Unfortunately stereotypes develop from some aspect of truth, usually taken to an extreme. For every athlete that looks for an academic pass because of their athletic commitment, there are a handful of others that manage to get it all done without excuses.

Stereotypes aren’t perpetuated solely by teachers, but often times peers and parents as well (my own mother admits initially not wanting me to play sports for fear of the stereotype).  

You want your athletic commitment to be admired by those around you and not viewed as an excuse. You may not be as confident about your pre-calc skills as you are about your go-to move, and that’s okay. However, are you applying the same attitude to your academics as you are to your sport?

Math was not my thing in high school and I was upfront with all my teachers about that, but I was also consistently in their face or in math lab after school trying to figure it out. I never landed that “A,” but my teachers couldn’t say I wasn’t diligent.

Along the way you will undoubtedly face the, “Oh, you’re an athlete” sentiment. Will you be the one to change their mind or will you continue to fuel the stereotype? In the end your brawn will certainly wear out before your brain, which is why taking your life beyond athletics seriously is a good idea. Let’s not forget the decimal that sits in front of the percentage of athletes that turn pro.

Just like the skills that you develop as a teammate and competitor apply to the work world, they can certainly apply to the classroom too. Communicate with your teachers, work together with them to help achieve success. Teachers and professors take note of the extra effort, especially those that are sympathetic to the plight of the student-athlete. Whatever your academic Achilles heel may be, you have to address it. Both the mind and body need development.

As a high school athlete, you are developing yourself as a recruit-worthy package. One-dimensional athletes quickly turn into nightmares for coaches and academic advisors. Failing to graduate with a degree will reflect poorly on the program. Graduating without a degree may not be an option depending on the school you select; stellar athletic and academic performances may be the expectation, which would mean you need transfer if you can’t meet the criteria.

Your platform as an athlete is typically greater than your stance in the classroom. Everybody knows you’re on the team, “[Sport] Player,” is always written before your name in school publications. Use it to your advantage; be known for good things other than your sport or be known for exceptional projects through your sport. Get involved in some community service and take it seriously, beyond the routine visits.  

Break the so-called “mold.” Some of the most impressive people I met through high school and college were student-athletes, so it can be done. But just like your athletic career, it requires work.

Monica McNutt was an All-Met basketball player at Holy Cross Academy who went on to star for the Georgetown women’s team. She will be offering advice to high school athletes who are looking to make the leap to college sports.

Got a question for Monica, or an idea she can use for a future post? Leave it here in the comments, or email her at hss@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter at @__MCM__.


Taking advantage of your athletic resume (Nov. 1, 2011)

College recruiting: Finding a program that fits you (Oct. 25, 2011)

Navigating the recruiting process: “Get a clue, control your career” (Oct. 18, 2011)

Secrets to success: Food and rest (Oct. 11, 2011)

Introducing “Transition Game” (Oct. 4, 2011)