Some high school students over-emphasize sports at the expense of their academic pursuit. That is likely a mistake for most students. Although in certain sports there are certainly opportunities to go pro directly from high schools, for most athletic students, their academic pursuit needs to come first for several reasons:
1. If your grades are not good enough, you can’t play on high school teams or be accepted into college. Many leagues only take college players because they feel college is the training ground for future pro players. Many pro players that went directly from high school proved to be immature and not good team players because they do not have the team experience and strategic thinking that you get from college sports. Great athletic skills do not automatically make a great player.
2. If you do not do well enough in college, you cannot play in sport teams. If you do really poorly, you may not even graduate. Players who drop out of college will not have a chance at going pro, because they demonstrated that they do not have the commitment to finish anything.
3. For most college players, there is no pro career. Their athletic skills in a non-pro environment do not automatically guarantee coaching jobs somewhere because they do not have the proper training and thinking skills to be successful coaches. The phrase, “if you can’t play, coach.” is not true. Coaching requires thinking and analytic skills that many players do not possess.
4. Even if you are good enough to go pro, there is still a chance to get injured. Jay Williams of Chicago Bulls is one example where one injured doomed his pro career and almost lost everything. Thankfully the Bulls did give him $3 million even though they are not obligated to, and thanks to his analytic skills learned from his career at Duke University, he was able to get an analyst job at ESPN. He also goes around giving motivational speeches and promoting education.
4. What happens when your pro career ends? That’s a question many pros don’t even think about because they make so much money while playing as professionals. Sadly, many pro players do not do well after their pro careers are over, and some lived in poverty despite having made millions from the pro careers. Exceptions like Magic Johnson use their knowledge and talent to start successful second careers. At the very least, you need to be able to manage your money so you don’t exhaust it before your time on Earth is up.
So, no matter how good you are as an athlete, please do well in school. If nothing else, it’s an insurance policy in case your pro career does not go as well as you imagined…