There is a commercial for the NCAA that talks about student-athletes going pro in something other than sports. Graduation season is the time to recognize the accomplishments of all of those receiving diplomas, but especially students who also graduate with the lessons learned in the athletic arena.
While football and basketball stars are often splashed across the headlines, many other athletes work equally hard to earn their degrees, all while also training and competing in their sports; athletes who know there are no multi-million dollar contracts awaiting them at the end of their college careers.
These athletes spend early morning hours swimming laps training for a big meet, late nights on a bus riding home from midweek soccer games or weekends in the weight room getting ready for a wrestling match.
For many, athletics are a gateway to education - a chance to excel in fields that don't involve a ball, mat or track; fields like medicine or engineering. For many, the diploma is more valuable than any championship, but so are the principals that sports cultivate.
Learning to set goals and work toward them is a valuable tool, whether you're in the hunt for a championship or the search for a job. Recognizing that we often cannot achieve our goals on our own teaches teamwork, which pays off for a softball player turning a double play or an emergency room doctor dealing with a trauma.
Long practices and long seasons require stamina and determination, which pay off for a tennis player training year round, or an accountant during tax time.
Waiting for your turn in the starting lineup develops patience, which comes in handy when you're in the real world waiting for that prime promotion.
Missing social events for competition teaches sacrifice, which is needed to be successful in almost any occupation or relationship.
Studying on road trips is a lesson in time management, a valuable tool for juggling professional and personal schedules. Battling back from an injury builds perseverance, which pays off when suffering any of life's setbacks.
Recognizing when a bad call has helped you shows fairness and cultivates compassion for our competitors. Accepting when a bad call has hurt you and moving past it shows maturity. Both traits earn respect from your colleagues and even your rivals.
Winning and losing with dignity reveals character, whether it's a national championship final or the bid on a lucrative business project. Athletes have learned that no matter what the day may bring, the sun comes up tomorrow and there is always a new challenge on the horizon.
They've learned those lessons through years of effort, struggles and successes that have taken them to graduation day. When they turn their tassel, they should take pride in their academic accomplishments, but also revel in the spirit of sport. They take into the world an arsenal of values that will help them succeed in the game of life.
Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Her column appears on Tuesdays.