Ron Seibel

Talent alone won’t garner college offer

Northside’s Tobias Oliver (12) is scheduled to sign with Georgia Tech on Wednesday.
Northside’s Tobias Oliver (12) is scheduled to sign with Georgia Tech on Wednesday.

OK, time to admit a shortcoming.

Back in the early years of my newspaper career, I had blinders on. I was focused too much on getting to the next stage of my life. I poured all I had into doing what was needed to achieve the bigger, better deal.

I didn’t allow myself to invest much in other interests. I let my career become my life. And when things weren’t going well at work, my life suffered. It wasn’t until I invested in activities and relationships outside of my career that I found success, both inside and outside of work.

Balance. It’s a wonderful thing.

I’m not someone who likes to write in the first person very much. But when I see some student-athletes specializing in one sport, I wonder how they try to maintain balance in their life, or if they are headed down the road to where their sport is the one and only thing in their life.

My fear is that some athletes pour so much into their sport that when an injury comes or the grades or test scores don’t pan out, they are left with few options. Not to bring up any names here, but more than a couple of Middle Georgia student-athletes are looking at that situation right now.

I’m not one to say that the ideal high school athlete is one who plays three sports. If someone has a calling to play only one sport, then follow that calling. But have something else going on in life, be it an academic pursuit, an interest in something born out an academic or career interest, an artistic pursuit ... something that will give balance to life in case the original calling fails.

Granted, there are student-athletes out there who participate in multiple high school sports who are good in a bunch of things but not quite good enough to garner a high-level scholarship for a particular sport at the collegiate level. There are those running backs who go for more than 1,500 yards, play a key role on their basketball team and have a major role to fill on the baseball team, yet they might lack the height or size to compete in just one of those sports at the next level.

From what I’ve seen through the years, those types of student-athletes have other pursuits going on in life, as well. The transition to the next phase in life flows a lot smoother for them than those who maintained a singular focus.

Academically, there has long been a push for student-athletes to achieve a certain grade-point average and to achieve a certain test score. But what is being done to develop career interests outside of sports for those identified as potential college scholarship athletes? Are academic interests being groomed? Or is education merely about achieving a certain test score then moving on? Develop those academic interests, and balance is achieved.

When student-athletes have balance in their lives, they thrive. By foregoing balance, the risk for a big, hard crash rises tremendously.

Congratulations to those who will be signing Wednesday. And good luck to the high school seniors still pursuing scholarship offers.