About 250 students are
involved in sports at West
Los Angeles College.
'PLAYING IS A PRIVILEGE'
For community colleges that offer intercollegiate
sports, athletics are considered an integral part
of the educational experience, teaching participants life-long lessons in discipline and perseverance. However, the role of sports at two-year
colleges like Union County College, which enrolls
10,000 students at three major campuses and two
satellite locations, varies from four-year institutions due to differing student bodies, educational
missions and relationships to the community.
"We're here to promote student success more
so than sports, period," says Union County College
President Margaret McMenamin. "Student-athletes
are developing organizational skills, leadership
and teamwork. It's not about athletics, but the maturation process that launches them into a four-year school or career."
Considering time is the enemy of any community
college learner, the Cranford, New Jersey-based institution and other sports-friendly institutions have
established a culture laser-focused on academics.
"The longer student-athletes stay enrolled,
the less likely they're going to graduate,"
McMenamin says. "Playing is a privilege here, so
if you want to play, we're going to hold you to a
higher standard academically and behaviorally.
Our kids don't realize it's the college degree that
will change their lives. They fantasize about the
pros, but the most important thing we can do is
get them across the finish line academically."
Like all community colleges with an athletic
component, Union County College follows aca-
demic standards mandated by the National Junior
College Athletic Association (NJCAA), a regulatory
organization overseeing 518 member colleges. Per
NJCAA rules, student-athletes must enroll in 12 or
more credit hours per semester and maintain a
minimum 2.0 GPA to retain their eligibility.
Numerous institutions, including Pratt
Community College (PCC) in Pratt, Kansas, require a
higher classroom acumen from their athletes. PCC,
which offers traditional sports such as basketball
and soccer alongside a rodeo program and an online
esports competitive gaming team, instituted a
minimum 2. 5 GPA for its young charges after their
freshman year, aligning with rules of the NCAA-affiliated four-year institutions that many players
hope to one day attend.
PCC competes at the Division I level as a
member of the Kansas Jayhawk Community
College Conference (KJCCC). The college also provides scholarships similar to NCAA Division II
athletics, where institutions are able to fundraise
a pool of money to fill out a full roster.
PCC President Michael Calvert says most of
the college's 275 student-athletes were under-recruited in high school, and view the competitive
KJCCC as a stepping stone to something bigger.
About 60 percent of PCC's 2,500 students take a
general education transfer curriculum, while the
remaining 40 percent are enrolled in job-based
"Our reputation is tremendous," Calvert says.
"I coached football in this league for eight years,
and would see NCAA recruiters come through.
Playing here gives kids an opportunity to show
off to schools that normally wouldn't recruit a
high school student from this state."
A DELICATE BALANCE
Community college scholar-athletes share some
key traits with the general student population,