The pros and cons of turning professional
Though the stars of athletics make nowhere near the money gained by their peers in football, boxing, golf, Formula One and the domestic American sports, it’s becoming more tempting for young prospects to make the big move. They’d best beware. It’s not for everyone. Young American high-school sprinters Kaylin Whitney and Candace Hill have recently parlayed their promise into the pros at age 16.
Here at home, Jaheel Hyde and Michael O’Hara are both foregoing their last year of high school eligibility to take the pro road. From all reports, both Hyde and O’Hara have tertiary studies built into their plans. That’s smart because there’s no absolute guarantee of a lucrative career in the professional ranks. Injury or loss of form can turn things upside down. Ristananna Tracey left Edwin Allen High School as the second fastest junior 400-metre hurdler of all-time.
Sadly, through a combination of circumstances, she has not made progress. Hopefully, her change of training camps to G.C. Foster College will bear fruit, for one whose potential for greatness is still undeniable.
In a world where proven champions like Norwegian javelin great Andreas Thorkildsen can lose their sponsorship if they lag behind top form, young prospects take a risk when they ignore education.
On the other side of the coin is Danielle Williams. She left The Queen’s School as a fine prospect, but not a star. She took the traditional route to college in US scholarship and now she is World Champion.
The recent ISSA ruling barring professionals from Boys and Girls Championships forces high school student athletes and their families to decide.
Missing Champs is one thing, but missing college is another even more critical decision. If things don’t work out athletically, then the unsuccessful young professional could find himself or herself out on a limb without no income from the sport and no college qualification at 24 or 25.
Luckily, today’s world has options. If they prefer, they can stay in Jamaica, where a growing number of tertiary institutions are offering scholarships to student athletes.
They can do what Herb McKenley did 1942 and take a US sport scholarship. As Omar McLeod has done recently at the University of Arkansas, student athletes can turn pro early with their sponsors obliged to pay for the remainder of their college tuition. Both routes have produced success, academically and athletically.
To be fair, some sportsmen can take the risk to forego college. Usain Bolt and Lebron James are examples of super successful athletes who went pro early and skipped college. However, since no one can be absolutely sure of their athletic future, the best option is to keep academics in the picture.