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School Sucks - Even if you're a teenager with a cool income.

Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins studying behind her Apple laptop

When you're a teenager, success is hard to define - especially in the eyes of one's parents. Will good grades make them proud? Would joining Student Government make them happy?

What about dropping out of school to be a pro skateboarder?
Probably not.

Everyone defines success differently whether you are labeling someone as successful or simply trying to be successful yourself. I'll bet that most parents would glow if they saw their child on the front page of a national newspaper - without being in police custody - like the New York Times.

On September 20, 2006 Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins appeared on the front page of The New York Times in an article about young pro athletes and the pressures of getting an education.

Most people equate success with money. If you have a lot of money you are thought of as successful. Sounds good, but there are other factors like education. Just because you have a lot of money today, doesn't mean you'll have it five years from now. When you're making a lot of money it's hard to imagine a time in which you won't be making a lot of money.

Pro athletes run into this all the time. The physical exertions on their bodies give them a finite time in which to earn money as a pro athlete. Here's the catch. Many pro skateboarders make over $100,000 each year. With the right endorsements and sponsors, some pros make a lot more. When you're on the cover of magazines grinding insane rails all is good. Ten years from now when you can barely ollie a curb... all that money will go to the latest kid who has the skills - the same skills you used to have.

The point is you need a back-up plan. You need to have something to rely on when you no longer cut it as a pro athlete. It looks simple when you're a kid, but when you're washed up at 25, you'll wish you had another option. After all, whose going to hire a 25 year old who didn't even graduate high school? When you're 14 and making a ton of money, 25 seems like a lifetime away. It isn't.

The NYT article (reprinted below without even the common courtesy of asking permission) discusses how difficult it is to be a pro athlete and balance education along with plans for the future.

Article from:
The New York Times | September 20, 2006

For New-Sport Athletes, High School Finishes 2nd - By Matt Higgins

In a sport skewing younger every year, Ryan Sheckler was one of the youngest professional skateboarders ever. By eighth grade, he had defeated competitors twice his age and won several contests, including the 2003 X Games skateboard park event on national television.

Immortalized as a character in a best-selling video game franchise and in movies, Sheckler wanted a role that many teenage skateboarding stars repudiate: that of a regular student, in his case, at San Clemente (Calif.) High School.

"I wanted to see what high school was all about," Sheckler said in an e-mail message. "I wanted to be with my friends and go to the dances and football games."

Two years ago this month, he began his freshman year. He wrestled in the 103-pound weight class, and hung out with friends in the cafeteria. But after returning from a skateboarding trip to Australia in February 2005, he realized that as he sat in history class, his future was inexorably rolling away.

"It was a good experience, but it was a disaster," his mother and manager, Gretchen Sheckler, said of high school. "He was out of circulation for six months, out of the magazines. It hurt his career."

As salaries soar and sponsors stoop to sign younger talent (the youngest professional skateboarder now is the 11-year-old Nyjah Huston), Sheckler's situation has become increasingly common across action sports like skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing and motocross. For those who do not drop out of school altogether, the approach to education has been somewhat similar to what young athletes in sports like tennis and figure skating have established: home schooling, independent study and sports academies.

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No matter how amazing you believe your skateboarding skills to be... stay in school. You can skate for your entire lifetime if you do things right, but you have an income to do it.


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