Athlete x Role Conflict

For anyone who has experienced a tug of war between meeting the demands of two separate roles, such as completing a powerpoint before the deadline at work causing you to work long hours and being “parent of the year” by attending all of the conference games in the same time period. It can get pretty complicated, doesn’t it? 

Well, for a student-athlete it pretty much looks the same. They must learn to fulfill the roles of athlete, student, son/daughter, friend, and/or employee. Not only is it challenging to handle the demands of different roles, but if they aren't taught certain skills like time management and priorities, they may begin a downward spiral resulting from role conflict.

Role conflict occurs when there are incompatible demands placed upon a person relating to their job or position. 

So how does role conflict affect the expectations of student-athletes?

Research shows the more student-athletes are committed to playing their sport, the less likely they are to pay attention to other areas, such as academics. Most student-athletes have a goal to play their sport at the professional level. Therefore, more attention may be focused on additional practices, additional hours of watching film, summer league participation, special skills training, etc. To student-athletes, these additional actions are directly linked with their goal of playing professionally.

With attention pulled in one direction, academics often comes second as the correlation between academics and professional sports is unclear in the minds of some student-athletes. 

So, how do we help student-athletes find a healthy balance between academics and athletics without excluding other factors such as building relationships, economic situations, and the normal obstacles that come with being a teen in high school? Maybe its guiding student-athletes through practical skills such as prioritization and time management. 

As teachers, coaches, mentors, and parents, our job is to encourage athletes to explore other interests. Not to discourage some from pursuing their dream of participating in professional sports, but more so to show them that their abilities go far beyond their athletic performance. 

The end result is that student-athletes know they can successfully adhere to each role without putting one to suffer on the back burner, which may cost them unwanted consequences. In addition to that, to help them come to the realization that they are more than a number on a jersey, they have the potential to be far more than the box they put themselves in.


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