The field and the classroom: Academic standards and what they mean for athletes

For thousands of high school athletes across the state, high school isn’t meant to be the last stop in their careers on the field. The dream of competing in college or even at professional level burns bright for many. But, as most eventually find out, it’s not that simple. Of those who play competitively in high school sports, only a small percentage will ever earn athletic scholarships for colleges, and a still smaller percentage will suit up at professional level. The NCAA maintains a striking and sobering database of the odds facing high school athletes. The chances of stardom are especially remote for basketball players – only 0.03% of the athletes in high school hoops will reach the pros. The message: High school stars, no matter how talented, can’t count on striking it rich at the highest level.

Hitting the books. Psychology, statistics... plus, you never know when you'll have to hop into a space shuttle.

Hitting the books. Psychology, statistics… plus, you never know when you’ll have to hop into a space shuttle.

Even the few who do have the talent to someday play professionally are headed for trouble if they ignore their responsibilities in the classroom. Very simply, players can’t earn college scholarships if they don’t have the grades to get onto the field in high school. The Florida High School Athletic Association, which governs secondary-level sports in the state, has dozens of rules regarding eligibility, spelled out in the 220-page FHSAA Handbook. Among them: Athletes must have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0, must have four years of high school eligibility, and must earn grades through class work at the school rather than through a private tutor. At the college level, eligibility becomes tighter. Recently-instituted NCAA regulations require a 2.3 GPA for graduating high school athletes in order to play at a program in NCAA Division I. Thus, whether a young athlete is chasing big dreams in football, lacrosse, cross country, or soccer, the effort in the classroom must match the labor on the field.

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