Adding sports scholarships doesn’t guarantee our athletes will stay, and it may spark a cultural shift we’ll regret.
Opportunities for students to play sports under full scholarships in Canada pale in comparison to American schools. Many American universities offer full scholarships for promising athletes, while here in Canada, an average sports scholarship is much less.
But the glaring difference between the culture of sports in the United States and in Canada makes the parallel uneven.
Games in the US draw thousands, while most Queen’s students only attend a football game during Homecoming. There’s no money for Canadian schools to invest in athletes playing for empty stands.
It would take a lengthy cultural shift for Canadian universities to warrant the kinds of athletic scholarships offered by American schools and while it might be possible, a shift to a culture that over-valorizes university sports would do more harm than good.
A free ride through university to play a sport values a student’s athleticism over their education. By not offering full scholarships to young athletes, Canadian universities preserve the idea that student athletes are student first and athletes second, not the other way around.
The central role of a university is education. Interuniversity sports are valuable experiences for students. But when a student’s athleticism is valued just as much — if not higher — than their learning, it can take a toll on those who don’t end up becoming professional athletes.
Putting a degree on the backburner to focus on playing a sport may end up hindering a student athlete’s future, not enhancing it.
Placing such a high value on student athleticism also unnecessary heroizes young athletes. It places them on a pedestal for their ability to rake in the revenue, making it complicated when these students fall out of line.
If student athletes are being valued for their ability to make money, the way Canadian universities view sports in the US, while less profitable, may be for the better.
Even if Canadian universities were to up athletic scholarships, the American sports industry is much more competitive and promising to an aspiring professional athlete.
Increased opportunities for scholarships is only one of many reasons that Canadian athletes are crossing the border — more revenue means more resources, more competitiveness and a more appealing atmosphere for many athletes.
Offering athletes full scholarships is a game Canadian universities might be able to compete in — but a sports culture like American schools isn’t something we should be playing for.
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