In an episode of “Community”, a high school football star struggles with playing for his community college team because of the stigma surrounding it.
The program was depicted as a underfunded and badly coached, full of players who are in community college sports because they are simply bad at the sport.
Although this was a comedic depiction of how community college and their sports and athletes are, it still has a profound effect on students and how they see community college sports.
“I believe the players (at the community college level) are truly playing for the right reasons,” said ARC head football coach John Osterhout. “They are playing exclusively because of their love and passion for the game.”
This negative stigma surrounding community college athletes, that they’re just playing sports at that level because they are not talented enough to play at a four year university, is a product of media more than reality.
The media influences these perceptions in a very obvious way – watching college games on television, one will more than likely see a stadium full of students, with follow up marketing telling you that all the best student athletes are at these four year universities.
Last Chance U, a docu-series produced by Netflix, follows a team of community college athletes, and showcases the immense talents that can be found at these schools.
Many of ARC’s athletes say the same is true for their home program.
“The school spirit here is great … Coach Osterhout would tell us it is like a D-1 atmosphere.” said Adam Lopez, a defensive lineman for ARC’s football team.
Players themselves said they were initially shocked by the high turnout at ARC’s games, but can now see how American River compares to other colleges.
“It (school spirit) is more than I expected … playing at a junior college,” said Ce’von Mitchell Ford, a running back for ARC. “I look at the stands at our home games and see the stands flooded with people. At other schools I can’t really say the same.”
Osterhout went further by saying that playing in community college athletics can be a springboard for athletes.
“I believe here at American River College we are setting these athletes up for their life in the future, whether they are here for one year of two,” said Osterhout.
As long as the stands at Beaver stadium continue to to fill with fans, cheering for their players, the stigma of community college inferiority is one only held by the losing team.