Last week, the NCAA hosted its annual convention in Nashville, TN. There was a lot of activity with many important issues being discussed and addressed. Of those issues, the one that is primarily on our mind at Game Plan is that of student-athlete time demands. And while legislation was passed pretty handily, we think it’s worth diving into what this really means for student-athletes — in particular when it comes to freeing up time for student-athlete development, internships and studying abroad.
Of the notable legislation passed this year, there were two key initiatives. One initiative aimed at freeing up time, while another from the DI Counsel also approved a measure that supports student-athletes to complete internships and study abroad without these time commitments being “counted” against their NCAA eligibility timeline.
Here’s a quick summary of what was approved:
- The new legislation extends four years of eligibility if a student-athlete pursues an internship or study abroad program during the regular school year.
- It also stated that student-athletes will now receive information about how much time it requires to participate at the Division I level in a given sport as they complete the high school recruiting process.
- There is now a required “time management plan” for each sport, along with an annual review.
- Athletically-related activities will be prohibited during a continuous eight-hour period between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
- A seven-day break after the season will be required and an 14 additional days off will be required during the regular academic year when classes are in session (there will be exceptions for travel and life skills activities.)
- No off-campus practice will be allowed during vacation periods outside the championship season and unrelated to away-from-home competition.
So, what does this really mean for student-athletes and is it enough to make a mark?
It’s a great start! What this legislation does a good job of is finding time for the student-athlete — which is a lot of what the student-athletes are asking for. They just want to own more of their time. Whether its unstructured or not, they desire the ability to do more of what they want and I believe this legislation really starts to address that for them.
When it comes to freeing up enough consecutive time for student-athletes to take advantage of internships and study abroad opportunities, I believe there is more work to do.
For starters, a “traditional” internship or study abroad experience takes place over an extended period of time (usually more than 6 weeks) and often can’t be completed in a week or two or over spring break. The idea of the internship and the opportunities provided to student-athletes generally need to be addressed if we want student-athletes as a whole to be able to gain experience during the academic year, while also playing sports.
For internships, companies need a better understanding of how they can work with athletic departments and student-athletes, as well as the time demands placed on them and the flexibility required to employ such an individual. They also need to look at how internships and opportunities are set up for student-athletes. Many student-athletes can complete a few hours of work here-and-there or a 10-day project, but have a difficult time committing to a full-time or even 20-hour per week engagement.
Competitions are also something that haven’t been addressed in the legislation that was passed (I’m thinking of sports like baseball and basketball). This is an element that really should be considered if the NCAA is interested in helping student-athletes to free up more time. Some of the competition schedules in various sports are so rigorous, that the students have to miss class multiple days in a row in a given month — which is something that doesn’t set a student-athlete up for success. In addition, this leaves little to no time at all for at least half of the academic year (or more) when a student has little to no dedicated time towards personal and professional development — two things which I’d argue are essential to setting a student-athlete up for a successful life after college.
As I mentioned earlier, the NCAA and its members have taken a solid first step when it comes to addressing the stress and pressures that student-athletes face around the demands for their time. But there is still more work to be done.