Dropping Out of College to Pursue a Career in Sports?

There is a crossroads which many developing and promising athletes and potential sports stars meet while at college: choosing to abandon their sporting ambitions in favor of their studies or vice-versa.

Juggling the demands of classes, studying and maintaining a high GPA with the demands of training and performing can be difficult for many students. Fatigue, a non-existent social life and the difficulty of adapting to college life in general often lead to an unfortunate dilemma. While it may appear easier to simply abandon one passion to dedicate more time to the other, what is not so straightforward is coming to a conclusion based upon the pros and cons of how likely a career in sports is over obtaining a degree.

It is unfortunate to think of just how many potential quarter-backs, golf professionals or basketball stars have been lost as a result of knee-jerk reactions or poor advice. The same goes for students who may have become accomplished architects, revered engineers or important surgeons. As the age-old idiom goes “hindsight is 20/20”, leaving many with regret and more lamenting their decisions.

So what if there is another way? For every Tiger Woods, a man who would go on to dominate professional golf having dropped out of Stanford in his Sophomore year, there is a golfer such as Blair Bursey, who maintains his studies while playing competitive golf at a high level. The Utah Valley University student enjoyed a year of success while also keeping his eyes firmly fixed on his education, showing that there is a way to occupy both without having to make the decision to sacrifice studies or sports.

In the case of Tiger Woods, he enjoyed a meteoric rise which culminated in an astonishing level of success. As the most marketable golfer in history, the 42-year-old accumulated millions and became a household name across the globe, helping to promote golf to many who would never have had an interest in the sport whatsoever. With such peerless success and fame, one would be forgiven for assuming that the former world number one made the right decision and had absolutely no regrets. One would be wrong, in this case, however.

In an interview with Charlie Rose in 2016, Woods claimed that his single and only regret was dropping out of Stanford. Claiming that he still looks back on that decision as a mistake, Woods told Rose how nothing else that had happened to him in his life compares:

“Well, it’s a burden in the sense that it — the amount of obligations that I have at a tournament. The anonymity that was lost that, you know, one — the — you know, if you look back, the only regret I have in life is not spending another year at Stanford, and I wish I would’ve had one more year.

“All the things I’ve been through are tough, yes. They’ve been tough, but they’ve been great for me, but I wish I would’ve gone one more year at Stanford”

For many who reach the crossroads of walking away from their passion in order to dedicate their time to their studies, or perhaps abandon their studies to focus explicitly on their sporting ambitions, there is a third option.

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