The debate on why collegiate athletes can’t turn professional and get a chance to experience college as a student-athlete has been an ongoing debate.
In the NCAA you cannot be a professional athlete and compete in collegiate sports. The NCAA has adopted rules on amateurism to make sure the students’ priority remains equal for everyone. Going professional is accepting any money or endorsements from other companies and that makes you ineligible to participate in any NCAA sports or to take any scholarships from schools you may desire.
Gymnasts, however, have a tough decision to make at such a young age.
For Olympic or elite gymnasts, the time frame for you to be eligible for the Olympic games is between the ages of 14-19. As a gymnast, you hit your peak at the age of 16-years-old, and right at your peak is the perfect timing for you if you want to have a shot at the Olympics.
It is a rare opportunity because the olympics is the only stage where you are seen by a lot of companies and where they want to endorse you. Gymnastics is a sport that is constantly changing, there are new athletes and faces of the sport coming in, so getting your money’s worth in a short period of time is hard.
Being only 16 and accepting sponsorships is cool, but also risky. Not only are you throwing away your chance to compete in college gymnastics, but you are now accepting gymnastics as your full time job. Gymnastics is a sport that is demanding on your body, and spending 35-40 hours a week in the gym takes a toll on your body.
By taking sponsorships at 16-years-old (or even younger), you are at risk for injury and at risk for losing your sponsorship.
Gymnastics isn’t like other sports where you can compete in college athletics and then go off and sign a multi-million contract. There is no such thing as a professional gymnast. Gymnastics is such a unique sport, it’s sad that girls can’t do both.
For gymnastics, the rule for being a professional and not eligible for college should be an exception to this rule because of the nature that this sport brings. Why can’t gymnasts have a collegiate and professional experience like other sports if we are willing to work for it?
Letter by: Morgan Alfaro
Photo Courtesy of: Unsplash.com