“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great” – Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own
Throughout history, sports have been an unspoken voice for athletes everywhere. Countless hours of practice, games, traveling, and endless workouts in preparation for the season, are inevitable when attempting to play a sport at a high caliber. Athletes are aware of the dedication it takes to perform well on their respective playing grounds. Nonetheless, they go through the pain and hardships of preseasons, the heartbreak of lost games, and the difficulties faced within the team. However, almost all of them do so for the same reason, the love for the game.
For many student-athletes, the sport they play at a collegiate level is the same sport they fell in love with at a young age. Growing up playing a sport molds young individuals in a way many other experiences cannot. The lessons sports teach are inevitable and paramount. Such lessons include but are not limited to loyalty to your team, dedication to your workouts, commitment to the hours, and the appreciation of failure. Each of these lessons create the integrity of the game, which is what makes college sports important and inspiring.
The love for the game is clear as the athletes take the field for the first kick off, tip off, serve, and all of the seconds leading up to the final buzzer. Student-athletes should not be paid because this pure love for the game will be compromised. Athletes will begin playing at a collegiate level for the monetary compensation alone. Decisions on where and when to play will no longer be based on the integrity of the sport, but instead will be based on how much money the school is offering. The quality of the education, the opportunities of a program, the talent of the coach, and the location of the school will no longer be important. Rather, athletes will begin ranking the amount of money they can receive, the level of benefits that can be offered, and where they will receive the most advantages.
By removing this steadfast integrity of the game, the idea of playing for no other reason than the sport being a part of the person you are is forfeited. These inspirational players will become a puppet for the league and will no longer play for their young selves that once fell in love with the sport. When money becomes the premise of the game and the backbone of the effort, the grace of sports will be surrendered.
According to NCAA.org, of the 8 million high school students that participate in high school sports only 480,000 will continue to play in college. The first priority for these student-athletes should be the education provided for them. If the opportunity to play a sport at a collegiate level is presented to a student, the opportunity should be seized. However, this should be a decision based on whether or not they are ready to commit to the time and effort regardless of compensation.