What’s the Proper Way to Award College Athletes for Outstanding Performance


Athletes are some of the most recognized individuals in the world. Between the major sports of baseball, football, soccer, basketball, tennis, and golf, professional athletes are continually given positive recognition. Amateur athletes get far less recognition, especially in the form of monetary rewards.

The Dilemma Facing Colleges Regarding Their Athletes

The reason amateur sports are given that title is because they do not get paid for playing. It has been suggested that college athletes should start getting paid to make up for the disparity between the colleges and TV networks earning money for their efforts. The college athlete risks injury, trains for long hours, and travels many hundreds of miles each season. They get 2.7 billion in athletic scholarships to NCAA member colleges around the country, but they do not get paid. Rewarding college athletes adequately is the most troubling concern in the world of sports today.

Non-Monetary Awards

Non-monetary rewards are the best options until that decision is final. Athletes are notoriously hungry, so food gift certificates are always a good idea. If they are the players of the year, give them a year’s supply of their favorite food chain’s certificates or take them out to dinner with their families. This type of reward will be remembered favorably for a long time.


Trophies are the most commonly awarded recognition given to athletes. Glass awards, brass trophies, and plaques are the usual forms of recognition. They are very specific in denoting the athlete’s accomplishments and can be viewed by all passers-by. These awards are usually quite affordable and can be generously handed out to many. Of course, it means more to the recipient when they know this award is rarely given. So, it pays to limit the number of school awards.

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Challenge Your Athletes Scholastically

Allow your athletes to compete with their brains. Set-up a contest where the athlete with the highest grade average is awarded a prize. This will encourage academic achievement among those who are often considered incapable of doing well scholastically. The coach could go so far as to award studying and classroom participation for athletes to raise their scholastic goals.

Awarding Athletes in Multiple Ways

Try new ways of awarding athletes other than the traditional trophies that usually signify athletic success. Award your outstanding athletes with free letter jackets, social media accolades, school newspaper articles, and other visible promotions. Below, please see a few appreciation examples:

1) Shout outs on social media pages

2) School newspaper articles featuring the exceptional athlete

3) Uniforms with fully visible notations of excellence printed or embroidered on them

4) Local TV news segments, podcasts or YouTube videos featuring star athletes being interviewed by sportscasters.

5) Opportunities to win school sponsored scholarships to an institute of higher learning

6) Chances to attend professional sports camps

7) Opportunities to win a spot in a professional game while still an amateur.

Awarding an Athlete Can Lead To a Long Career

The idea behind awarding any member of a group is to encourage teamwork, exceptional personal performance, and other positive behaviors. Athletes are particularly susceptible to awards and accolades if their continued exceptional performance is any indication. An athlete of the caliber of a Michael Jordan can excel in his game for his whole career, despite minor injuries or career setbacks such as trades. LeBron James is now starting to work with his third professional basketball team. A student should be looked at as an athlete that will go through many of life’s changes and thrive if they are well groomed.

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The college athlete is still waiting to be properly rewarded for his or her exploitation by news outlets and their educational institutions. Until that occurs, athletes and their institutions will have to make do with trophies, Most Valuable Player awards and miscellaneous freebies that come with traveling with the team. In the meantime, there is a plan to change things so that college athletes one day get paid. Naturally, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome in order for that to finally happen.

Yes, college athletes should be rewarded for outstanding performance. These benefits should take the form of the most appreciated and needed performance rewards. That should include payment and or bonuses for an exceptional job. As the benefactors, the public who gets an opportunity to observe these athletes, we need to look forward to the day our college athletes are given what they so richly deserve in full.

About the author

Mark Holland

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