She can drive a ball over 300 yards, has already won an adult tournament, has no intention of playing against other girls – or women for that matter, and get this, she’s only 13. He already has a contract with Nike for $1 million, has been training with the U.S. national soccer team and too is only 13 years old. Finally, the saving grace for a Michael Jordan-less NBA market is the 18-year-old high school phenom from Ohio who has already penned a whopping $90 million contract with Nike. Who are they? Golfer Michelle Wie, soccer player Freddy Adu and basketball player LeBron James. Besides being young stars, they all have something else in common: They will all likely forgo college. While this is probably not a great societal message and college should be a priority for the nation’s youth, there is a double standard in the way observers view the issue.
In an age of big money contracts, elaborate marketing schemes and down right shameful exploitation of talent potential, education is often forgotten. For James, college was never more than just media talk for a youngster who was actively scouted for the majority of his high school career. As for soccer’s wonder boy from Ghana, Adu, college is not much of a consideration either. By signing a contract with Nike, Adu is ensuring that he will not play in college because it violates NCAA rules. How well Wie walks the trail remains to be seen, but we can only imagine.
Though basketball players typically get most of the flak for not completing their educational paths, it happens very often in many major sports. In fact, many parents today are grooming their children to be golf’s next Tiger Woods or the tennis’s next Pete Sampras and certainly the next basketball star Kobe Bryant without including college in their plans, even though most of their children will never achieve the fame and riches that they desire. Though Woods attended Stanford as an economics major, he left early after a string of first place tournament finishes to focus solely on his remarkable game. Bryant was the highly touted high school student who was going to bring his big-time Philly game to the pros without exploring the option of college. And Sampras didn’t even bother finishing high school before he made the jump into the world of professional tennis.
If someone hangs a $10 million carrot in front of a teenager’s face and he hasn’t tasted of its lucrative nutrients before, then certainly he will be inclined to give it a try. Undoubtedly, there are countless other examples of impoverished youths who have gone professional without a college degree, and sometimes without a high school diploma.
Many athletes, from various sports, including tennis star Venus Williams, football player Emmitt Smith and basketball’s Vince Carter, have gone back to college and received their degrees. What a powerful statement it was for basketball star Vince Carter to not only finish his education, but to attend the graduation ceremony on the eve of the biggest playoff game of his career. Though it caused a somewhat sour media buzz from basketball fans, some youths surely took note.