So Jordyn Wieber is "turning pro." Not that that means much in gymnastics; in football turning pro usually involves a multimillion dollar contract. In gymnastics, winning a prestigious competition like the American Cup means a $16,000 prize. Which sounds like a lot to a 16-year-old, but probably wouldn't be enough incentive for a pro basketball player to show up 10 minutes early to the game.
The problem with NCAA eligibility rules is that in many sports, there is no professional league. Yet all sports are treated the same. The paltry sum a gymnast might receive for placing in a competition could help her afford a flight home, not a closetful of custom Nikes in a McMansion in suburban Atlanta. After college, these gymnastics have no professional league to go on to. They just hope to make a decent living.
This is one of the main reasons gymnasts tend to peak in their teens--there is no promise of a career. For most adult gymnasts, it's simply not feasible to earn a decent living while maintaining elite level. And that's a shame, because adults in general have much better self discipline and time management skills than children--so we're really missing out on the gymnasts-that-could-have-been.
I hate that Jordyn has to make this decision. Sure she looks like a sure thing for the Olympic team, but she'll have to stay injury-free, make the team, compete well, medal, AND interview well in order to make a little dough. A pro football player has only to sign a contract, and even if he plays like crap, he makes his millions. And he's already had his free ride to college!!
An NCAA scholarship would be a prize of at least $100,000 and every Division I school would love to have her--guaranteed. Jordyn may be able to make that kind of money with endorsements, but she better take bubbly lessons from Mary Lou in preparation in order to score the endorsements in the first place. Conveying a sparkly personality is not always easy for a teenager, much less one who spends 40 hours a week in the gym in serious-mode.
Meanwhile her coach John Geddart says:
"I'm supportive of the idea in that Jordyn isn't cut out for college gymnastics. I don't think the 14 weekends in a row doing watered-down gymnastics, that's not what she's all about. When you compete with the best in the world, I don't see her sinking her teeth into that type of situation."
Sure, not every gymnast is cut out for college gymnastics, but consider that NCAA teams now draw plenty of former Olympians and current national team members. That's a pretty insulting statement to the many college gymnasts who are not only maintaining elite level in their early twenties, but are doing it while taking full college course loads and putting in significantly less hours in the gym than most elites....AND drawing bigger crowds than most elite competitions.
Jordyn Wieber's decision to "turn pro" is not necessarily very bad or very good. It's simply a huge gamble-- a gamble that most professional athletes don't have to make.