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Homework or Teamwork?

Monday, Jul. 8, 2013

The best student comment on "Homework or Teamwork" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, July 21th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

**DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

Kim was a star soccer player in high school and hopes to continue playing in college. The college she will be attending has Division III women’s soccer, and the coach is anxious for Kim to join the team.

However, her college is also very challenging academically. She’s heard from some people on the team that, especially during the season, it’s better to take easier classes so you can go to practices and games, and also get your work done without stressing. Kim doesn’t feel comfortable following this advice because she really chose her college because of its strong academic reputation. On the other hand, she doesn’t want to settle for intramural soccer, which she thinks won’t allow her to play up to her potential.

What role should sports play in Kim’s college life?

Useful Resources:

A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

Grading College Athletes

College Athletes: Academic Performance: Behind the Line on Grades


Photo by Jeremy Wilburn available under a Creative Commons license.

Comments Comments

Ross Fledderjohn said on Jul 8, 2013
It seems that Kim has a interesting situation on her hands because she is involved in two very demanding activities. Academics are usually the reason people go to college. However some people go to college to pursue a higher level of play and competition within their respective sports. Kim has to decide what she wants to pursue and what she feels will be the best decision for her future. From the post above it sounds like she chose the school she is attending based on their academic curriculum and not their sports program. If she does not want to be stressed over school and if she doesn't think she can handle the work alongside playing soccer she has to decide which one to pursue and which one to put off to the side. The first year of collage is suppose to teach you how to manage your time wisely and make the best decisions for yourself and your future. There are times where Kim will have to compromise if she wants to succeed, however in the end she will learn that sometimes not everything will work out and making the tough decision is necessary to her personal success as a first year student and soccer player. Kim has to either work really hard to do both or make the hard decision to either focus on school or slack off a little in school to play soccer. Keeping in mind that the school is Division III, the style of play will be less competitive than if she was at a D1 school. I would recommend that she not play soccer and pursue academics. However as an observer of Kim's situation I can only offer insight and advice, as the ultimate decision will have to made by her. - Like
Brian said on Jul 13, 2013
Juggling academics and various other activities/sports is one of the first challenges many college students face. Time management becomes an essential priority in order to find the correct balance between the things you must do, and the things you want to do. Kim finds herself in a situation where two things that she wants to have come in conflict with one another. Both playing soccer, and succeeding well academically are her top two priorities. Unfortunately, she does not feel she can both play Division III soccer and do well in the classroom. Kim must either settle for one and drop the other or have one and partially drop the other (play intramural instead of D3 soccer). She clearly states that she does not want to sacrifice academics in order to play D3 soccer, therefore, academics is the top priority for Kim. She clearly points this out when she said she choose her college "because of its strong academic reputation." She does not say that she choose the college for it's strong D3 soccer program. I believe with that in mind, talking to Kim and reminding her why she choose the college she did will help her come to a more realistic understanding of the role of sports in her collegiate experience. One of the biggest lessons you learn in college is you can't do everything. You must learn to pick the areas of study/activity/clubs that are most important to you! Kim needs to understand if she wants to put an emphasis on academics that she may not be able to get everything she wants out of soccer; which is in not the end of the world! However, she also yet to actually TRY both. She is just entering college and has been told from a few individuals that it may be challenging. This doesn't mean that she cannot do both. I believe Kim, with her desire to do both, should try both at the start. Then, if after a month she realizes you can't commit fully to both, follow the above advice. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Thomas said on Jul 15, 2013
It seems that while in high school, Kim was very successful in balancing the different activities occurring in her life. Testament to this is the fact that she is attending a university with a "strong academic reputation" while also being pursued by the school's soccer coach. However, balancing responsibilities in high school is quite different than in college. I think before Kim makes any decision, she should first reflect on why she is attending that specific college in the first place. In the prompt, it says Kim chose the school because of its strong academic reputation, not its soccer program. Kim prioritizes academics over soccer and it would be detrimental to her if she allowed soccer to take away from her number one reason for attending the school. This does not mean, however, that Kim should not play soccer. Although her teammates have told her balancing both soccer and classes is hard, it does not mean that it's not possible. Kim should sit down with both the coach and the team and explain to them her predicament. She should tell them that she will pick her classes not based on their difficulty, but whether or not she finds the subject interesting, regardless of whether it is an easy class or not. Additionally, she should let them know that although she will put her all into the team, that if her academics decline because of her involvement on the team, that they should be prepared for her to quit. If the team cannot accept the fact that her priority is academics, then at least Kim will know that she tried to do both. Also, it is very possible that Kim can do both D3 soccer and well in school. If Kim has to settle for intramural soccer because school and D3 soccer proved too much for her, then she should still be proud of herself for not settling when it comes to her education. College is a tricky time for everyone. It is a time where countless opportunities are presented and you are forced to choose only a few. Kim needs to reflect on her priorities in life and make her decisions based on what means most to her. If she truly is passionate about both academics and soccer, then she will make it work out in some way. - Like
Oliver said on Jul 21, 2013
Kim's decision in a lot of ways embodies the dilemma that all college students face: how to manage one's time in an environment of numerous choices and possibilities. This brings to mind the proverbial phrase, "that in college you have the option to sleep, study and have a social life, and you can only do two of these three things." I personally think that Kim should try and play soccer and pursue academics. As this question points out, playing soccer may make balancing academics very challenging, and could encourage Kim to take easier classes. In my own code of ethics, I think to do this would not be the most ethical decision. However, I'll also explore what I believe different ethical frameworks would advocate Kim should do. From a utilitarian standpoint, perhaps taking easy classes and playing soccer is the best route for Kim. While Kim did choose her college for its rigorous reputation, this does not mean that she necessarily stands to benefit from exploring all of its rigor. Perhaps Kim may maximize her potential happiness - and hence do the most ethical thing from a utilitarian standpoint - by taking easier classes she still enjoys, earning a reputable degree based on the schools reputation, and playing the sport that she loves. Overall, it largely depends on Kim's aspirations and what she plans to do with her degree, or soccer experience, after college. From the question, it sounds like Kim is not the type of student who would be satisfied with lackluster academic performance. Thus, I think Kim would be cheating herself if she decided to take easier classes to pursue soccer. There is no question that it will be very difficult for her to full-heartedly pursue both. As the New York Times article demonstrates, Kim's GPA will likely suffer if she also plays soccer. Still, I think she should try because my own beliefs tend to align with a virtue ethics framework. Trying to do both epitomizes many of the different ideals that virtue ethics advocates. Doing both requires ambition and discipline in academia and soccer. It requires honesty with Kim's coaches and teachers about what she's capable of. It also requires a high amount of courage to defy the norm of what her teammates do, she must be brave to hold herself to a different standard and take hard classes. For this reason, I really think Kim should at least initially try to do both. It is much better to try and fail then limit ourselves before we even examine our potential. I am a strong believer that we learn much more from our successes, than our failures. Opponents may argue that Kim is limiting her future possibilities by likely earning a lower GPA while trying to balance soccer. This statement is not based on a thorough examination of GPA. We must ask ourselves if it is even ethical to measure someone so heavily based on GPA. Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers demonstrates that in some cases GPA is not a valid predictor of success after school. Kim's GPA may drop, but the real world skills she learns from playing competitive soccer may make up for, and even surpass this loss. Thus, perhaps playing soccer is the best way for Kim to push herself and become the best person that she can possibly be. This would sure seem to suggest then that playing soccer is the ethical thing to do. - Like - 3 people like this.
The Big Q said on Jul 22, 2013
Really thoughtful responses. Thanks to everyone who commented. We gave this prize to Oliver who referred to several different ethical approaches in his well-reasoned response. - Like
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