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How Athletes Spend Their Time

February 14, 2011

Division I baseball and football players report that they missed more classes during the season last year than their peers did five years ago, according to a recent study of how National Collegiate Athletic Association athletes spend their time. But men's and women's basketball players continued to miss more classes than players in all other sports.

The Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students in College (or GOALS) study was released at last month’s NCAA convention in San Antonio. The study, produced by NCAA faculty athletic representatives, is based on a spring 2010 survey of nearly 20,000 current athletes from 611 institutions in all three of the association’s divisions. This is the second administration of the study; the first was in 2006.

The average Division I baseball player missed 2.3 classes per week last year, and the average Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) football player missed 1.7 classes per week last year. In both sports, this is an increase of 0.5 classes missed per week from 2006.

The average number of classes missed by athletes in all other sports remained relatively unchanged from 2006. Still, women’s and men’s basketball players missed the most classes per week of all Division I sports participants — 2.5 and 2.4 respectively.

Average Classes Missed Per Week During Season in 2010

Division I
  Baseball Men's Basketball Football
(FBS/FCS)
All Other Men's Sports Women's Basketball All Other Women's Sports
Average Classes Missed 2.3 2.4 1.7 1.5 1.6 2.5 1.9
Missed >3 21% 20% 14% 8% 10% 23% 14%
Division II
Average Classes Missed 2.0 1.5 1.2 1.6 1.8 1.9
Missed >3 15% 10% 7% 12% 11% 15%
Division III
Average Classes Missed 1.8 1.2 1.0 1.1 0.9 1.2
Missed >3 12% 8% 5% 5% 3% 6%

The time balance between academics and athletics shifted further toward athletics for players in many sports last year. Players in Division I baseball, Football Championship Subdivision (Formerly Division I-AA) football and Division II men’s and women’s basketball, on average, spent two more hours per week on athletics relative to academics than they did in 2006. FCS football players, for example, spent 41.6 hours per week on athletics and 38.2 hours per week on academics last year — favoring athletics by 3.4 hours per week. In 2006, FCS football players only favored athletic activities by about 1.4 hours per week.

Standing apart from their peers, baseball players in all three divisions spent more time on their sport than on academic activities. On average, they spent 42.1 hours per week on athletics and 31.7 hours per week on academics — favoring athletics by 10.4 hours per week. This is hardly surprising, though, as baseball has the longest playing season of any intercollegiate sport, lasting from the middle of February to the College World Series in late June.

Division III, whose member institutions do not offer athletic scholarships, is the only division in the association in which athletes in all sports spent more time on academic activities than on athletic ones. In an effort to shift the time commitments of its athletes, Division II recently adopted a season-shortening strategy for many sports as part of its “Life in the Balance” initiative.

Average Difference in Hours Spent Per Week In-Season on Academic Activities vs. Athletic Activities in 2010

Division I
  Baseball Men's Basketball Football
(FBS/FCS)
All Other Men's Sports Women's Basketball All Other Women's Sports
Academic Time - Athletic Time -10.4 hours -1.9 hours -5.3 hours -3.4 hours 4.0 hours 1.4 hours 6.8 hours
Division II
Academic Time - Athletic Time -6.2 hours -2.0 hours -.07 hours 5.0 hours 3.1 hours 9.7 hours
Division III
Academic Time - Athletic Time 0.8 hours 4.0 hours 4.9 hours 10.5 hours 11.5 hours 14.1 hours

In one of the study's more interesting findings, a significant proportion of athletes in certain sports expressed a preference to spend less time on athletics. Twenty-nine percent of Division I women’s basketball players wished they spent less time on sports activities, as did more than a quarter of women in all other sports. The preference to spend less time on athletics among baseball, FBS football and women’s basketball players all increased by 5 percent or more from 2006.

Percentage of Athletes Who Say They Would Prefer Spending Less Time on Sports

Division I
Baseball Men's Basketball Football
(FBS/FCS)
All Other Men's Sports Women's Basketball All Other Women's Sports
18 % 10 % 23 % 20 % 15 % 29 % 26 %
Division II
10 % 9 % 15 % 7 % 20 % 18 %
Division III
8 % 10 % 11 % 8 % 15 % 10 %

 

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