Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group, LLC Blog

The free market doesn't exist in college athletics

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Wed, Jul 28, 2010 @ 06:07 AM

Imagine you move into a new community and sign a four-year lease agreement just to find out you are only allowed to see a certain local dentist.  The decision has already been made for you.

You’re a plumber so you go see the dentist for all the plumbers. 

This might not be a problem at first since all dentists are the same right?  The trouble however is that the dentist now doesn’t really have to be that good.  They don’t have to keep up to date on the newest cleaning technologies or the research on gum disease because they know that you have to see them.  Sure there are other dentists in the community that you could see, but they’re busy taking care of waiter teeth or the gum lines of taxi cab drivers and really don’t have time for you.

Sound crazy?

The same scenario eerily exists on a college campus near you. 

In college athletics, there is no real incentive to be great. It’s about getting by and fulfilling your job description.  You don’t have to be a really great athletic trainer or strength coach because your “customers” already signed up for four years. They’re locked in.  There's no competing with your fellow office mates, or even other colleges once they've signed up.

Your customers HAVE to see you. There is no other choice. In fact, if they get upset and stop making an effort to see you, life actually becomes better not worse, doesn’t it?  More free time to play around on Facebook right?  By the time the college athlete gets so upset at the way they were treated, they are walking at graduation and are soon forgotten.  Bring on the new batch of freshmen!

The challenge then, is developing a community of dentists that not only appreciate their customers, but also strive to collectively raise the level of care in their community while also fostering an environment that promotes the sharing and referral of complicated and interesting cases in the search for better education and healthcare for everyone.

But that just seems too difficult, forget I even mentioned it.


Art Horne is the Coordinator of Care and Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Men’s Basketball Team at Northeastern University, Boston MA.  He can be reached at


Topics: Strength Training, athletic training, Good to Great, patient centered care, Seth Godin