coaching staff rides hard on the athletes to make sure they go to class. All the other students have to get up and go on their own.

If the athletes are not eligible for university admission, it is their fault – not the school’s. The opportunities are there. Start in the ninth grade taking the ACT. Yes, it will cost about $40 every time. But if it got my college paid for, I would consider that a fair return.

So you have had my speech about students becoming academically eligible for Division 1 schools. Plan ahead and you can play for Ole Miss, Mississippi State or any other SEC, Conference USA or Division 1 university. Athletes, you need to take responsibility for your own future and decide what you want out of life.

Earn your way and no one can ever take it away from you. If you always wait or expect someone to give you something, that well will dry up and you will be left with nothing.

Myra Bean may be contacted at