What is a student-athlete? Why is there a need to further describe a student that chooses to play interscholastic or intercollegiate athletics? We do not tend see students that participate in the science club or on a debate team as student-scientists or student-orators.
The answer lies in our culture’s promotion of sport participants to a level of recognition not set aside for other extracurricular activity team members. From kids to collegians, we loudly applaud those who can run faster, throw harder, jump higher, and triumph over their opponents in sports.
Benefits of Being a Student-Athlete
Ideally the term student-athlete describes an individual who is enrolled in a course of study and has chosen to participate in sports. Student-athletes should be the leading examples of how to benefit from the “out-of-the-classroom” education opportunities offered by today’s
educational system. Lessons that are best learned outside lecture halls, laboratories, and computer terminals are part of the core mission of all institutions of higher education.
Today’s Christian colleges are becoming more adept at recruiting and retaining the student-athlete. They have found that their mission to assist students in developing a Christian worldview can sometimes be best taught in the ebb and flow of competitive athletics. Member schools of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) report that over 20 percent of their students participate in intercollegiate athletics. The opportunities to succeed and fail, win and lose, and practice to perfection are taught throughout scripture. When one can view Christ and his disciples as a team under the guidance of the greatest coach in history, then the life applications available in athletics are endless. There is the recruiting process where Christ offers no enticements to the fishermen, the doctor, or the tax collector. He simply asked them to come and they did. Then you have the three years of training where Christ—the coach—demonstrated and modeled the attributes that His recruits would need to succeed. It all comes together in the “pep talk” at the Last Supper. Has any coach in history ever motivated a team to accomplish more than what Christ’s disciples did? How many players have given life for the cause the coach put before them?
Christian college coaches place the spiritual development of their student-athletes ahead of everything else. They direct, guide, and require that their players take advantage of the vast array of worship and outreach opportunities within their campus community. Many coaches plan sports ministry trips in conjunction with their preseason training. These trips blend preparation for the upcoming season with preparation for life both here and for eternity.
strong>Competitiveness of Athletics at Christian Colleges and Universities
Christian institutions of higher education are now fielding teams at all levels—National Collegiate Athletic Associate, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, and NCCAA—that are nationally competitive. Athletic facilities that once were less than most high schools have been upgraded or new facilities built in an effort to attract top Christian prospects. These facilities that also benefit the entire campus community as wellness centers and recreational areas are incorporated and become value-added considerations for general recruitment.
Significance of Playing Under a Christian Coach
Add in the rapidly improving quality and experience of Christian college coaches in all sports and you have an ideal setting for the full potential of the student and the athlete to be reached. Today’s coaches know the demands of their sport must be balanced for the whole being of their players. For the Christian college coach, this means meeting the spiritual, academic, and athletic needs of each player. A national championship is not the greatest goal for these coaches unless it comes as a by-product of developing stronger Christian young men or women that are progressing toward a degree in their chosen field of study.
One of the greatest benefits of the student-athlete choosing a Christian college or university is that the normal reduced size of the student body brings more opportunity for leadership skills to be developed. As a team captain, a resident hall assistant, or a member of a ministry team, Christian college students can take advantage of these “hands-on laboratories” to see how they perform when called upon.
Affordability of Attending a Christian College or University
For the parents or financial provider, the Christian college myth that there are no athletic scholarships available is far from the truth. Depending on the institution’s athletic affiliation, scholarships can be as much as full tuition. Many institutions have no limit on how much institutional aid a recruit can receive (up to the total cost of one year annually) so combining academic, leadership, or athletic aid is an option.
Choosing the Right College
The Christian college student-athlete has never had more outstanding choices than today. Finding the right school that God would have you attend may seem quite challenging, but He has provided plenty of space for you. It should be a matter carefully committed to prayer.
For more information on Christian colleges, check out the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities, the National Christian College Athletic Association, and the Association for Biblical Higher Education.