You may have seen these posts on Twitter: “Picture this: It’s 2007, and it’s a Saturday morning. You want to watch your favorite show, so you tiptoe downstairs and turn the TV on. The volume explodes out of the speakers and you scramble like a maniac for the remote. You turn the volume down and listen for the creak of the floorboards at the top of the stairs, which would indicate that you’re about to be scolded for waking your parents up on a Saturday morning. You hear nothing. Life is good.” Unfortunately, this is not the turn out of a majority of life’s circumstances, especially for the notorious Generation Y, who will be worried about much more 10 years later.
Allow me to elaborate in the context of some often forgotten members of this generation.
Picture this: you’re a high school phenomenon basketball player. You’re 18 years old, and you get recruited to one of the top basketball programs in the NCAA. After your first year, your talent is impeccable, and you’ve worked incredibly hard. Thus, you decide to enter the professional draft for your sport and get drafted in the first round. You make no less than $500,000 a year, and could make millions in future seasons. You can go back and get a degree, should you choose, later. LeBron James retweets one of your tweets. Life is good.
Contrary to the popular train of thought, this example is not representative of every college athlete case. Much like we amplify our lives on the internet, this tweet is be a dream scenario that few get to live. This story is the less common, more fortunate circumstance. Many male and female athletes choose to play overseas or choose not to continue playing after college for their respective reasons. Many sports do not have professional opportunities. The real struggle arises for those who do not play after college, because they are a part of Generation Y, or the more well-known Generation Screwed.
This is a fine line to make a point across. Male professional athletes are undeniably better off than the women in terms of income and security in that form, and one could argue for or against the “one and done” rule. However, all professional athletes are better off than those who don’t turn professional and end up deep in the income hunt after college. It is these athletes who are the stars on a stage that they too have to stand on alongside everyone else. As the sports fan base looks on in jealousy, watching the hard work and incredible talent of those who pursue professional careers and tearing them down for the money they make, the athletes who do not go this route are left behind.
Athletes do not have everything given to them. They do not have a guaranteed job after college through their sport. The reality is that the majority of us don’t. Though many don’t like to admit it, you can’t play a sport forever. Especially for women, a college education helps pave the potential career path after we retire from our sport or even while we are still playing post-college. The salary in the WNBA, for example, or even overseas, is not high enough to retire from work in unison with the end of our basketball careers. The answer as I see it is to prepare this generation for post college life is rather ambiguous.
So here most of us are, Generation Screwed, an array of talented, well-educated and motivated young individuals with so much to give that no one has the money and time to accept. Generation Screwed encompasses many things that have been exploited in the media time and time again. The heights of the term are laziness and lacking mental toughness which are difficult to pinpoint to college students, let alone athletes. We row in the same boat as everyone else; the boat that is undeniably screwed. I believe that the real question is, who screwed it? As a generation, we are facing the most unpredictable and unnerving financial future, likely even since the Great Depression.
I do not discredit the hard work put in by professional athletes. I never will, because playing professionally is one of the greatest athletic honors, and I will always respect that, being an athlete myself. However, the glory applies to a small number of individuals. Even as we seek to be more recognized for our talents, communication skills and passion that we exemplify each day, we also seek to be recognized as being a part of society. As I said, we have to row in the same boat, even if it is headed for a waterfall.
Contact Mikaela Brewer at mbrewer8 ‘at’ stanford.edu.