Rethinking the Relationship Between STEM and Sports

Photo by:  Maxime Niyomwungeri via Unsplash

Photo by: Maxime Niyomwungeri via Unsplash


I’ve seen so many athletes turned off from pursuing STEM related fields for their “personal benefit” that it's often an anomaly to find an athlete in a STEM major. My coaches always told me that it was best to stick to majors that the rest of my teammates were in (which typically fell in the Social Sciences); and that trying to pursue a major such as Chemistry or Engineering would take too much time from practices and film. 


The idea that Sports and STEM should be kept separate is a mindset that has cut off many Student-Athletes from a world of educational experiences and opportunities that extend much farther beyond the classroom. 


I could go down any Universities athletic teams roster right now and I guarantee you that most of the athletes are Psychology, Criminal Justice, Sociology, or Mass Comm Majors; and that is a team culture built by the coaches and even the players themselves.


Walking around campus you can see it. Student-Athletes want to be involved in majors that allow them to focus all their time on their sport, and they cluster into these majors that their friends and teammates are in so that they can work together, and occasionally cheat the system. 


Statistics actually show that race may also shape the decision to cluster (or not to cluster) with other athletes. Compared with white athletes, African American athletes are more likely to be recruited solely for their ability to generate revenue and fame for an institution and, by the eighth semester, 64% of African American athletes were social science majors. 


In a call to action, an awesome organization called STEM Sport was actually present at a conference in late may where Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel in space, spoke on the importance of empowering STEM Education through Sport. Two disciplines that until recently have been perceived as two completely different educational entities. 


I’ve never even considered the correlation between STEM and Sports until recently because as a Student-Athlete I have always, to an extent, been steered far away from these disciplines. But so much more goes into sports that use STEM related fields than people consider, such as pylon technology in football, the science of Olympic weight lifting, mathematics as a statistician across all professional sports, or the engineering of the newest solar powered mega-stadiums. 


Student-Athletes for a long time have been directed away from STEM fields. But in my opinion, we could offer an entire different perspective moving forward in the innovation of Sports-Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics… But we have to explore these options! 



Donovan Burriss is a Sports Management M.S. Student at Indiana University of PA. He graduated from Frostburg State University with a B.S. in Kinesiology while also focusing on Management and Small Business Administration.

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