The importance of sports in schools has been widely embraced within competitions between colleges intensifying. In athletics, this has resulted to intercollegiate athletes. Demographic diversity has been widely witnessed in intercollegiate athletics. There are varied implications for this demographic diversity as it will be discussed in this paper. The demographic diversity is also believed to offer different challenges. The most important thing is that athletes should get the best from athletics as well as academics despite the challenges. It is the duty of counselors to ensure that the learners get the best by having good plans for quality counseling (Deil-Amen, 2011). This paper will look at the implications of demographic diversity in intercollegiate athletics, the challenges involved, and the strategies for quality counseling and advising of the student athletes.
Diversity in Student Athlete Demographics
Diversity in student athlete demographics has been brought about by different factors. The main one that is easy to observe is that some sports like football are being left for students from poor socio-economic backgrounds. This is mainly because of the numerous accidents witnessed in the past that have given parents the authority to force their children not to take part. Comparing the statistics collected in 2005-2006 by the NCAA and those collected in 2009-2010, it is evident that the number of whites in football dropped from 60.2 percent to 45.8 percent with that of blacks increasing from 33.0 percent to 45.1 percent over the same duration (West, Shulock & Moore, 2012). This happens to children from rich backgrounds, mostly the whites, because they have wider access to information. From the NCAA statistics compiled in 2007, it was evident that the highest percentage of intercollegiate athletes was taken by whites with males having 70.6 percent and females 77.4 percent (West, Shulock & Moore, 2012). This was followed by blacks who had 18.1 percent males and 10.7 percent females (Terriquez & Florian, 2013). Therefore, it is clear from statistics that the number of whites in football in the different colleges across the nation is decreasing while the number of African-Americans is increasing. In other sports like boxing where the participants have their sponsors and are usually competing for different awards, it is also clear that students from poor backgrounds are the ones who are highly involved. This is because they target the rewards such as scholarships or money that they will get upon winning a tournament. In overall, it has been shown that only 59 percent of males are interested or take part in different sporting activities, while only 41percent of females take part in sports (Deil-Amen, 2011).
Challenges for Athletic Counselors
There are different challenges that athletic counselors have to struggle with in helping learners get the best from athletics. One of them is culture that tries to favor some sports. In the past, it was evident that learners were moving from soccer to football as the sport was becoming very common with an increasing number of fans. Therefore, many would be lured by the big cheering squad to take part in football (Terriquez & Florian, 2013). This has changed because of the many accidents that have occurred in football. Many students are currently interested in soccer because it has arisen to be safer. Therefore, counselors have a big challenge in helping learners take part in some of these sports that are not trendy.
There are also different myths that athletic counselors have to deal with. Considering that there are different sports, there are some that are associated with different genders (Armstrong & Stratta, 2014). For instance, currently, we have rugby for women; however, less would be interested to take part in the sport because of the misconception that it is a masculine game. There are also myths that learners who are actively involved in sports do not perform well academically. Some also say that the best athletes never graduate from college (Deil-Amen, 2011). Therefore, in fear of these, many learners are not ready to take part in sports when they join college. This becomes a big challenge for athletic counselors to confront the learners with such mentalities to take part in athletics.
Counselors have also to deal with the lack of information. This is a major challenge for many counselors since the knowledge they have is only limited to the institution. In some cases, the counselors also get the wrong data which makes them give the wrong advice. The population is growing, meaning that the information that is spread concerning sporting activities among the different groups is increasing (Terriquez & Florian, 2013). For instance, the population of Hispanics is growing faster than any other race in the country, meaning that the spread of information is varying. These are some of the factors that counselors are not well informed about hence it makes them fail in delivering quality advice.
Challenges in Student Athlete Retention
The main challenge in student athlete retention is cultural change. As cultures in the society change, some sports tend to be favored over the others. This is evident from the shift of many students from football to soccer (Deil-Amen, 2011). This means that the number of learners taking part in football will continue to increase despite the increased urge by counselors to learners to take part in the sport.
Lack of immediate counselors is also a challenge to students’ athlete retention. Since students are misguided by the information they get as well by peer pressure, they find it easy to move from one sport to another or even quit sports (West, Shulock & Moore, 2012). Since there are no immediate counselors who can offer them immediate advice, they end up quitting the sports. This results in lack of retentions in the different sports.
The family and the community at large are another challenge for student athlete retention. Most parents discourage their children from being actively involved in sporting activities because of the mentality that they will not balance between academics and sports. The community at large also tends to create this in the minds of learners, more so among those from poor socio-economic backgrounds (Terriquez & Florian, 2013). They are easily tempted to quit sporting when they get such misleading information. African-Americans have been shown to quit sports that do serve any other benefits apart from physical exercise easily. Since they are after monetary benefits, they will not be contained in sports that are not offering this.
Strategies for Counseling and Advising the Student Athlete
There are varied strategies that athletic counselors can use to advise learners and increase participation in different sports. The first one is to encourage participation of learners in different sports (Armstrong & Stratta, 2014). If all learners could take part in sports, it would mean that all sports offered at school would have participants. The counselors should not only focus on learners who are talented in a given sport, rather they should encourage all learners to take part in sports.
Another strategy for use is targeting the spectators. This is a marketing strategy that would result in increased consumption of different sports (Deil-Amen, 2011). For instance, if the counselors make football competitions very lively by encouraging a wider spectator group, then it would mean that many would be interested in the sport. Therefore, as much as the counselors focus on the learners, they also need to look at the spectators.
The counselors also need to be knowledgeable about the stressors unique to students in colleges as well as be equipped with current affairs (West, Shulock & Moore, 2012). Counselors tend to make minimal use of existing data and resources which hinders the quality and impact of advice they offer.
The counselors need to look at the sporting part as well as the academic part (Terriquez & Florian, 2013). There have been cases where those taking part in different sports do not graduate at the same time with the others. In some cases, the athletes have even been forced not to graduate as they take up sports as their career. Counselors need to focus on this to help the athletes balance between sports and academics (Bennett & Henson, 2013). It is through this that other learners can get mentors and be motivated to take part in the different sports. In extreme cases the athletes should be provided with special classes.
The last strategy which is very vital is that the counseling should be aimed at relationship building. The counselor needs to establish strong relationships with students so that they are in a position to share their personal problems (Deil-Amen, 2011). When the fresh students are joining the college, the counselors need to meet with them and their parents so that they can make the right decisions. This will also help the parents to stop interfering with the sporting endeavors of the learners.
Diversity in intercollegiate athletic demographics has been highly witnessed. The main factors contributing to such varied demographics are culture, spreading of the wrong information, and the different myths. It is the duty of counselors to gather wide knowledge so that they can advise learners effectively in sporting activities. The learners from different races, genders, and ages should be able to embrace the different sporting activities without being limited to what is in their minds. They need to be motivated by their families and the community as well.