Eastern Michigan University and Mid-American Conference student-athletes took to Twitter this morning to reflect on what college athletics means to them using the hashtag #MoreThanASport.
The idea to let student-athletes express their thoughts in one giant movement was created by EMU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President and soccer player Julia Lombardi.
“The idea for this social media movement was sparked when The Eastern Echo published an article calling for the defunding of collegiate athletics," Lombardi said. "Without getting into too much detail, I will summarize by saying that it hit our student-athletes close to home, and hit us pretty hard."
The opinion column was posted on Nov. 29 and stated that "universities are funding college sports for a temporary dream a student has that probably won’t make a lasting, significant impact on their own life or really the lives of anyone else."
Lombardi wanted to find an approach that would give student-athletes a voice with a positive impact.
"So as the article reached more and more eyes on our campus, we - the Eastern Michigan University Student-Athlete Advisory Committee - increasingly felt that we needed to respond; to respond in a way that was appropriate, positive, meaningful and powerful, and at the same time demonstrate why the collegiate athletics experience is so truly invaluable," Lombardi said. "Initially, our idea was to have all EMU student–athletes take to Twitter and post personal messages about why we are so grateful to be student-athletes. But knowing that this same issue had already manifested on NCAA institutions around the nation, I contacted the leaders of the Mid-American Conference SAAC to inform them of our plans and our intended purpose."
Lombardi decided the hashtag on Twitter would be a good way to let athletes express their gratitude for college athletics and what it meant to them.
"We decided to use the hashtag #MoreThanASport because it is, very simply, the truth," Lombardi said. "The proof lies in the thousands of heartfelt tweets that emerged from student-athletes around the nation today. It also lies in the cold hard facts. Collegiate athletics serves an incredible percentage of underrepresented populations in higher education, including first-generation college students, international students, and students who simply do not have the necessary income or support. Furthermore, the graduation success rate (GSR) of division one student-athletes, now 86 percent, is significantly and almost universally higher than that of the general student population. In fact, it is the highest rate ever. Collegiate athletics is therefore not only a vehicle of opportunity, but also a catalyst for success."
The hashtag grew quickly after EMU student-athletes started Tweeting around 9 a.m. and quickly expanded to other MAC student-athletes. The NCAA noticed the trend around 10:30 a.m. and student athletes are continuing to Tweet their thoughts on college athletics.
"I am still blown away by how successful, powerful and widespread this movement was," Lombardi said. "But the more I think about it, the more that surprise factor fades. There are more than 460,000 NCAA student-athletes competing in 23 sports every year, and supporting those student-athletes are thousands more coaches, trainers, administrators, faculty members, alumni and staff. We are all connected. And when something touches the lives and hearts of so many, there is nothing that can stop it."
Here are some of the Tweets from EMU student-athletes:
Being a student athlete has prepared me physically and mentally for life challenges #MoreThanASport— Mallory Rajewski (@MalloryRajewski) January 8, 2016
Being a student athlete has taught me commitment, passion, and putting others before yourself. It made me who I am today. #MoreThanASport— Sam Delaplane (@samdelaplane) January 8, 2016
The challenge & opportunity to be a student-athlete brings about changes in your life that you cant help but be thankful for #MoreThanASport— Madelynne Hostetler (@Mady_lion11) January 8, 2016
Wrestling is a lifestyle. One full of discipline, integrity, and sacrifice. It is a tool that molds boys into men. #MoreThanASport— Devan Marry (@DevanMarry) January 8, 2016