Olympic Speedskaters Turn To Online Education During Offseason

Olympic athletes train hard in order to perfect their craft. They give up a lot of personal time, making sacrifices in the pursuit of greatness. However, this year, some athletes on the US Speedskating Team have decided there is one thing they will not sacrifice for their dreams of Olympic gold — their education.

Right now is the offseason for skating, with potential Olympians training for the trials that take place in December. This 11-day ordeal will decide the 30 individuals who will comprise the speedskating team the U.S. sends to the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia in 2014. In between training sessions, travel and meets, some of the athletes have decided to attend Ashworth College, an online university that offers accredited degree programs.

Founded in 1987, Ashworth was first known as Professional Career Development Institute, and provided vocational education through distance learning. It began offering its first online associate degree programs in 2000, followed by master’s programs in 2004, and bachelor’s programs in 2007. Ashworth’s degrees are accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council.

Speedskaters are utilizing Ashworth in order to continue their education while maintaining their strict training regimes. Emily Scott, a short track silver medalist, says, “My skating career is extremely important to me and so is my education. The opportunity to pursue my degree through Ashworth means I don’t have to choose between the two.”

Another Olympic medalist, Alyson Dudek, has similar feelings about her education goals. “With our rigorous practice and competition schedule, Ashworth gives me the flexibility to take classes and study at my own pace that would not be possible with a traditional university.”

These speedskaters aren’t the only popular athletes that have utilized online education. Earlier this year, Onlinedegrees.com reported that Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was taking only online courses at Texas A&M for a semester. He did this because of the attention he was receiving on campus, the different directions he was being pulled in by media obligations, and time constraints. “It just happened to work out where it was good after the football season with all of the stuff going on,” said Manziel. “It was a good time to not have to worry about being on campus and some other things, too… I went [to class] one day — it was a small class of 20 or 25 — and it kind of turned into more of a big deal than I thought.”

Some may feel that these athletes are taking the easy way out by enrolling in courses online, but few understand the hectic schedules that they have to adhere to. At least this way, these young adults can pursue their sports dreams without having to sacrifice a higher education.

“U.S. Speedskating – An Ashworth College Online Degree Partner – Scores Expanded Coverage,” digitaljournal.com, May 20, 2013
“Heisman winner Johnny Manziel taking only online courses this semester,” onlinedegrees.com, Feb. 27, 2013, Jake Ravani