For the lucky 5% of high school athletes who are able to play at college, the jump to the next level can be daunting. Collegiate athletics are big business, and the competition is significantly better than what is experienced in high school. Throw in challenging college courses, study table, and a social life around a full-time athletic commitment, and you can quickly see why so many incoming freshman college athletes struggle with this transition. This week I would like to offer 5 important tips to help student athletes successfully move on to the college level and continue to enjoy both athletic and academic success.
The top 5 tips for transitioning to college athletics
1. Prepare to (temporarily) lose the spotlight. For the vast majority of incoming freshmen college student athletes their role will no longer be the star, but instead one of a reserve. This can be a big deal, especially for student athletes who just a few months earlier were being regularly recognized for their superior athletic abilities at the high school level. The best advice is to look at college athletics as a “reset,” and an opportunity to work hard to prove yourself all over again.
2. Take academics serious. Remember, if you don’t get it done in the classroom you won’t be eligible to compete. Take the time necessary to explore college majors and future career paths, then learn how to most effectively manage your time and multi-task when needed (i.e. finishing homework while doing laundry or traveling for a game).
3. Accept that college sports are more like a business. College student athletes learn fairly quickly that college sports are big business, and this may include obligatory appearances, unique rules and limitations, and pressures tied to success (and increased revenues) for the college. Depending on the school, it may look and feel a lot more like professional sports than college sports, creating a major paradigm-shift for athletes who not that long ago were playing before small crowds in their hometown.
4. Take advantage of the resources provided. Most college students I meet tell me how surprised they were when they first learned how many resources are provided to them, although using those resources is sometimes another question altogether. Academic and career assessments and advising are there for student athletes to use, and can become quite handy while navigating through the rigors of college.
5. Enjoy the ride! Blink your eyes and it will be over — or so it seems. Kidding aside, the college experience goes by fast, so make sure to take time to appreciate the honor and privilege it is being a student athlete and representing your school and community.
Being a college student athlete can be overwhelming when you factor in the academic/athletic responsibilities, pressures to succeed, and time management challenges that seem to never ease up. The transition to college sports is a big step, and can serve as the foundation for future athletic and life success, making this a very important time in life. Appreciate this time in your life, and use all the resources provided to you in order to maximize the college experience.