Scott Baker’s Walkin’ The Sidelines: Student athletes- Well-rounded excellence



There are students. There are athletes. Then, there are student-athletes.

Student-athletes are who I will put my focus on in this column. Student-athletes are a special breed. They are not the majority of our students. They are not the majority of our athletes on the majority of our teams. Rather, they are the athletes that are different. They are different in their approach to the classroom. They are different in their approach to their athletic pursuits.

Being a student-athlete is special.

It is an honor.

Student-athletes are different in the way that they carry themselves, the way that they perform and the way they act. They thrive on being different. But sadly, too many students do not choose to be different.

Likewise, too many athletes fail to be different either.

Far too many athletes want to play sports but they fail to be a student. Or, they are a student and fail to put forth what is necessary to be a truly successful athlete.

Being a successful student-athlete requires so much. So much that many athletes don’t have the desire or ability to give. Being a student-athlete requires commitment– commitment in the classroom, commitment to homework, commitment to athletic preparation, commitment in the practice and competitive arena and commitment in the community.

Yes, the community.

You see, being a true student-athlete is a 24/7/365 kind of thing. Actually, it’s not just kind of a thing. It is a thing.

A big thing.

For one to be a successful student-athlete, dedication is critical. Dedication to academics, dedication to athletics and dedication to the community in which they live.

To be a successful student-athlete, there must be sacrifices. There is only so much time in the day. One thing that we all have in common is just that, time. We have exactly 24 hours in a day. No more, no less than anyone else. What we choose to do with that time is what separates us. The successful student-athlete will use that time to their advantage while those who “just” play sports will simply use time with no concern for using it well. That’s another way of saying that they will waste it.

I’ve always believed that there are certain things that a prospective-student athlete can do with their time. They can go to school.

They can go to practice.

They can do homework.

They can spend free time doing a myriad of fun things.

Now, let’s consider what they must do if they are to be a successful student-athlete.

In order to play, one must go to school. In order to play, one must go to practice. In order to play, one must complete homework so that they pass those classes in school.

What there often is not time for is playing video games or time with friends. Something has to give when you’re a student-athlete. The give must be that which is optional.

School is not an option.

Practice is not an option.

Homework is not an option.

The only thing that is an option is free time. Is that fun to hear? Is it fair?

Probably not.

However, if you want to be a successful student-athlete, you must sacrifice. That is why some succeed and some fail. At least, they fail to achieve their full potential.

Some are committed. They are willing to sacrifice for something they love. Others want to be successful yet are unwilling to pay the price to do so.

There is a great dilemma. Often some of the best athletes are not the best student-athletes.

Why? They are not willing to sacrifice. Are they athletic? Yes. Do they like to play? Yes. Are they willing to give things up to do so? Sadly, that is where they fall short.

Successful student-athletes are committed to both athletics and academics. They understand that what will eventually pay the bills will be the academics. Yet, they also understand that the lessons learned on the fields, courts, pools and mats are invaluable as well.

Participating successfully in sports is a 24/7/365 responsibility. It’s a responsibility that only those who are devoted can handle successfully. Those who are not willing to sacrifice will pretend yet they will ultimately struggle to find ultimate success.

Sacrifice is key. Those who are all-in understand those sacrifices. They sacrifice free time for strength training.

They sacrifice a movie date for a late practice.

They sacrifice video games for a brisk run.

So I ask of athletes or better yet, student-athletes, are you willing to sacrifice to be a successful student-athlete or will you be like the majority who will have one foot in and one foot out? Only you can decide. It’s truly an individual choice.

If you make the decision to be a successful student-athlete, the evidence will be in your performance, not in your words. It will be in your classroom performance. It will be in your athletic performance. It will be in your conduct in the community as well. You see, successful-student athletes are known on their teams, in their schools and in their communities. The way they conduct themselves in each determines their success as a true student-athlete.

So I ask those who contend to be a student-athlete, are you all in?

Are you dedicated?

Do you sacrifice?

Are you a strong athlete?

Are you a strong student?

Do you conduct yourself well in your community?

If you answered yes to each of those questions, you are likely on your way to being a quality student-athlete. If not, you are probably just an athlete needing to sacrifice and commit to the classroom and community in order to truly be the student-athlete that you may desire to be.

Simply put, we need fewer athletes and more student-athletes on our teams in our schools and on the streets of our communities.

Rest assured, there is plenty of room for more student-athletes. Will you be one of them?


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