Student-athletes told to focus on school
By Luke Roman
“I can’t emphasize how important it is to make the grades. Just like you work hard on the courts, you have to bring it back home and hit the books,” said Brian Williams, CEO of BWBA (Basketball with Balance & Attitude) basketball academy, former member of the University of Alabama football team who received the honor of All-SEC in 1995 and one of the speakers at Morgan County High School’s “WHY WE PLAY, High School Athletics, College Scholarships: What Every Parent Should Know” seminar at the high school’s auditorium on Monday, Oct. 24.
Coach Cisson helped bring in some key speakers, like Dr. Ralph Swearngin, executive director of the Georgia High School Association. Swearngin spoke about the true purpose of athletics and pointed out the word "student-athlete." “Which word comes first?” he asked. He continued that high school athletics is an “extension of the classroom” and “the whole school benefits, from the athletes to the spectators.” He also added that high school athletics don’t exist to get scholarships; they exist to teach student-athletes life lessons and how to eventually be a good citizens throughout their lives.
"The number one reason student-athletes play is for that purpose, to learn that life isn’t easy, to realize everything doesn’t go your way and hard work will get you to where you want to be. When you are on the practice field on a summer afternoon or under the Friday night lights, you are learning a disciplined lifestyle, taking responsibility, self-control under stress, [about the] team's goals which are more important than personal goals,” he said.
He finished by saying that when watching the televised games at the Georgia Dome, don’t just focus on the Rivals.com Top 10 Player; watch the offensive and defensive lines, the players that might not be that good, because they may on ESPN one day.
Coach Charlemagne Gibbons was crucial in setting this event up. One of speakers was his own father, who did joke around about his son a few times. Dr. Charlie Gibbons is Associate Dean of Education at Alabama State University. Dr. Gibbons coached for a combined 10 years at Auburn University at Montgomery and Georgia Southern University, where he is a member of the Georgia Southern Basketball Hall of Fame. He said that his son, Coach Gibbons, was doomed to be in the coaching field; he was brought to his first recruiting trip when he was 2 years old and has always been a hard worker and willing to help, which is obvious with this seminar he helped set up.
He discussed the true purpose of college athletics. He cited the most important criteria, like the other speakers: “You have to have the grades, have to make it in school. The NCAA has made rules that you have to make progress in towards a degree.” Again, they call it "student-athlete" for a reason, “student” is always first. “Put your all on the field or court but most important, put your all in the classroom.” He also stated that the best way to increase the chance of getting recruited is to better grades, SAT and ACT scores. He referred to the NCAA commercial where student-athletes say they are "going pro in something other than sports."
Williams, who was a top 10 recruit coming out of high school, got All-SEC honors in 1995 while playing for the Crimson Tide’s basketball team. He discussed "expectations vs. reality." He said that with all the media attention of Division 1 athletics, a lot of high school athletes think it is that or nothing. That isn’t reality.
“We overlook so many opportunities. Just because we have received interest from, say, Georgetown, don’t overlook the smaller schools because you may be a late bloomer and the two years at a smaller school will give you the preparation you need for a bigger school, plus you will be able to focus on key classes easier."
He also said, “Don’t focus on where everyone else is, focus on yourself. Set small goals that you can achieve and you will be astonished at the avenues that will pop up.”
Brian Pittman, head softball coach of Southern Union Community College, stressed the value of good grades above everything else and gave a perspective from the community college level, how going that avenue will help late bloomers be at the top of their game by the time they get up to Division 1 or Division 2. He talked about the fact that anyone who plays sports other than basketball or football isn’t going to get a full ride; this makes it that much more important to focus on grades and get academic scholarships.
Tommy McWhorter, director of the Scholar Shots Foundation, formerly one of the best high school coaches in the metro Atlanta area, coaching at Eastside High School, South Cobb and Berkmar High School, has produced many college athletes throughout his career. He discussed scholarship options outside of high school athletics. He discussed the power of travel ball and how doing that and putting a name out in different colleges and going to as many camps as possible is very crucial. He discussed how to keep sending info and tapes to colleges year after year because they will finally put a name on the radar after they have heard it over and over. He also discussed how coaches now are done with 2012 and are looking up to classes as far up to 2015.
Grades are the most important aspect of the recruiting process. A degree will be the key to your success and future. 8/10000 (0.08 percent) make it to the pros in football and 3/10,000 (0.03 percent) make it in basketball. The margins are just a bit higher for Division 1 (Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Texas, USC, etc.). If you go to the school and work hard, you have a 1:1 chance of getting the HOPE scholarship as long as you keep a B (3.0) average, MCHS Principal Dr. Mark Wilson said. What odds look the best to you?
Printed in the October 27 edition