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An honest appraisal can change course of student-athletes

Professors play an integral role in shaping futures

by Charles Pinckney,
President, Faculty Athletics Representatives Association for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association

Growing up in rural South Carolina, sports were always an integral part of my life. This inclination followed me into my days as a young man, when I dreamed of one day becoming an NBA player and emulating Jo Jo White of the Boston Celtics.

Then, I met Dr. Elizabeth Bethel. She was my adviser and a sociology professor at Lander College – now Lander University – where I competed on the basketball team. More than 20 later, I can still remember Dr. Bethel speaking the words that changed my life. In no uncertain terms, Dr. Bethel shared with me that professional basketball was not something she saw in my future. I was astonished! Surely she could see my talent! But with assurance in her voice she explained I should apply myself in the classroom and pour my time and energy into my academic career, as no professional athletic career awaited me. 

Those were the words I needed to hear. I thought about how honestly and eloquently she had spoken. More important, I realized what she said was true, and I devoted my time and energy to the classroom in pursuit of an undergraduate degree in sociology. I then continued and earned a master’s degree in counseling from Webster University and then a doctorate in psychology from Walden University.   

Dr. Bethel helped me to become a better student and a better person, but during my experience in the program at Walden University, I became a self-motivated change agent, an independent thinker, active listener and a lifelong learner. Ironically, I still found a way to be involved in both sports and academia as the faculty athletics representative for Livingstone College, where my duties include acting as an adviser to the college president to ensure all athletics compliance issues are met and addressed.

As a person and a student, I say Dr. Bethel was the beginning guiding force, showing me that learning and becoming a productive citizen was imperative. Walden allowed me to grow intellectually and independently and showed me I could excel at both academics and athletics. I hope the role I have now allows me to have the same kind of influence on student-athletes that Dr. Bethel once had on me.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.