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How to Help About 99% of Student Athletes Plan for the Future

The fame and money that comes from a professional sports career can captivate the dreams of high school and college athletes. But some argue families and communities need to encourage younger student athletes to pursue other careers besides professional sports—especially among black students. That’s one message coming out of the Black Student-Athlete Summit happening at UT Austin this week.

Krystal Beamon is a professor at UT Arlington with a Ph.D from the University of Oklahoma—where she was also an All-American track athlete. She studies black male student athletes. And has one of her own: a ten-year-old boy who loves to play sports—and is good at them, too. But Beamon refuses to tell her son he’s headed for the pros.

“I think that’s irresponsible to tell a kid that at nine or ten years old,” she says.

Take football. According to the NCAA, out of the more than 1 million high school football players, six and a half percent of those students will play college football. And the NFL will only draft 1.6 percent of those college players. Beamon says there’s nothing wrong with helping student athletes be the best they can be, "but at the same time if you’re not actively, actively showing them something else, they’re not going to grow in that part of their identity.”

Beamon spoke at the black student athlete summit Thursday. She told the audience that communities, parents and the media define black male student athletes by their athletic performance. That means those students don’t make plans for themselves after college. They are less likely to intern during school or take the right classes in school. When they realize they won’t go pro, they have a hard time finding jobs. Beamon says athletic programs need to think about these athlete’s future beyond the next game.

“What do we owe our athletes? Most of us seldom think about what happens to these guys when we stop cheering for them on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s not as glamorous as we think it is for about 99 percent of them. What role do universities and professional sports leagues play in their development off the field? I’ll tell you this, it should be a much bigger role.”

At UT Austin, most students athletes are black.  In 2013, 68 percent of the university’s basketball and football players were black. Black students make up just 1.8 percent of the total UT Austin student body.