High school student athletes today who wish to one day participate in college athletics have to prove their abilities on the field, but they also have challenges that go beyond on-field success. More specifically, while it is true that athletic proficiency is the #1 quality college coaches look for in HS student athletes, being well-rounded, responsible, and able to multi-task various life experiences are becoming increasingly more important. What this means is that college coaches want to make sure future recruits are serious about playing college sports, and mature enough to handle all the accolades (and pressures) that often come along with being a college student athlete.
The worst experience for a college coach is to sign a student athlete only to see him or her quickly experience problems once arriving on campus. Unprepared student athletes lacking maturity run the risk of early academic issues, social problems, and possibly even legal concerns. While it is true that college coaches seek talented athletes to add to their program, those athletes don’t help the program if they end up on academic probation, suspended from school, or in trouble with the law.
One attempt to mitigate these worries for college coaches is to gain confidence that the prospective student athlete has broadened his or her identity and become involved in team, school, and community leadership endeavors. Leading booster drives, joining school clubs and activities, and volunteering in the community are all examples of student athletes displaying maturity and leadership, assets every college coach in the country hopes to find in a prospective recruit.
Not enough hours in the day?
The biggest challenge for student athletes today hoping to become well-rounded is finding enough hours in the day to add extra, non-sport, life experiences. For many HS student athletes today their academic courses and required athletic practices take up an enormous amount of time already, and increasingly more student athletes are using sport nutritionists, sports psychologists, special skill coaches, and attending camps in clinics around everything else! In fact, some of the kids I see at my office sometimes don’t get home until after 8PM each night, leaving little time to catch their breath and simply relax.
Herein lies the conundrum: How do you develop outstanding athletic skills to play at the college level, while at the same time finding enough time for overall, well-rounded development?
Student athletes can achieve success on the field and experience many other academic and social experiences, but it takes planning, time management, multi-tasking, and communication. So how is all of this accomplished? Below are some tips to help:
- Plan for the year. Knowing that sport commitments can take up an enormous amount of time means that student athletes must plan other, non-sport experiences out in advance (sometimes far in advance). It behooves student athletes to learn about the clubs and activities that will be offered throughout the year, as well as community and volunteer experiences they may want to join. Once a list is created, the next step is to develop a system that provides for the best opportunities for experiencing as many things as possible.
- Don’t overlook the little experiences. Some student athletes either forget or minimize the value of seemingly small things they experience throughout the school year. For example, while it may seem like a trivial thing to organize a team car wash to raise booster funds, many college coaches would be pleased to learn of the skills the student athlete used to help the event run well, including organization, communication, decision-making, and handling money.
- Communicate with everyone involved. While it may, at first, appear impossible to play a sport full-time and still attend regular technology club meetings, you might be surprised at how accommodating many teachers are to student athletes when they are kept up on developments and made aware of special circumstances (like traveling for games).
Finding enough hours in the day to excel in academics, sports, and other social experiences can be challenging, but not impossible. With a little planning, communication, and a willingness to be flexible, student athletes will be surprised at how much they can accomplish in high school, and how important those experiences will be to future college coaches looking for well-rounded, responsible recruits.