The debate on why you can’t become a professional athlete and still get a chance to experience college is ongoing. NCAA rules state that you can’t be a professional athlete and compete in collegiate athletics.
The NCAA has adopted rules on amateurism to make sure that the student-athletes’ priority remains on obtaining a quality education first before athletics.
Going professional is accepting money or endorsements from other companies. That makes you ineligible to participate in any NCAA sports or to take any scholarships from schools you may desire.
Gymnasts have a tough decision to make at a young age. For Olympic or elite level gymnasts your time frame to compete for the Olympic games is between the ages of 15-19. You hit your peak at the age of 16, and if you aren’t ready to compete by then, your chances of winning gold are all but gone.
The Olympics are a rare opportunity because it’s the only big stage where gymnasts are seen by a lot of companies that may want to endorse you. There are only five girls that are chosen to represent Team USA at the Olympics. Then five more chances of making the next Olympic cycle.
The sport is constantly changing with new athletes coming in, so getting your money’s worth in a short period of time is hard.
Being 16 years-old and presented with the decision of going for being the best in your sport is hard to say no to. They must make the choice between money or losing the chance to compete in a collegiate sport and be part of a collegiate atmosphere.
Accepting sponsorships at that young age 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.
This sport is demanding on your body. Many gymnasts spend 35-40 hours a week in the gym. By taking sponsorships at 16, you are at risk for injury and for losing your sponsorship.
Gymnasts have chosen a sport that isn’t like others. You can’t compete in college athletics and then go off and sign a multi million dollar contract. There is no such thing as a “professional gymnast.” Retiring at the ages of 21-24, the amount of money gymnasts are able to make from their talent is very small compared to other sports, and our window of opportunity is much shorter.
Gymnastics’ unique nature makes the amateur rule preventing sponsorship difficult for aspiring talents who must choose between capitalizing on their youth or using the skill to go to college. Why can’t gymnasts have a collegiate and professional experience like other sports if they are willing to work for it all?
Story by: Morgan Alfaro
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics