Oftentimes, especially for those of us at academics-focused institutions like UCSD, we try our best to refute that image. But at first impression, the idea of a major in sports just seems like the last nail in the coffin of sullied repute: another instance of the supposedly widespread (or at least rumored) practice of athletes skating through college by taking easy classes and gaining worthless degrees while focusing solely on workouts and games.
But after reading Pargman’s proposal and the column by ThinkProgress.org’s Travis Waldron, an official major in professional sports may actually seem like a good idea.
An athletics major would not involve sitting around a TV drinking beer and watching NFL players bash into each other for units. In fact, the proposal entails a rather daunting requirement list — among the classes proposed by Waldron are public speaking, anatomy, physiology, business, contract law, sport-specific labs and on-field training. In other words, after athletes have completed their GE courses, they would be given a comprehensive education in everything that goes into being a professional athlete — which many other majors offered to those interested in a sports career don’t supply. Other majors popular with student-athletes like physical therapy don’t involve soft-skill development needed by the pros like public speaking or knowledge of law. On the other side of the spectrum, degrees in marketing or sports management don’t offer tangible scientific knowledge about the human body that pro athletes and their managers also need to have a working knowledge of.
The discipline might even give more academic direction and motivation to student-athletes otherwise disinterested in school by giving them an opportunity to major in their true aspiration of going pro. Sure, it might be impractical to attend college in the hopes of someday becoming a professional athlete. But as a Literature/Writing major, I’m hardly one to point any fingers. The thing is, students who major in supposedly impractical majors like visual arts, dance, literature, music and, yes, athletics, know that the chances are slim for making it big or even entering a career directly in line with their major. But those students are more often than not extremely passionate about what they do and work to be able to apply the skills learned in their majors to a wide array of fields including marketing, communications, design, public relations and education. This same process would apply to sports majors. Through the classes student-athletes take, they would learn enough to have a back-up career in the sports industry if going pro doesn’t work out — take physical therapy, sports management or sports law, for instance.
So maybe it’s too early to laugh at the idea of majoring in professional sports. For many student-athletes, it could be a viable step to a career in a booming, resilient industry.