Putting the scholar in student-athlete

Words are important.

They create context and convey meaning.  Heralding values and Imparting a message.

Words set the tone for the deeds to follow.

Take the words “student-athlete” for example.

Technically speaking, it assigns the correct priority to two lasting and worthy pursuits. A succinct description of a distinguished appellation and a distinctive endeavor.

By definition, a “student” is someone who “attends a school”. ” A person that studies something”. “An attentive observer”. “A person formally engaged in learning, especially one enrolled in a school or college”. ‘Anyone who studies, investigates or thoughtfully examine something”.

An athlete is “a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.” Or “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.”

Based on the words alone, it is no wonder there is a subtle, implied emphasis – and excitement – attached to the latter – more so than the former?

The words that define “student” seem to set a passive tone. “Attends a school”. “Studies something”. “An attentive observer”.  Words that suggest the extent of a personal investment is to be “engaged”,  “investigate” or “thoughtfully examine”.

Now granted, a dictionary – even one that is found in such an exciting place as the internet – can only provide so much context.

But look at it this way.

All this time, we have implored you first to  “study something” to “be attentive” and “formally engaged in learning”, so that you can then become “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.”

We may be guardians of your best interests, directed by the best intentions to correctly prioritize your activities.  But to choose these particular words to help spur you to great deeds?  Clearly something is lacking.

Asking that you “be attentive” so you can then focus on being “trained in sports.”


Time to up the ante.

To elevate expectations. Adjust attitudes.

The passion for the former needs to keep pace with the enthusiasm for the latter.

“Student-athlete” won’t cut the mustard.

Hence forward, it is “scholar-athlete”.

For a scholar is considered to be “a person who has studied a subject for a long time and knows a lot about it : an intelligent and well-educated person who knows a particular subject very well.”

They are “a specialist in a particular branch of study” or “a learned person.”

A person that is as devoted to learning as they are to being trained.

A stretch?

Taking semantic liberties?

An intentional misuse of words?


But look at it this way:

This is an opportunity to provide context and meaning, plus values and a message that is truly befitting an appropriate expectation of performance, achievement, excellence and success.

Words that will help set the tone. To instill passion in what should be a relentless pursuit of learning.

Words that will lead to deeds.

To go beyond “attentive” to “all in” on living a life filled with learning.

So make the transition.

Aspire to become a “scholar-athlete”.

Because words are important.


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