Playing a sport in college is a very personal choice that can change the entire shape of your college experience. Only a very small percentage of high school student-athletes will earn the opportunity to move on to collegiate athletics. In fact, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), out of nearly 8 million students playing high school sports across the country each year, only about 6 percent compete at NCAA universities.
If you do find yourself aspiring to become a college athlete, there are several tips to help you decide if the race is right for you.
Playing a college sport will dictate much of your time and schedule, and, as a result, athletes will not have the same freedoms as other college students. You will need to learn how to balance your responsibilities. College brings enough pressure and workload as it is, but when you layer on the responsibilities of a student-athlete it can be quite challenging.
Choose the College First, Not the Sport
First, student-athletes should find the school that best fits all their interests – academically, socially, geographically. There can be many changes such as coaching staff, teammates and even personal injury. With so many factors out of your control, it is important to select the right college beyond the playing surface. Pick a college or university you would still love attending.
What better way to catch a glimpse of what athletics is like in college than to experience it firsthand? Tour the athletic facilities, speak with current players, introduce yourself to a coach and aim to get a sense of the greater school community. If there are opportunities for unofficial visits, or to participate in a camp or clinic, take them! Learn about the atmosphere and daily schedule to get a better sense if this is in fact the right fit for you.
Lean on Your Support Staff
As an athlete, rely on those around you (coaches, trainers, athletic director, etc.) to help evaluate your athletic ability and provide feedback as to what Division and type of school may be the best fit. It is also important to have these conversations and evaluations frequently as your skills, your interests and your priorities may change between your freshman and junior years. In many ways, the recruiting process is the college choosing the student just as much as the student choosing the college.
While there are many hurdles when deciding on playing a sport in college, there are also tremendous victories. College athletes will learn skills that are easily transferable to life and career, like hard work, a positive attitude and managing your time. Spending so much time with your teammates and coaches will also develop and fortify relationships to last a lifetime.
Contributing: Kelly Childs, Ph.D., has been the Athletic Director at Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child in Summit, NJ since 2016. Before arriving at Oak Knoll, Childs served as assistant commissioner with the Big East Conference and as Assistant and Associate Athletic Director at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ. Childs also played Division I softball at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.