(Editor's Note: Due to space considerations, we could not mention every community college sports team in the North Carolina Community College System. For more information on sports teams at your local community college, contact that college's athletic department.)
When Jeremy Harper graduated from high school, he knew he wanted to play college basketball. His SAT scores arrived too late for him to enroll in a four-year college, so he started looking at community colleges.
An athlete in high school, he wanted to continue playing basketball and had already heard from coaches about the basketball program at Rockingham Community College in Wentworth.
Harper is one of the relatively few student athletes who have heard about athletic programs at community colleges.
"I think in North Carolina and in our region, community college athletics is an unknown territory," said Robby McGee, director of student activities and athletics at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington. "A lot of local athletes have no prior knowledge the fact that community colleges have competitive sports."
At least 18 of the 58 schools in the North Carolina Community College System participate in some form of athletics whether they are intercollegiate, intramurals, or industrial league.
Most of the colleges are members of the National Junior College Athletic Association Region X. This region includes North and South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
The sports played range from men and women's basketball, to golf and soccer. The two most common sports are basketball and volleyball.
Some schools have recently added athletics in the past five years or so while others have had programs for over 10 years. As interest increases in a sport, coaches consider adding it to the program. However, some prefer to concentrate on the sports they already have.
Despite each college's efforts to inform would-be-students of their athletic programs, many athletes are unaware of their options at the state's community colleges.
Coaches said that they believe there would be increased enrollment in community colleges if more people knew about athletics at their schools.
"We have many students that are here because we offer their particular sport where another community college does not," said Jeff Moore, athletic director at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory.
"It stands to reason [that] if we had a greater variety of sports we would be attractive to more potential students." Other athletic directors echo this belief.
"If student athletes had the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level and attend a community college to further their education," said McGee, "I feel more people would look at community colleges to begin their collegiate career."
"Athletics at the two-year level provides students an opportunity," said Dean Myrick, director of athletics at Rockingham and director of the NJCAA Region X. "Sometimes it gives them a purpose and an incentive to go to college."
Community college gives student another option to pursue education and play the sport they love.
Harper said the coaches at Rockingham made it clear on the first day they were serious about the athletes' schoolwork and even told them they were limited on the number of classes they could miss in order to remain on the team.
According to Myrick, student-athletes must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.00 and pass 12 credits in order to play each semester.
The grade requirements are set to encourage athletes to take advantage of the quality education at their colleges and to not attend purely for the sport they play.
The coaches said that athletics provides an opportunity for the colleges to gain more exposure due to media and athletes transferring to four-year colleges.
Damon Towe, athletic director at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock, said the college's exposure has increased over 100 percent since the addition of athletics.
For the athletes, exposure and experience are benefits of community college athletics that many use in transferring to four-year colleges.
Recruitment is something coaches have found to be very important. The coaches try to inform potential students of their athletic programs by sending out mass mailings, calling schools, talking with coaches and student athletes, or any other type of advertising they can afford.
Funding, administrative support, and media coverage are all things that the athletic directors feel need to improve in order to make the athletic programs bring more students to the community college system.
According to Myrick, the increase in student-athlete enrollment at the community colleges brings about positive economic results for their areas in forms such as living expenses, lodging of other teams, and visiting parents.
"More community colleges need to know the positive impact athletics can have on their campus and community," said Myrick. "I have had the privilege of seeing many student-athletes turn their lives around and graduate from four-year colleges. Without athletics that would not have been possible."
Harper will attend Appalachian State University in the fall and play on the basketball team there. He recommends that any students second-guessing enrollment at a four-year college attend a community college.
"I wouldn't take it back for anything," said Harper. "It has made me a better player and a better student."
For more information contact Dean Myrick: email@example.com Also contact Meredith Hines at 919-807-7221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org