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17th of March 2018


Muscle Heads = Student Athletes? -

—Do you hear…, what…, I…, hear….,? You only get one guess.No it is not a lyric from an endearing Christmas song.Time is up, no more guessing; one might say it is the quintessential oxymoronic statement of all times.

Contrary to popular belief, research debunks the myth that the phrase; “student-athlete” is a term of endearment and its primary purpose is to compliment those students who are participants in an extracurricular activity that requires, physical agility.


1. ATHLETE: a person trained or gifted in exercise or contest involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise or game requiring physical skill.

2. STUDENT: a person formally engaged in learning, especially one enrolled in a school or college.

Referring to one as a “student-athlete” suggests that the two are not supposed to, or, are not likely to co-exist within a single human embodiment. Upon further review, we see that the definitions are diametrically opposed; neither references the other nor do they lend themselves to the possibility that they are somehow connected.

Will we lament that this assertion is much to do about nothing and is a non-issue? Will our love and concern for our students be a cause for further research, specifically supporting their inner being and self-esteem as we continue our diligent work of creating a physically and mentally healthy and safe environment ensuring for them a bright future?

These two (2) words are arguably the loudest and the quietest sounds that simultaneously, permeate the consciousness of millions of “student-athletes” across this country.

Drum roll, please! The origins of “student-athlete” lie not in a disinterested ideal but in a sophisticated formulation designed, as the sports economist Andrew Zimbalist has written, to help the NCAA in its “fight against workers’ compensation insurance claims for injured football players.”

“We crafted the term student-athlete,” Walter Byers himself wrote, “and soon it was embedded in all NCAA rules and interpretations.”

The term came into play in the 1950s, when the widow of Ray Dennison, who had died from a head injury received while playing football in Colorado for the Fort Lewis A&M Aggies, filed for workers’-compensation death benefits. “Did his football scholarship make the fatal collision a “work-related” accident? Was he a school employee, like his peers who worked part-time as teaching assistants and bookstore cashiers? Or was he a fluke victim of extracurricular pursuits?”

Muffled with the deafening, silence of well-meaning individuals, our students are thrust into the arena of public opinion. They, in their quests to please the crowd and to uphold the pseudo-tag of being exceptional because they are student-athletes, may harbor unspoken fears and invisible tears as millions of students (“student-athletes”) go unnoticed because they have chosen to put their athletic talents on display.

Personal inquiry: Do you marvel in amazement and or gasp when informed about those that are both academically astute and are performing athletically at a high level?

Many athletes clearly see the translucent, reflections of the condescending attitudes of the well-wishers. The gasps and the “oh mys” are readily noticed by the athlete.

As the athletes prepares to exhibit their athletic crafts it may become increasingly difficult for them to ignore that all too familiar chant; “and he/she is a great student.”

This “compliment” could very easily be and often is misinterpreted by the millions of individuals with preconceived, although misguided, beliefs of “all brawn and no brains.”

It is generally believed and accepted that; “perception is reality,” thus giving life to a barrage of; sarcastic, snide remarks, ultimately, strengthening the insinuations and innuendos that their alleged, academic prowess’s are embellished and questionable at the very the least. This toxic thinking may and can cause irreparable damage to the psyche of the “student.”

It has long been stated that anything with “two-heads is a monster.” As we explore this concept we might be wise to consider the following:

Because of the stigma associated with being a “student-athlete,” some of the more apprehensive and skeptical individuals have been known to express their skepticisms in an unflattering manner. Chants of disbelief and even disdain for the performers have been and continued to be heard around the world.

These chants manifest themselves in various forms as they are bellowed out, with seemingly, no regard for there validity. These shrill, ear piercing, unfounded allegations, referencing the athlete’s inept academic preparation is generally shouted the loudest negative inferences do a tremendous amount of damage in a plethora of ways.

They damage the psyche of those that may be so inclined to explore their athletic talents. They discourage those that may have discovered their athletic prowess but are having academic difficulties and embrace the mindset that they are not properly equipped to expand their knowledge base. May cripple those with; self-induced, physical restraints and unsubstantiated doubts relative to their aspiring to ascend to the apex of their athletic talent level.

Demeaning, derogatory terms such as “dumb-jock” and “muscle-head” further exacerbate the connotation that is drawn when someone is referred to as being a “student-athlete”.

Being referred to as a “student-athlete” encapsulates the connotation of such acronyms as the academic astuteness of the athlete gets lost in the fog of deception, as supporters, parents, and well-wishers hand out; at-a-boys, and pats on the back.

As the athletes are immersed in the concept of acquiring and maintaining an attitude of sportsmanship and focus, they are also baptized with the thought of and the expectation to, exercise constant civility.Their pre-academic acquisition coupled with their post-athletic education is ever-present as their inaudible voices resonate throughout this country.

Strangely if they object to vociferously and address these unfounded allegations, we find that, on far too many occasions, the “student-athlete” becomes “the enemy,” and could very well be branded as a troublemaker for simply attempting to gain respect as a knowledgeable student who happens to participate in athletics.Once the “enemy” label is attached to them, they may become ostracized and their voices mysteriously becomes inaudible and they are expected to accept the stigma and cruelty, that is often coupled with verbal insults and may be told and expected to believe, that, those negative attitudes and the misinformation that is readily disseminated comes with being an athlete.

In applauding these two words “student-athlete” are we applying unspoken bullying tactics and causing our students to have consternation when they should be enjoying their youth and preparing for an uninhibited future?

Do you hear what I hear?

© 2018 Melvin Lars—

—Photo credit: Getty Images

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