Amateur athletes and other “Nontraditional” students flock to online education



Online colleges are getting a boost from an unconventional source: amateur athletes competing at the highest levels who want to continue their educational opportunities while pursuing their sporting aspirations.  Now, amateur athletes have the chance to continue their education while pursuing their dreams of Olympic gold.

The fact of the matter is that amateur athletes who are pursuing glory at the winner’s podium also have dreams of their life beyond competition.  Dr. Nicole Detling Miller, a sports psychology consultant, says that while athletes are focused “on the task at hand (training and competing), they are also very in tune with how they envision their life after retiring from competition.”  Miller says that many of the athletes she works with are now enrolling in online colleges because of the ability to continue with their training while also paying attention to their future.

Online school allows athletes to keep up with their peers

Many amateur athletes who compete at the highest levels are in their late teens and early twenties, and training and traveling to various competitions doesn’t leave time for a traditional classroom-based educational setting.

Online college courses give them the chance to keep up with their peers who are going to school and getting ready for careers.  Instead of having to wait, perhaps for several years to start their careers, young amateur athletes have the opportunity to keep up with their educational goals, allowing them to jump into their chosen career path much sooner than if they had to wait until they retired from competition before going to school.

Heather Richardson is one such athlete.  A member of the U.S. Speed Skating team, Richardson knows that sitting in a classroom is unrealistic, given the amount of time she must spend training and competing, often traveling to foreign countries.  “I’m going to be able to move right into a career as a dental hygienist when I’m finished competing,” says Richardson.

Corby Fisher, the former head coach of the U.S. Ski Jumping Team, knows the sacrifices that must be made.  “To be a National Team and Olympic athlete demands a year-round commitment and being on the road more than nine months a year.  As a result, foregoing education is often the price that is paid.”  Fisher went on to say that he wished “he had been given the same opportunity when he was competing.”

Online educational opportunities are also ideal for young people who are already deeply involved in a career.  Many young actors, models, and singers choose online education while working full time.  Fantasia Barrino, who was on American Idol, participated in online education when she was on the show.  Online education is also ideal for students who are homebound by illness, or who are being home schooled.