March Madness is one of the most anticipated tournaments in the sporting calendar, and with good reason. Not only does the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual championship allow millions to see tomorrow’s NBA superstars today, but the high stakes matches can see underdog stories spring out of nowhere. Favorites to win could be defeated by low seeded college teams, upturning thousands of bracket drafts and making for an unpredictable journey towards the final four. The “knockout” factor of the tournament makes it incredibly exciting to watch, with millions tuning in to see what happens.
Having millions of eyes on college basketball is a massive deal to young athletes, as they can be transformed into household names (with serious attention from heavyweight managers) overnight. In 2019, it was estimated that one in five American adults bet on March Madness, to the tune of $8.5 billion from those perfecting their bracket lineups. This year, 50 million Americans are once again expected to take part in the tradition. The high stakes tournament may put pressure on the most hotly tipped players, but college sports is about so much more than March Madness – and there are countless ways why college programs are beneficial to their professional counterparts.
Helps new players develop their skills
The professional world of sport puts an untold amount of pressure on athletes, which is why college sport is so important. It helps young athletes develop their skills in an environment that is significantly less intense, where every move they make won’t be put under the spotlight. And even if student athletes don’t decide to professionally participate in their chosen sport after graduation, programs are designed to help motivate students and ensure they succeed no matter what their chosen path.
The collegiate system is criticized by some for the demands expected of student athletes, but it was never designed to be similar to a professional model. The lack of monetary compensation for being part of a team is because student athletes are expected to thrive academically as well as in the game – the teamwork required to succeed in sports being complemented by the individual work ethic needed while studying. These skills are transferrable in all walks of life and are as beneficial to potential team managers as they are any potential employer. In fact, college sports has been shown to improve academic performance, as well as providing mental and emotional benefits during a stressful time in any young person’s life.
Additionally, there are benefits for the sport off the pitch, with students getting invested in college championships that can further boost the sport’s popularity. Legions of new fans can be gained in the college bleachers, and they take their fandom with them for life. After graduation, many former students still support their college teams, with alumni forming an even larger section of each college’s fanbase than students themselves.
Sponsorships for young athletes
The two leading organizations supporting young athletes are the aforementioned NCAA and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). Both organizations help provide student athletes with an education, often helping those from financially disadvantaged background receive a college education they would otherwise not have the means to. The NCAA’s central mission is helping student athletes earn a college degree, and they currently have an 80% success rate when it comes to graduations. There are just under 500,000 college athletes who are members of the NCAA alone, with 1,098 colleges and universities across the US accepting athletes as part of the program.
The NJCAA promotes and fosters those who take part in two-year college athletic programs, across 16 different sports. These sponsorships are highly beneficial both for helping all students get on the radar of professional managers as they progress through their college careers, as well as for helping them gain a higher education that would be otherwise out of reach.
Why college sports is beneficial to professional sports
For many who participate in college sports, this is likely to be the highest milestone in their career, as they seek professional work elsewhere. But the fact many are playing due a sheer passion and love for the game is exactly what piques the interest of managers nationwide – these are young athletes who eat, sleep and breathe their chosen sport, and are playing it out of love, not to try and build a career out of it. In college sports, teams are united in helping their schools reach a national final, and this is where young athletes shine the most, and where managers can spot new talent who may have not even considered going to the next level.
In basketball, this all culminates in the intense four days that is March Madness, where new underdogs can rise to the top and take down undefeated champions without warning. So, will we find a new NBA superstar in this year’s tournament? We can’t wait to find out.