Richard Sherman’s Plan B

Are you raising the next Richard Sherman? I don’t just mean the Richard Sherman who ignited social media networks with his post-game interview last week. I mean a professional football player who graduated second in his class, with a 4.2 GPA, from a school district in Compton, Calif., where only 57 percent of the students graduate.

richard shermanHe took his standout academic achievements – combined with his athletic ability – and parlayed them into a scholarship to Stanford. Where he graduated with a 3.9 GPA. And that alone would have put him on the road to a successful future – regardless of whether he ever played professional football.

As Super Bowl hype reaches a frenzy, it’s a good time to reflect on the role that athletes have in our culture — the way that they become role models to our kids in a way that scientists, for example, don’t. It’s very common for our kids who excel at sports in middle and high school to believe that they eventually might be playing professionally.

As a parent, and former student-athlete myself, I believe it’s important to encourage our children to embrace sports as part of our emphasis on whole-child education. Sports foster goal-setting, perseverance and teamwork, not to mention physical and mental health.  Sports were an important part of my education – I played soccer competitively throughout my childhood and high school and continued at UC Berkeley. My daughter is following in my cleats, demonstrating a love and affinity for soccer at her high school.

But, I always balance my support of her athletic endeavors with a healthy dose of reality. I caution that as much as our family embraces sports, we are not going to put more emphasis on athletics than schoolwork. The fact is that while her soccer definitely contributes to friendships and fitness – and possibly a college scholarship – I don’t believe it will be her ultimate path to success.

I don’t, because the statistics are staggering. Very few successful high school athletes become college athletes and even fewer of those make a living at the sport.  A fascinating chart from the NCAA  provides a reality check on the chance of a high school athlete competing at an NCAA school, much less on a professional level.

Richard Sherman

We don’t want to be “Dream Killers” but we also need to help our kids be realistic and realize they need a Plan B. And that Plan B always, always involves school.

So Super Bowl weekend might be a great time to talk to your kids about the odds of becoming professional athletes — and the odds of other paths to success. When they are blissing out watching the Super Bowl, picturing themselves catching the winning touchdown pass — and getting the insane endorsement deals that will come with their success — take a moment to bring them back down to turf. And their books. Sports fame is fleeting but an education is forever!

Because even if Richard Sherman ends his football career for whatever reason, he has a fallback in a degree from Stanford. Whether he knows it or not, he has a Plan B.

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