Black Male Student Athletes Face Overwhelming Pressure to get to “The League”

Published September 22, 2011 by Leonard Moore

Many Black Male Student Athletes enter college with one goal: to get to the NFL or the NBA. While this may indeed be their goal many of them have also had this expectation placed upon them by well-meaning family, friends, and the media. The expectations to go pro are so overwhelming that for some anything short of a career in the NFL or the NBA means that they have failed. “What if you get a degree and start a career, is that still failure,” I asked one brotha. “Doc, I feel you and all on the degree, and I’m gonna get mine, but I gotta get to the league.”

When I asked a group of high-profile Black athletes why they equate a career in the NBA or NFL with success and anything else a sign of failure here is how they responded:

“I’m under a lot of pressure, Doc”

“Doc, s**t is crucial out here I gotta make it”

“I’m tryin’ to get my folks up outta the hood”

“I wanna make my momma proud”

“I gotta represent for my hood”

“A lot of folks are countin’ on me”

“I can’t let my people down”

“Too many people have invested in me”

“I wouldn’t be doing all this work if I wasn’t tryin to go to the League”

“What else am I gonna do”

“I gotta get that paper”

“This is all I know how to do”

“I gotta get that bread so my family won’t be poor”

In so many ways I admire these young men for wanting to assume responsibility for their family and friends’ futures. But these are heavy expectations that many BMSA’s bring to campus. And once they arrive on campus they face the pressure of living up to their athletic potential, so as not to disappoint boosters, fans, and coaches. Once you add in the additional pressure of being in a predominantly-white campus community the pressure can become overwhelming and many Black male athletes do not have healthy coping mechanisms to handle the stress.

That’s why social support structures are so important for Black Male Student Athletes.

That’s the mission behind Urban85.